Climb freestyle down a cliff, swim through shark infested waters, survive attacks from competitors and get the egg – that's the Birdman competition that took place on Easter Island for nearly 200 years. But why?
Easter Island, known as Rapa Nui in the local language, is a hilly island of pastures scattered with rocks. It was formed mainly by three volcanoes into a 173-square-kilometre triangle and has been inhabited by humans for roughly 1600 years, we think. Thanks to the 19th-century notes of missionaries, voyagers and scientists, it's the last 300 years or so of the Rapa Nui culture that we know most about. The writings and sketches describe a turbulent period that included the curious competition of the Birdman cult...
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