Several thousand petroglyphs can be found on Easter Island, 2300 miles west of Chile. Most of them carvings of the mysterious "bird man" orTangata Manu.
Tangata Manu's followers have become known as the "bird man cult." Each year, the bird man's followers performed a ritual. First, islanders traveled to the village of Orongo, where a member of each tribe was chosen for a competition.
These men were in a race to collect the egg of a sooty tern bird. They had to race down treacherous cliffs, swim out to the island, find the egg, and then swim it back to the main island (and back up the mountain) without breaking it. Many died.
The first man to return an egg -unbroken - secured special treatment for one year. He went into seclusion in a hut built on risers, grew his fingernails, and watched the village from above.
The bird man cult and the ritual survived until the 1800s, when small pox and slave ships decimated the indigenous population on Easter Island.