28th April: Tahiti (Arahurahu Marae)

Coming back from Tahiti Iti, we stopped for lunch at a friendly open air restaurant in Taravao, on the isthmus.  Following that we spent some time at the Paul Gauguin Museum, which is definitely worth a visit but I didn’t take any photographs.  In danger of running out of light, we headed for the Arahurahu Marae, the best preserved or restored marae on the island.

On the way we went past Marae Mahaiatea but did not stop there.  It was constructed just before Wallis visited the island in 1767 and was the largest marae in Tahiti, incorporating an 11-step pyramid 13.5 metres high with a base 81 by 26.5 metres, fronting on to a square paved area 88 by 81 metres.  Chiefteness Pura had it built to assist her bid for power over all Tahiti and nearby Moorea on behalf of her young son.  By the time Cook arrived a few years later, she had been defeated and power shifted to the clan that later became the Pomare dynasty.

That marae would indeed be worth visiting if it were still untouched but these days it is just a pile of stones, having been disassembled by a planter for building materials in the nineteenth century.

The entrance

So we went instead to Marae Arahurahu, which was restored in 1954.  This is the entrance.

Replica Tiki

The stone tiki you see on the left is a replica; the original is in the Gauguin Museum.  It doesn’t even come from Tahiti, rather from the Gambier Islands.    The reason the original ones are not available is because the missionaries did all they could to destroy traditional Tahitian culture.

It is female (and the ring from shoulder to shoulder is a necklace).

Walkway to the Ahu


The image to the right shows the traditional stone pathway onto the marae, all the way up to the tahua (sacred courtyard) and the ahu (altar).

Of course, you’re not allowed to walk on it any more, you can just look.


This is a corner of the tahua.  The front figure shows some similarities to the moai of Easter Island.  The moai were only carved from the waist up.  However, here, as with the moai, the arms are at the sides and the hands meet at the waist.  He also appears to have a topknot and the carving of the face shows, I think, some similarities.


Over to the right, the raised area is the ahu (altar).  There are some similarities with the ahus of Easter Island though they were on a much more massive scale.  Of course, you have to go back something like 2,000 years to reach common ancestry.

The Tahua

The tahua from beside the ahu.  The Y-shaped object was the base for a small platform to place offerings on. There are mangoes here, scattered on the tahua and tahua walls, fallen from the trees.

The Tahua and the Ahu

The whole raised square in front of the ahu is the tahua.  No women were allowed on the tahua except for femal ari’i and their attendants.  (Ari’i is chief, same as ariki in Easter Island and New Zealand).  Only the priests and the ari’i were allowed on top of the ahu.

Large numbers of tropical fruit trees have been planted around the tahua.  However, whether they were always there or not, this is not entirely authentic.  Different trees were planted to make the area dark and mysterious.  These included miro, tou, tamanu, ‘aito and pua.

One comment on “28th April: Tahiti (Arahurahu Marae)

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