Taputapuātea is a sacral site and cultural land- and seascape on Ra’iatea Island, part of the Society Islands.

The site consists of several archaeological sites and marae (temples). Its main feature is the Taputapuātea marae complex, constructed in the 14th -18th centuries, which is considered the central temple of Eastern Polynesia and has a strong oral tradition connected with it. It was built between land and sea at the end of a peninsula. The marae are of continuing importance to living Polynesian culture.

Community Perspective: Dennis visited already in 1991 and advised coming with a knowledgeable guide.

Map of Taputapuātea

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16-Jun-21 -

visited june 2018.

a once in a lifetime visit to an amazing site. having read about the site being introduced as a new world heritage location i decided i had to visit for myself.

after 5 flights, 2 ferries and 3 car rentals the site did not disappoint.

a very simple, easy and beautiful drive from the main village of uturoa.

the marae complex is on the southeast coast of raiatea on a gorgeous lagoon. it is possible to see the break in the reef beyond to see how the ancient peoples would have navigated to the site by boat.

i was lucky enough to travel around other islands to familiarize myself with the polynesian culture before arriving at the ultimate site known throughout all of polynesia as a sacred complex.

Dennis Nicklaus

12-Feb-19 -

Taputapuātea by Dennis Nicklaus

We visited Taputapuatea in 1991 when we had a short vacation on Raiatea. Taputapuatea is a set of ancient Polynesian marae, which you can think of as a large open air stone temple.  It was the principal marae of the ancient Polynesian culture, the one to which chiefs from all over had to return to for their coronation.  The most prominent marae on the site was dedicated to the Ora, the Polynesian god of war.  Some of the features here were some important tall stones in the courtyard in front of the main temple, for instance the chief's stone (which he would stand in front of to protect his back) and the human sacrifice stone. If the first blood of the sacrifice didn't seem to satisfy the gods, they would go to the nearby scraping rock to bloody him up more.  Another feature of this site was the coronation rock for the Polynesian chiefs. There were also smaller marae on the site, including one to the sea/harbor/fishing god. This marae has a beautiful ocean-front site, and it was really a privilege to visit this important archaeological site.

Taputapuatea is one of those places where the visit is very much enhanced with a knowledgeable guide.  Without an expert to explain the site's significance, it wouldn't have been nearly as interesting. We were lucky to have anthropologist Bill Kolans as our private guide.  He had been living on the Raiatea since 1969 and studying the Polynesian people. He was such an expert on the fascinating, unique culture, both ancient and current, that it remains one of the best day tours I've ever had. 

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Site Info

Full Name
Unesco ID
3 4 6
Cultural Landscape - Associative Religious structure - Indigenous

Site History

2017 Inscribed


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