Taputapuātea is a sacral site and cultural landscape on Ra’iatea Island (part of the Society Islands) in French Polynesia.
It consists of several archaeological sites and marae (temples). Its main feature is the Taputapuātea marae complex, constructed from the 14th -18th centuries which is considered the central temple of Eastern Polynesia and which has a strong oral tradition connected with it. It is of continuing importance to a living culture: the sites fell into disrepair after the Europeans settled in this area, but were restored in 1968 and as recent as the 1990s.
Map of TaputapuāteaLoad map
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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