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"Marae" French Polynesia Favorite Tip by Muya

French Polynesia General: 85 reviews and 75 photos

  Marae Arahurahu on Tahiti
by Muya

Favorite thing: « Marae » is a word you will regularly come across in French Polynesia. Often translated by « stone temple », it is in fact more complex than that : a vast open air centre of social and political life (weddings, crowning of kings, war councils) as well as a place of worship. Some were private, others were public. In ancient times, it used to be also the indicator of social rank.

The marae generally consists in a rectangular area of cleared land bordered with a wall of stones standing around an altar, the « ahu ». The « ahu » often looked like a little step pyramid.

In front of this altar, dressed stones could be found, against which masters of ceremonies used to take some rest. This enclosure also contained wooden sculptures engraved with geometrical patterns, the « unus », among other decorations. You would also find several « fare » : one for the priest, another dedicated to the celebration of the cult of the deaths, etc…

Small differences exist between marae in the various archipelagos and even between islands.
Characteristics of the stones varied according to the place where the marae was build (dry masonry in the Society Islands, coral stones and basaltic rocks in the Leeward Islands), but every marae were usually build on a rocky promontory near the coast and near a water point. They were also surrounded by trees, considered as sacred.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written May 6, 2008
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