Most of the islands in French Polynesia have marae created and left behind by the local’s ancestors. These marae are ancient open air sacred temples where many tikis are located which are personifications of divinities and heroes. However, some islands have a great number of marae and tikis than others. Some islands were cultural centers where elders and leaders gathered to hold ceremonies.
The Marquesas reveal their beauty and transport their visitors in a voyage out of time. Discover these treasures at the end of the world !
Nuku Hiva has a several ceremonial areas with many marae located around the grounds. One of the biggest areas is in the main bay of Taiohae which is where we anchored while we waited for our parts to arrive. The overall grounds are about the size of a football field. To the far right is a covered area with a thatched roof being held up by hand-carved tikis.
In the back and behind the covered area are several large stones waiting to be carved. I wonder if they are waiting for the next cultural festival? You can imagine what shapes they may become, for instance the one on the lower right could be a great turtle and the one on the upper left would make a great tiki family. The center photo probably was a light warning of hazardous waters (shallow and rocky).
Carvings Tell a Story
I wish the marae site had signs explaining their significance. Unfortunately, there is no literature or information on them. I do know that each carving tells a story and shares the history and culture of the local population. The top photo depicts a family, the lower left looks like a warrior and the bottom right their food source, fish.
This little guy is well balanced and has two designs. One on each side. I think he is my favorite because he is so unusual.
The warrior tikis protect the bay around this marae. Then I found two bowl type carvings with lots of little tikis around the center bowl. Super cool, maybe a baptism area? Ha, no!
In the corner of the site is a large tiki with a book in its mouth. The book had carvings in Marquesan.
Another large marae was located in the center, on a platform. It looked like a chief or leader flanked by guards.
Despite the amazing beauty of the tikis and marae, many people just walk right on by. However, many cruisers have stopped to relish in the history.