Marae Taputapuatea is a large marae complex at Opoa in Taputapuatea, on the south eastern coast of Raiatea. The site features a number of marae and other stone structures and was once considered the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia.
The Marae was already established by 1000 AD with significant expansion after this time. The marae was a place of learning where priests and navigators from all over the Pacific would gather to offer sacrifices to the gods and share their knowledge of the genealogical origins of the universe, and of deep-ocean navigation.
Most significantly a truce known as the Faatau Aroha was established with the surrounding islands dived into two alliances known as Aotea (East) and Aouri (West). This alliance lasted for many years and promoted an intense period of exploration leading to the discovery and colonisation of all the islands of Eastern Polynesia including Hawaii, Rapanui and Aotearoa (New Zealand). New marae were established on each of these islands with a rock being taken from Taputapuatea, Raiatea to act as a spiritual link (there are still marae named Tapuatapuatea at Moorea, Rarotonga and Hawaii).
However the Faatau Aroha was finally broken when fighting broke out at a gathering and the two leading ariki of the alliance were killed resulting to open warfare and an end to large-scale interisland voyaging. It is said that the gathered canoes fled the area leaving the lagoon via the pass at Avarua (now Avapiti) rather than the sacred pass at Avamoa because of this a curse fell upon the pass at Avamoa that was not lifted until 1995.
Research and restoration
When Te Rangi Hīroa visited Taputapuatea in 1929 he was overcome by the desolate state in which he found this great marae and wrote:
I had made my pilgrimage to Taputapu-atea, but the dead could not speak to me. It was sad to the verge of tears. I felt a profound regret, a regret for — I knew not what. Was it for the beating of the temple drums or the shouting of the populace as the king was raised on high? Was it for the human sacrifices of olden times? It was for none of these individually but for something at the back of them all, some living spirit and divine courage that existed in ancient times of which Taputapu-atea was a mute symbol. It was something that we Polynesians have lost and cannot find, something that we yearn for and cannot recreate. The background in which that spirit was engendered has changed beyond recovery. The bleak wind of oblivion had swept over Opoa. Foreign weeds grew over the untended courtyard, and stones had fallen from the sacred altar of Taputapu-atea. The gods had long ago departed.
The archeological remains of Marae Taputapuatea were restored in 1994 and work to preserve the site continues. Association Na Papa E Va'u Raiatea is a cultural association formed by the people of Opoa acting for the preservation of the Marae Taputapuatea. The Association is working towards tentative listing of Marae Taputapuatea on the World Heritage List and creating and reviving connections between communities of the Polynesian triangle and throughout the Pacific region.
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