Ceremonial architecture in Eastern Polynesia: Development & Variability

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Ancient monumental remains in Eastern Polynesia include many types of structures. Among the most visually impressive category is the so-called “marae complex”: the defining element of traditional ceremonial sites. Despite an apparent cultural homogeneity within the Polynesian area, archaeological studies—as well as ethnohistorical accounts—have demonstrated considerable regional and local variation in the architecture of marae. Patterns have emerged, including a recurrence of several fundamental features, but the marae monuments have evolved unique regional characteristics (marae in central East Polysia and New Zealand, heiau in Hawaii, ahu on Easter Island). This differentiation has traditionally been attributed to both internal and external factors, but can also be explained through an adaptation to specific, localized ritual and socio-political functions. Sessions contributions will explore various topics, including the appearance and chronology of the sites, their architectural diversity and subsequent interpretations, the functions and specializations of their structures, their place within a larger settlement pattern, etc. Regional and archipelago scale syntheses are encouraged. We are also accepting contributions related to other components of ceremonial sites, such as stone sculptures, petroglyphs etc.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-7 of 7)

  • Documents (7)

  • Dating of East Polynesian ceremonial sites – Cases from Rapa Nui and the Society Islands (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Helene Martinsson-Wallin. Paul Wallin.

    Finds of Polynesian rat in the earliest dated cultural layer on Rapa Nui give evidence to that the initial settlers to the island came from the Polynesian area. However, recent research and dating of ceremonial sites by us in Rapa Nui and the Society Islands have indicated that the Rapa Nui monuments are at least 100 year earlier and more elaborated than the ones in the Society island. In this paper we discuss that various interactions, historical trajectories, and the arrival of the sweet...

  • Exploring religious practices on the Polynesian atolls: a comprehensive architectural approach towards the marae complex in the Tuamotus (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Guillaume Molle.

    The Tuamotu Archipelago consists of one of the largest concentrations of atolls in the world. However, the archaeological history of these islands remains much less documented in comparison with the other high islands of French Polynesia. The harsh environmental conditions of the atolls have not favored the preservation of archaeological structures, with the exception of the coral-built marae. Since the pioneering works of K.P. Emory in the 1930s, around six hundred of these ceremonial sites...

  • Exploring the Spatial Distribution of Rapa Nui Ahu with Costly Signalling Theory: An Agent-Based Model (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alex Morrison. Carl Lipo.

    Despite, its small size and marginal environment, Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile) boasts some of the world’s most impressive monumental ceremonial architecture. While the production of ahu and moai have been linked to an assumed collapse of Rapa Nui society, we suggest instead that the construction of these stone monuments contributed to social stability by reducing inter-group violence and endemic warfare. To examine this hypothesis, we develop a theoretical agent-based model using concepts...

  • Marae of Tahiti, Society Islands (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tamara Maric.

    Since the pionneering studies of Kenneth Pike Emory in the begining of the 20th centyry, the ancient temples, marae, have been considered as good markers of social status, revealing the research focus on the complexification processes of polynesian societies. Despite the lack of substantial chronological data on marae of the island of Tahiti, crossing architectural components of marae with their spatial context and ethnohistoric sources, provided an evolutive spatial model that might be...

  • Monumentality and the Archaic State: Heiau Distribution in Kaupo, Maui (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexander Baer.

    In the early 18th century, competing archaic states on the islands of Maui and Hawai’i were engaged in a long-standing conflict to establish primacy over the Hawaiian Archipelago. To better oversee preparations for war, Maui’s King Kekaulike moved his entire royal court to the fertile, but politically peripheral district of Kaupo. Oral traditions speak of Kekaulike expanding a network of ritual structures throughout the region, resulting today in a landscape covered with some the largest heiau...

  • Priests' Houses and Architectures of Ideology in East Polynesia (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer Kahn.

    Most studies of East Polynesia religion focus on the largest monumental sites, those related to the "marae complex". Yet ethnohistoric documents indicate that a wide range of site types had ritual importance, including specialized structures within monumental ritual centers that had diverse functions. Priest houses form one element of the architecture of ideology. Can we identify the houses of full time ritual specialists in the archaeological record of East Polynesian in order to enrich our...

  • Towards a historical archaeology of heiau: Hawaiian traditions, colonialism, and religious transformation in the recent past (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only James Flexner. Mark McCoy.

    Hawai‘i occupies a somewhat unique position as one of two Polynesian archipelagos thought to have been the location of "primary" or "archaic" states in the time before European contact (the other possible example being Tonga). Hawaiian people created an elaborate ritual hierarchy that accompanied the emergence of state religion, which was associated with the construction of monumental stone temple complexes known as heiau. Heiau have long been a staple of archaeological investigation in the...