One of the common features among the Society Islands are the “Marae” (pronounced “mahrae”): just stone platforms, usually rectangular in shape and anywhere between 10 and 30 meters wide, usually with an elevated platform on one side.
They can be found anywhere, but most frequently near the shore.
What was their function? Typically, they were meeting places (the powerful people stood on the elevated platform, while the rest of the people gathered in front), but in later times they became also the site of religious ceremonies (including human sacrifices, sometimes – always men, they were smart enough to keep the women well alive!).
There was a hierarchy between Maraes, with the one in Raiatea, the sacred island (the first to come out of the sea, according to the legend) which stands above the others: 3 great stone platforms in a large palm-fronded plain in front of the sea (rather uncommon in these places). It’s very easy to figure the great gatherings of tribesmen coming from all places aboard their pirogues and camping on the beach while the chieftains discussed of wars and alliances.
The ground all around the area is full of holes: moles? No, crabs!! Many and HUGE, they install themselves in the sand, even several tens of meters from the water (a couple even crossed the paved road in front of our car!).
Oh, by the way, stealing stones from a Marae brings horrendous misfortunes on the thief: even Barbara did not touch any!!