Exploring the Ara Metua and Marae

Thursday June 13, 2019 Written by Published in Culture
The Paepae ‘Ari Rangi’ is an archaeological discovery worth preserving. 19061233 The Paepae ‘Ari Rangi’ is an archaeological discovery worth preserving. 19061233

A great basalt stone Paepae (platform) said to be 600-700 years old has been rediscovered next door to the Arai Te Tonga Marae in Tupapa.


The ‘T’ shaped Paepae called Ari Rangi was previously hidden by overgrown vegetation.

The impressive stonework part of the stretch of the old road (Ara Metua) has been revealed and there are discussions on preserving the spectacular monument.

Archaeologist Jane Downes said the Paepae could have been built during the age of marae building in the 1300s and 1400s.

Downes said the monument which leads off the Ara Metua could have been a meeting place and a place of procession for the chiefs.

She is part of a team of archaeologists from the United Kingdom, Rapa Nui and New Zealand, who have returned to the Cook Islands to continue their investigations of the Ara Metua at Arai Te Tonga.

Professors Colin Richards and Downes from the University of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland, Professor Kate Welham and Lawrence Shaw from the University of Bournemouth, England, Franciso Torres from the Rapa Nui Easter Island Museum, and Dr Mat Campbell of Heritage Auckland are conducting excavation and survey work over the next two weeks.

They are taking samples from underneath the Ara Metua and Ari Rangi, and making accurate records of the marae complex.

They previously investigated the Ara Metua by excavating a two-metre-wide trench across it. They hoped the excavation would uncover the original road surface, which was paved with black basalt slabs and curbed by coral stones.

The exact age of the original road is unknown but the team said it most likely dates back to the 20th century.

The Ara Metua or the great road of Toi (Te Ara Nui O Toi) is one of the largest monuments in Polynesia. Originally it ran in a circuit around Rarotonga and connected to a series of marae.

The Ara Metua remained in use until the 1980s when a new road was built in the position it occupies today.

The excavation work is with the consent of Nga Pu Tapere o Tupapa Maraerenga, Te Aronga Mana o Arai Te Tonga e te au Atu Enua o te Koutu Arai Te Tonga.

The team are wanting to find a way to preserve these historic sites for Rarotonga.

The archaeology team will be holding a presentation on the archaeological heritage of Rarotonga at the USP Campus in Avarua this Friday from 4pm to 6pm.

The public is invited to take part and share information about their heritage.

You can contact them through their Facebook page ‘Archaeology and Research Cook Islands.’ 

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