’ŌPŪNOHU VALLEY, A MAJOR CULTURAL SITE
’Ōpūnohu is a vast, fertile and luxuriant expanse of land lying in the collapsed crater of the former volcano. In this exceptional natural setting today are many interesting areas : ancient remains, lands for agriculture, stock-breeding, aquaculture, education and research centres, sport and tourism.
Yesterday, a living space
The valleys of the Society Islands were much more populated before the arrival of the
Imagine that place bustling with all the human activity generated by a dense settlement : the life of a household, cultivating the land, a ceremony on the marae, the gathering of chiefs and warriors... Such was the situation of the ’Ōpūnohu valley at that time : a space for social life and an open-air sanctuary.
More than 550 structures have been listed, with a great variety of marae (temples), ancient habitation sites, paepae (platforms), crop terraces and archery platforms. In the XVIIth century, the valley was divided into two mata’eina’a iti (sub-districts) : to the West, Amehiti has the oldest structures ; to the East, Tupauruuru, has the largest and most elaborate archaeological sites.
’Ōpūnohu valley is one of the most studied area of French Polynesia, partly because
Medford Kellum, the owner of the domain from 1925 to 1962, was able to preserve its
Kenneth P. Emory, as from 1925, initiated the first archaeological surveys. In the 1960s, Roger C. Green pieced together the ethno-archaeological history, which enables to assert that the valley has been continuously inhabited for six hundred years at least.
This marked the beginning of a long series of studies which make it possible to better
understand the society of yesteryear.
Pre-’Ātiro’o - 600-1000 - Occupation of the coastal area, few settlements in the valley or environmental modifications.
Growth - ’Ātiro’o - 1000-1650 - Significant inland expansion, birth and development of an intensive horticultural system ; deforestation and significant environmental changes.
Growth - ’Ātiro’o - 1400-1500 - Construction of the first marae.
Climax - Mārama - 1650-1788 - Conquest of the valley by the Mārama clan ; construction of most of the major ceremonial sites in Tupauruuru.
Māhine - 1770-1790 - Reign of Māhine.
Pōmare - 1788-1815 - The valley became the refuge of the people who refused the European conquest and the evangelization. At the start of the XIXth century, the population settled on the coastal area, where the religious missions were installed.
The archaeological site
It is one of the many ceremonial sites of the valley. It was restored in 1969 under the
supervision of Dr. Yoshihiko Sinoto (Bishop Museum) and of the Government of French Polynesia in 2012.
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