Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Ethnology of Tongareva

House Foundations

House Foundations

The raised stone platform of the paepae type, represented by a few structures in the Cook Islands and common in the Marquesas, is not found in Tongareva. The houses were built on the flat ground, but small flat slabs of the coral (karaea) were set on edge and embedded in the ground between the wall posts or immediately outside them. They project above the ground about 6 inches and form the low rectangular wall that bounds the house floor. The floor is covered with white coral gravel (kirikiri), which the wall prevents from being scattered to the outside. These low rectangular walls and the fine coral gravel within are to be seen on many of the islands and clearly indicate that the population was widely distributed.

The wall lines of some of the large houses were formed of small slabs of the limestone material used to form the uprights of the maraes. These, being higher, were correspondingly filled in higher with gravel and thus give the appearance of low platforms, as does the foundation of Turua's house in Motukohiti. Lamont (15, p. 159) speaks of stone foundations at the northern end of Mangarongaro:

page 148

Some distance beyond this were what appeared to be the foundation of stone walls, many of them intersecting our path. I afterwards saw similar erections in other parts of the island, but could never get a proper explanation of them, the natives merely saying that they had been houses, but apparently knowing nothing more of them than I did. These remains, like the huge stones of the maraes, that are evidently made of composition, though the natives believe them to have come out of the sea, led me to believe that another race must have at one time inhabited this little portion of the globe—perhaps swept away by some catastrophe spreading destruction over this island, to be replaced by the descendants of others, thrown upon its shores in some chance canoe. The legend of their origin told by the natives themselves, is that Mahauta, a great chief, and Ocura, his wife, came from the land beyond the sky, bringing cocoa-nut, hara, fish, birds, etc., but of the origin of these architectural remains they are utterly ignorant.

I saw the remains described by Lamont, and his informants were quite right in merely saying they had been houses. Further information was unnecessary concerning what was so obvious to them, but Lamont evidently thought that the lack of detail vouchsafed indicated that they knew as little about the subject as he himself did. As they were quite right also about the huge marae stones coming out of the sea, Lamont has constructed a theory of another race on two fundamental statements which are absolutely incorrect.

The coral gravel spread over the floor is very white, and even now the old house foundations are clearly indicated by the white gravel as well as by the lines of slabs. Lamont found that when extra attention was paid him a fresh layer of clean gravel was laid on the floor for him to sleep on. Among the wrecked crew of the Chatham the gravel on which they slept was jocosely referred to as “Penrhyn Island feathers” (15, p. 129).