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Tahiti / Blog / Striking Polynesian sculptures that are gods but look like something else

Striking Polynesian sculptures that are gods but look like something else

Polynesian mythology is rife with unknowns of all kinds. Their remote past is cloaked in mystery, from the first island-to-island migrations out of Micronesia that took them to Easter Island after crossing more than 7,500 miles of open water, to the latest genetic research linking Polynesian peoples to pre-Columbian Native Americans. However, the enigma that concerns us today is different and you are in for more than one surprise when you see the pictures.

Modern Polynesian culture is closely linked to its mythological past. But the latter, to a large extent, has been lost. The ancient Polynesian religions have been replaced by some of the most popular Christian faiths. However, although part of the folklore has been lost over time, certain constructions and monuments that recall past times are still extant, such as the religious sites made of volcanic and/or coral stone, known as marae, and representations of ancient gods called tikis, and these are what we will show you today.


The mohais of Easter Island are known the world over, but stone monuments in the image of the ancient Polynesian gods are not confined to the Easter Island. Representations of these gods can be found on other islands the length and breadth of the Pacific Ocean. With respect to tikis, we will focus on the Marquesas Islands archipelago. According to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) mythology, their first colonists parted from these islands.

Although tikis can be found in places outside the Marquesas Archipelago (which is one of the five archipelagos that make up French Polynesia), the best-known examples are located there. For each tiki there is a story – many of which have been forgotten – linked to the god or ancestor it represents. And just as the Marquesas are the tiki capital of French Polynesia, two of its islands – Nuku Hiva (the capital) and Hiva Oa – are home to the greatest number of ancient religious artifacts in the archipelago.

Although tikis usually represent males, there are also female tikis like the famous one in the Marae Iipona on Hiva Oa, the largest ancient tiki representing a woman.

The following pictures will help you to understand the full significance of the heading to this section because inevitably these tikis have so stimulated the imagination of certain people with more modern perspectives to equate these statues of gods or ancestors with extraterrestrial beings – an interpretation that archeologists and historians refute but which, nevertheless, takes nothing away from their astounding presence.

Tikis in Nuku Hiva


Smiling Tiki (or with glasses) of Hiva Oa

Tiki in ceremonial complex

Tiki next to alter of sacrifices

Tiki man and Tiki woman in Hiva Oa


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