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PAPEETE, Tahiti, (Tahipresse, Mar. 3) – Three ancient stone objects have been brought to the surface from an underwater archeological site in a coral reef with a mysterious name off the coast of Tahiti’s sister island of Moorea.

The traditional Tahitian anchors and fishing weights were raised from a depth of 10 meters by archeologists working with the French Naval Archeological Research Association (GRAN). The team, led by Robert Veccella, includes French archeologists Guy Martin and Joë Guenon as well as divers from Tahiti.

The three artifacts are among hundreds of ancient treasures strewn over an area measuring 250 meters by 50 meters at a depth of about 11 meters. Those objects include ancient Tahitian anchors, fishing weights, adzes, pestles, and stones that might have come from a "marae" - an ancient Tahitian worshipping site.

This is the first time that such an important archeological site has been discovered underwater in French Polynesia.

A fisherman on the island of Moorea made the initial discovery three years ago. The searching of the site will continue until April 6 and can be followed daily on the Internet website www.archeonavale.org.

The archeological treasures were found in the coral reef pass with the Tahitian name "Tupaparau," which has been interpreted as "the pass of ghosts." Another possible interpretation, however, is the Tahitian word "tupapa’arau", which means "a pile of things. The Tahitian Academy has launched a study of the name of the Moorea pass.

The underwater objects, some of which are wedged into the coral, will be brought to the surface, cleaned, examined and taken to the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands to be dated.

During the past week, a strong swell from the southeast made access to the underwater site very difficult, permitting only one daily dive. But the day that the first treasures were brought to the surface, French Polynesia Government Cultural Minister Louise Peltzer was on hand.

She was visiting Moorea as part of French Polynesia’s celebration of Patrimony Days. Peltzer talked with the French archeologists and the person who discovered the precious site, a Tahitian fisherman who goes by the name of Matahiapo and is a member of the cultural association Na Too e Va’u no Aimeho Nui on Moorea.

The fisherman discovered the site three years ago. He told Tahitipresse: "I dive and fish with a spear gun every day and, three years ago, I noticed these stone objects. I didn’t tell anyone except my brother. It was kind of like my treasure.

"Then one day my brother talked to his friends about the site. Then divers came to the site. That’s why I notified the Culture Ministry. These objects belong to Tahiti’s patrimony," Matahiapo said.

March 5, 2003

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.com 

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