To rediscover,

To celebrate,

To protect Marquesan cultural heritage.

The Cave of Treasure

The English translation of the Museum’s Marquesan name is “The Cave of Treasure.”

Founded by Tehaumate Tetahiotupa (former Mayor of Tahuata) and AFAR President Barry Rolett in 1987.  Located in the center of Vaitahu Village, this is the first community-based archaeology museum in the Marquesas.

The Museum’s core collection consists of artifacts from excavations at the Hanamiai dune and monumental architecture sites in Vaitahu Valley. Directed by AFAR President Barry Rolett, these excavations involved youth from the local community as well as university students and volunteers from the United States, Canada, and Europe. The Museum is a collaborative effort of the Marquesan community and the archaeologists. Displays feature interpretive labels written in Marquesan (still the everyday language on the island) with translations in English and French.

The exhibits feature artifacts from AFAR excavations

on Tahuata, as well as artifacts donated by members

of the community.

Teiki Barsinas and two other artists carved this massive tiki by hand. It is made of Polynesian tou wood from a trunk nearly five feet in diameter.

The Marquesans of Vaitahu and Hanamiai were at center stage during the early period of culture contact, which began with Captain Cook’s visit in 1774.  Our excavations open a window to this tumultuous era, revealing how Marquesans adapted to European contact and colonization.

In 2013 we uncovered a dazzling array of pearl shell fishhooks in a 3 m buried Archaic deposit, among the oldest in the Marquesas.

The Tahuata Museum

Honu, the highest ranking chief of Vaitahu during Captain Cook’s visit.  This portrait is by William Hodges, the artist on Cook’s second voyage.

Captain James Cook is credited with the European discovery of the Marquesas.  His visit opened the Marquesas to the Western world.

In 2010 we added new exhibits and updated the existing ones.

Summer 2010 AFAR Marquesas team (left to right): Hio Timau, Wendy Leicht, Barry Rolett, Manuhi Timau, Tehaumate Tetahiotupa, Amy Mueller, Ren MacDonald, Joseph Barsinas, Shingo Suzuki, Emily Donaldson.

This Russian coin dated 1812 was discovered by local fishermen at a shipwreck on the Tahuata coast. European contact era trade goods from the excavations include glass beads, bronze nails, clay pipes, gun flints, and musket balls.

In the early 1800s Marquesans acquired metal through trading with Americans and Europeans.  This display shows the transition from pearl shell to iron and bronze for everyday implements such as fishhooks and coconut graters.

Link to photos of the 2006 koina festivalKoina__A_Marquesan_Festival.htmlKoina__A_Marquesan_Festival.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0shapeimage_4_link_1

With gratitude: 

The Institute for Polynesian Studies (BYU-Hawaii)

Landon T. Clay and family

The Morgan Family Fund of the Silicon Valley Foundation

Images from the 2010 museum renovation

Spanish coin dated 1732, 42 years before the arrival of Cook. Surface collected in Vaitahu Valley.

Link to our Facebook page for photos of the latest discoveries