Rimarau Burial Cave

Useful Information

Location: Atiu Island.
Southwest side of the island, south of Lake Te Roto.
(-20.012853, -158.121133)
Open: after appointment.
Fee: yes.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: none, bring torch
Dimension: L=30 m.
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Angela Clark, Nancy Tayles, Hallie Buckley, Fieke Neuman (2015): The Rima Rau Burial Cave, Atiu, Cook Islands, The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology. 1-21. researchgate DOI
Address: Guide Marshall Humphreys.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



Rimarau Burial Cave.
© George Szentes, with kind permission.

More spectacular is the Rimarau Burial Cave. A narrow shaft leads to a large chamber, where hundreds of human bones can be seen. This cave has provided a final resting place for generations, and it is linked with history and legends from the days when life was very different.

Text from George Szentes (2004): Caves of the Cook Islands, The British Caver Vol. 127 Spring 2005, pp 1-12, 13 color pictures, 1 bw picture, 1 map. With kind permission of the author.

The Rima Rau Burial Cave (Cave of Five Times Twohundred) is a burial cave, the name refers to the number of graves inside. In the Atiu Maori language 'Rima' is five and 'Rau' is two hundred, so it means 5 times 200 or 1,000. Obviously an exaggeration, actually there are about 50 burials inside. The cave is famous for its archaeological value, the burials are the ancestors of the people still living in the area. Nevertheles there are many legends about the origin of the bones, a famous battle, a cannibal feast, and a complicated story of revenge.

The cave is rather small, a single chamber with a length of 28 m and a width between 7 and 9 m. The chamber is separated in different parts which are separated by speleothems or simply by a different level of the floor. The first section is named Upper and Lower West Chamber, followed by the South Passage and then by the South West passage.