Nan Madol

Nan Madol


Location: Madolenihmw district, Pohnpei island    Map

Constructed: started in the 8th century

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History of Nan Madol

Nan Madol is a massive archaeological site on the Eastern coast of a Pohnpei island in the Federal States of Micronesia in Madolenihmw district. Today Nan Madol archaeological park covers a total area of over 80 acres of water and islands. Construction of Nan Madol began in the 8th century AD and served as a capital for the Saudeleur dynasty until 17th century when it was finally abandoned. It stands on nearly 100 artificial islets of coral with small channels in between that served as city highways. These waterways gave this site its name. Nan Madol could be literally translated as "spaces between". The original name of this abandoned mysterious city is Soun Nan-leng (Reef of Heaven).


Saudeleur dynasty that lived on this island city of Nan Madol were predominant residents here. Only few commoners were allowed within its walls. This included mostly servants of the palace as well as hostages of the royal family. Fresh water and food was delivered here from the island for they royals. Eventually in 1628 near mythical hero Isokelekel overthrew Saudemwohl, the last king from the Saudeleur dynasty, establishing his own Nahnmwarki Era. It was a political order that priests basically ran the society. Since tyranny was abandoned Nan Madol didn't last too long as a major settlement. Bringing food and fresh water was too expansive, most residents could not live here for an extended period of time.


Unlike Venice in Italy that was build on existing islands in the lagoon, Nan Madol was erected on artificial islands that were constructed by the residents of the city. Initially they built basalt walls with a height of 18 to 25 feet high and 17 feet in thickness. Each basalt column or a log was perfectly shaped from a volcanic lava geological deposit situated on the opposite side of the island. Then they were stacked in criss- crossed pattern and coral rubble filled the interior. This provided a base for construction of the buildings above it. Archaeologists estimated that over 250 million tons of basalt logs were brought here to finish this engineering marvel. There are numerous theories on how exactly it was achieved, but there is no definite proof. No engineering machines were ever discovered on a site.



Another mystery of Nan Madol is the construction of massive underwater tunnels that connected artificial islands of Nan Madol. They possibly served as escape routes for the residents of the settlement. Today they are hidden under water. Unfortunately cave ins on the site cut these structures. No complete tunnel was discovered so far.


Even before Nan Madol was abandoned in the 17th century the city was surrounded with numerous legends and theories. Some claim that two brothers Olosopha and Olosipha constructed the city of Nan Madol from basalt logs using magical powers that lifted heavy load without touching them. Some speculated that it was constructed by the ancient Greek travelers that swam across the Indian Ocean to build a colony here. There have been no proof or artifacts found that could collaborate with a story. Some locals suggested that once giants lived here and constructed this magnificent city. They died here, but their spirits still reside here. The stories of haunting are particularly common among people who live on the island. Few dare to venture here after the night fall.