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Archaeology: The Nan Madol and the Lapaha of Tonga as the Wonders of the World Research Paper

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A culture is relatively unique compared to other cultures. A certain culture may differ from another culture in terms of its traditions, practices, beliefs, and other aspects, but there would also still be some similarities between them. There are various aspects of culture, of which anthropologists, and even laymen could use as points of comparison. Included in the list would be architecture, agricultural technology, especially the type of subsistence the community utilizes, the political structure and framework, etc.

One of the most visible and obvious points of comparison would be the arts, especially architecture. There are several aspects within this discipline that had been subjected to different studies from different disciplines such as arts, anthropology, psychology, engineering sciences, physics, and a lot more.

Aside from being good subjects for these sciences, architecture had also become subject for the mysticists and also conspiracy theorists. There are a lot of architectural structures that can become examples of these, many of them are even famous the world over. Some of these architectural structures that some people consider as mystical and mysterious are the pyramids of Egypt, the Sphinx, The Aztec pyramids, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Rice Terraces of the Philippines, the Stonehenge, and many other more. The list could go on and on because almost each of the architectural structures in the world has its own mysterious and mystical story to tell.

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If someone is given the chance to do the listing of these structures, there would be a greater possibility that most of the structures included will be the ones that were mentioned earlier. However, not so many people know that aside from the ones that most people know, there are also those structures which have raised the curiosity of scientists, enthusiasts and laymen alike.

Perhaps Stonehenge would be the most popular of the structures that can be considered as to have mysterious origins, mysterious uses and mysterious construction methods. However, there are also other structures that can equal, or even surpass the mysticism and the mysteries that Stonehenge had on most people. Two of these structures would be the Nan Madol of the Caroline Islands of the Pacific and the Lapaha of Tonga.

Most of the world does not know or even heard the names of the places, even though these structures are considered by the researchers and the few fortunate ones who have seen and went to these places to be the most beautiful place they have ever been.

These structures have some similarities with each other, but aside from these, there are also differences between them. Also, these structures share some similarities with the other ones in the list of the architectural wonders of the world.

The Nan Madol is basically found in the Caroline Islands, in the group of Islands called Micronesia. The structure can be found on the East coast of Pohnpei. Some archaeologists argue that they have found some archaeological evidence that Nan Madol is the greatest political, as well as social and religious center even until AD 1500 (Ayres, n. d.).

The whole city of Nan Madol was built on top of an ancient coral reef. The reef roughly measuring a bit more than 11 square miles, including a variety of man-made islets as well as vast and intricate intersections of man-made canals. The whole city is a very beautiful sight to see, not only to the ordinary and adventuresome tourist, but also to the most academically-oriented scientist. The whole city poses different mysteries that are yet answered by modern science, even until now.

Adding to the mystery of this city is the presence of interconnected submerged tunnels which connect one relatively large island to another. This city was first rediscovered by European sailors during the early 1800s. Because of that rediscovery, the beliefs about the existence of the lost continent of Mu became stronger with the help of this immense and great megalithic stone city. There are those that claim that this is already the evidence of the existence of the said continent, while others say that the city is not part of the continent Mu, however, it may or may not contain some very important evidence about its existence, however, still, there are still others that argue that the city does not contain any pieces of evidence about any lost continent, because the lost continent is not true in the first place, and second, that the Nan Madol is not a part of any kind of larger landmass because it is the city itself.

The mere existence of this magnificent megalithic stone-made city poses some questions that are very hard to answer in the minds of scientists and researchers.

This is because, using radiocarbon emission testing and dating, as well as archaeological excavations, it was already established and concluded that the city of Nan Madol had already been around at about 200 BC. This finding would make it hard for most conventional scientists to believe that brute force, or even with the help of very simple machines, the people would still not be able to perform the tasks. This problem was somehow “solved” by the inhabitants’ folklore, which says that the stones in the walls were flown into the air by a certain type of magic, and the same magic had placed each and every basalt log in its proper place.

Most people think that sites that only see very few tourists are lost sites, but in reality, these parts of the earth are not really lost, but only hidden from the lenses of cameras. Just like other “lost” sites, Nan Madol is considered to be one, because it sees only a handful of tourists at any given time (Hunley, 2007). However, the term lost is really a misnomer, because the site was never really lost, nor was there found a time when the islands were uninhabited by the natives.

According to the oral, as well as the archaeological evidence, the structure was the seat of political power of the Sau Deleur dynasty during the late prehistoric times. This dynasty was the one that archaeologists consider to be the one responsible for uniting the estimated population of 25,000 people during those times. That was the Nan Madol in Prehistoric times, but today, the structure is a part of an archaeological district that measures 18 sq. km, which also includes a kind of stone structure that was built on a coral reef flat. Included in this archaeological area are some artificial islets and the Pohnpei main island coastline which is just adjacent the Nan Madol structure.

According to one archaeologist who had studied the Nan Madol in our contemporary times (Beardsley, 1998), the city is almost synonymous to the dynasty that was ruling it during the prehistoric times, the Sau Deleur Dynasty. Living in the city itself poses several problems, because there are no freshwater sources, as well as there are no foods in there because they cannot grow food. However, the rulers did not worry about this, because the people send them their food and water.

In the core of the site, a structure with stone walls which approximately measure 1.5 km long and 0.5 km wide can be found. Within this structure, more or less 100 artificial islets made up of coral fill platforms and stones can be found. These islets are all bordered by tidal canals. According to Ayres (1990), it would be estimated that building materials weighing 500,000 to 750,000 metric tons were transported to the site from different places, from various distances.

Also, according to Ayres’ research (1990, 1992), the Nan Madol, along with 200 other Pohnpeian sites are to be put in an island-wide context, that is that the individual structures should not be taken as individuals, but as structures that were built because of their interconnectedness with the other structures.

Also, he found out that the Sau Deleur may have occupied the area for about 2000 years or so, and that the span of major construction activity would have possibly reached a thousand years or so.

During the archaeological activities done on the site, several thousand portable artifacts were found (Ayres, 1990). Along with these artifact finds, food remains were also found. These food remains were used to provide information on forming the basis for dietary and activity patterns. Also, the archaeologists also found a collection of ceramics which are evidence for major changes in stylistic changes and production sources that are argued to be non-local, which suggest that the people already have formed economic relationships with the outside world.

Unlike the pottery finds from other archaeological sites, the pottery finds from the archaeological site of Nan Madol are very mysterious. This is because according to the people inhabiting the islands themselves, they have not known how to create pottery until their late history.

This only raises the hypothesis that the people who have built the Nan Madol are not the same people who are currently inhabiting the place because the technology that is already present in the past cannot be found in the group of people who are supposedly their descendants.

Even with this vast amount of information about the Nan Madol, questions still arise regarding the purpose of the structure. Also, questions about the position of the structure to the greater and broader Pohnpeian socio-politico-economic system are still subject to debate.

Because of this, several conspiracy theorists, amateur theorists and other kinds of theorists formed hypotheses that they think would answer those questions.

There are actually some theorists who argue that the Nan Madol is actually a man-made weather manipulation structure, which was originally designed to be a man-made weather manipulation structure. They think that the people who made the structure already had the technology and knowledge to manipulate the weather (Nan Madol…, 2007).

These theorists also believe that the people who have erected these walls also had the technology to magnetize the building blocks that they had used, the massive basalt rocks which weigh from around 5 metric tons to about 25 metric tons.

These basalt rocks were shaped like logs, and they were stacked up to form walls, just like the way logs are stacked up in the traditional log house. The walls are estimated to be 50 feet in height, and it measures more or less 17 feet in its thickness. How the people were able to bring the basalt logs to the site would already be a very big question, but how were they able to lift these logs to their height would be very puzzling (Ancient Cities, n. d.).

The construction of the Nan Madol is rather very simple, yet very effective in keeping the walls together even up to our times. The long and very durable basalt logs were placed from one end to another, and with coral rubble being put between each log to serve as its mortar. The walls are slightly slanted which creates an inward pressure on the Nan Madol walls, which makes the walls still stand.

Adding to the mentioned mysteries of the Nan Madol, it would also be important to look at the canals that are present in the interior of the structure. Just like the canals that can be found in Venice, these canals may have served as a medium for transportation. At first, the canals would seem very ordinary, but with a closer and more critical look, anyone would notice that the canals were systematically and precisely carved out of the site. This may suggest that the people of that time already had the technology to do so, also, they would have been very good architects, as well as builders to do so.

They believe that these people use this kind of technology to alter the natural course of nature by using magnetism. Although this may sound as if the people knew how to go against Nature, the theorists say that the opposite may be the truth. They believe that the Sau Deleur, or any other people that had inhabited the place had the knowledge of how to work with the courses of Nature, not against it.

The theorists put up some very convincing and very scientific proofs that will support their theories. Their proofs include their findings that claim that the basalt rocks that make up the structure are magnetized, and arranged in a way that they would be able to “break apart” a typhoon even before it forms.

Aside from this, the contextual location becomes proof to the said theorists.

The Nan Madol is basically found in the area which is halfway between the volcanic islands of Hawaii and the archipelago of the Republic of the Philippines. This puts the Nan Madol in the area where most of the Pacific typhoons form. This is because this is the area where the cool air from the northern regions of the Pacific Ocean meets the warm waters of the Caroline Islands, making the area very ideal for storms and typhoons to form.

Incidentally, the Nan Madol can be found in the area where almost all the typhoons originate. This fact made the theories a bit stronger, because if the structure really has the capacity to manipulate the formation of a storm as the theorists claim it can, and that this structure is found in the exact place where most storms originate to become fully grown storms, then it would really be tempting to conclude that the structure really is made to manipulate the weather.

Aside from the mystery of the Nan Madol that the theorists have tried to explain, there some other questions still arise about the building of the said structure (Hunley, 2007). The most prominent and obvious question would be how were the people of those times able to transport those massive pieces of basaltic rocks to the site.

Another question would be how were those people able to lift the rocks to the places they are now. These things would seem very trivial for our time because we now have the technology to loft very objects off the ground by using very strong machinery that are able to lift almost anything of any mass, however, to the people of that time, it would pose very big problems. This is because even with the aid of their simple machines, it would still seem be very impossible for them to quarry, transport and lift rocks as massive as the ones they have put up on the site.

Because of that, it would also be very tempting to conclude that the people who had made the structure really have the knowledge of how to control or manipulate nature by preventing the formation of a storm. But still, all these are just theories that still need to be tested and proven. All these theories are valid as of the meantime.

Aside from the architecture that the people of Nan Madol had, the whole investigation and study about the Nan Madol also had to include the study of the people who had inhabited the place. According to an anthropologist who went into the place in the early part of the year 1836, the people of the place had a very vast collection of legends as well as beliefs that are associated to the structure of Nan Madol, however, the telling of these legends and beliefs to non-locals is taboo for them. According to the anthropologist, the practice was somewhat similar to the Hawaiian Kahuna practice of keeping “the secret” (Childress, 1998).

Other than the Nan Madol, there are yet still other places on Earth that share the mystery that the Nan Madol has. One of them is the village of Lapaha in Tonga. The village is basically found in the city of Mu’a, which is considered to be the capital of ancient Tonga (Wikipedia, 2007).

When someone goes to Lapaha, it would be most probable that he or she will not notice anything very extraordinary about the place, however, if that person goes to the community cemetery, he or she would find that place one of the most unique structures he could find in the community. That person would definitely find the cemetery of the village of Lapaha as something that is somehow similar to the Nan Madol, but unique in its way.

This is because, just like the Nan Madol, beside the cemetery is a structure that is made up of relatively large boulders which resemble a kind of pyramid of some sort.

However, unlike the Nan Madol whose origin and purpose is still a subject for a very long and rigorous debate, the Lapaha, as mysterious as it may look at seems to be, is not an object of mystery anymore, because of the existence of valid historical data that the historians and anthropologists got from the inhabitants.

The main difference between the two structures lies in the environment they are located in, and the people that had built them. The first one is built in a coastal area, which gives the inhabitants the condition of having to live with the conditions that are present in this kind of area. Also, the materials used would definitely vary, not only because of the possible purposes these structures would serve the people, but also because of the present natural and artificial raw materials that they would be using for these structures.

Aside from these, it would be very good to look at the way these structures were put into the context by their builders. The first one, the Nan Madol may be built because prior the building proper, the people of that particular community had already suffered a lot from the storms that had passed through their area, so their society devised a way of how to prevent this, without sacrificing their selves by destroying their environment.

Another observation about the two is that the structures were both built for some kind of socio-politico economic reason. Whether it be for manipulating the weather, or to serve as a place where the people could perform religious rites, or some kind of point where traders could do their trading, or some kind of place where the kings, or any kind of royalty could flaunt their riches and power, the sites still become a place where people perform their socio-politico economic duties, as well as their rights. This may seem very obvious or trivial at first, but come to think of it, every place in this world, excluding those ones where people have not set foot on yet of course, is a place where these rights and duties are performed.

The two structures that were mentioned, and at one point compared are just two examples of the artifacts that two different cultures leave as they progress through time. Different or similar as they may seem, they are still both creations of the human mind, therefore, they are similar in their own ways, and at the same time, different. One may serve this purpose, the other, another purpose.

Building on the said kind of premise, it would be vague for people to compare one structure with another, because they would be comparing different yet similar things. It would be like comparing the French fries people buy at a McDonald’s in the US, with the French Fries that people in South East Asia buy from their local McDonald’s branch. Would it be logical or even important to compare the two French fries? There would definitely be some minor differences between them, but their similarities would still stand, because it is basically the reason why people buy food from them. Also, would it be logical to do that even when you know that the maker and producer of both French fries belong to the same mother company? It certainly would not be, because the comparison would only be affected by the biases that the person comparing has.


In conclusion, the two structures, the Nan Madol of the Caroline Islands and the Lapaha of Tonga should be considered to be included in the list of the wonders of the world, not only because they amaze, stupefy and make the people who see them say “Wow!,” but also because they are wonderful in their own sense, and that they are manifestations of how intelligent Man can be, being able to amaze even the members of their own species.


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Ayres, William S. Mystery Islets of Micronesia. Archaeology 1990, pp. 58-63.

Ayres, William S. Nan Madol, Pohnpei. SAA Bulletin. Vol. 10. 1992. Society for American Archaeology.

Ayres, William S. Pohnpei’s Position in Eastern Micronesian Prehistory, Micronesica, Supplement 2: Proceedings, Indo Pacific Prehistory Association, Guam, 1990, pp. 187-212.

Beardsley, F., PhD, 1998. Nan Madol. Web.

Childress, D. H., 1998, Ancient Micronesia & the Lost City of Nan Madol. Adventures Unlimited Press, pp. 18 – 23.

Hanley, C., 1986, “Oregon Anthropologist Unravels Story of Lost City of Pacific,” The Oregonian. Cr. D.A. Dispenza.

NAN MADOL – Ancient Weather Manipulation Technology??, 2007. Web.

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