Nan Madol
Overview
 
Nan Madol is a ruined city that lies off the eastern shore of the island of Pohnpei
Pohnpei
Not to be confused with Pompeii, the ancient city destroyed by Vesuvius in AD 79.Pohnpei "upon a stone altar " is the name of one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia , situated among the Senyavin Islands which are part of the larger Caroline Islands group...

 that was the capital of the Saudeleur
Saudeleur
The Saudeleur Dynasty, with Sau Deleur meaning "Lord of the immediate area," was the first organized government uniting the people of Pohnpei island, which ruled from around 500 to 1500 AD...

 dynasty until about AD 1500. It is in the present day Madolenihmw
Madolenihmw
Madolenihmw is one of the administrative divisions of the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. It is located in the central east of the island, to the east of Mount Nahna Laud and south of Mount Kapwuriso. The coast of Madolenihmw includes a large bay which contains the island of Temwen, famous for its...

 district of Pohnpei state, in the Federated States of Micronesia
Federated States of Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia or FSM is an independent, sovereign island nation, made up of four states from west to east: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It comprises approximately 607 islands with c...

 in the western Pacific Ocean. The city consists of a series of small artificial island
Artificial island
An artificial island or man-made island is an island or archipelago that has been constructed by people rather than formed by natural means...

s linked by a network of canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s. The site core with its stone walls encloses an area approximately 1.5 km long by 0.5 km wide and it contains nearly 100 artificial islets—stone
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 and coral
Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

 fill platforms—bordered by tidal canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s.

The name Nan Madol means "spaces between" and is a reference to the canals that crisscross the ruins.
Encyclopedia
Nan Madol is a ruined city that lies off the eastern shore of the island of Pohnpei
Pohnpei
Not to be confused with Pompeii, the ancient city destroyed by Vesuvius in AD 79.Pohnpei "upon a stone altar " is the name of one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia , situated among the Senyavin Islands which are part of the larger Caroline Islands group...

 that was the capital of the Saudeleur
Saudeleur
The Saudeleur Dynasty, with Sau Deleur meaning "Lord of the immediate area," was the first organized government uniting the people of Pohnpei island, which ruled from around 500 to 1500 AD...

 dynasty until about AD 1500. It is in the present day Madolenihmw
Madolenihmw
Madolenihmw is one of the administrative divisions of the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. It is located in the central east of the island, to the east of Mount Nahna Laud and south of Mount Kapwuriso. The coast of Madolenihmw includes a large bay which contains the island of Temwen, famous for its...

 district of Pohnpei state, in the Federated States of Micronesia
Federated States of Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia or FSM is an independent, sovereign island nation, made up of four states from west to east: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It comprises approximately 607 islands with c...

 in the western Pacific Ocean. The city consists of a series of small artificial island
Artificial island
An artificial island or man-made island is an island or archipelago that has been constructed by people rather than formed by natural means...

s linked by a network of canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s. The site core with its stone walls encloses an area approximately 1.5 km long by 0.5 km wide and it contains nearly 100 artificial islets—stone
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 and coral
Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

 fill platforms—bordered by tidal canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s.

The name Nan Madol means "spaces between" and is a reference to the canals that crisscross the ruins. The original name was Soun Nan-leng (Reef of Heaven), according to Gene Ashby in his book Pohnpei, An Island Argosy. It is often called the "Venice of the Pacific

History

Nan Madol was the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur
Saudeleur
The Saudeleur Dynasty, with Sau Deleur meaning "Lord of the immediate area," was the first organized government uniting the people of Pohnpei island, which ruled from around 500 to 1500 AD...

 dynasty, which united Pohnpei's estimated 25,000 people. Set apart between the main island of Pohnpei and Temwen Island
Temwen Island
Temwen Island is a small island off the southeastern coast off the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. It is best known as the location of the ruined city of Nan Madol, which consisted of a series of artificially constructed islets off Temwen's southern coast....

, it was a scene of human activity as early as the first or second century AD. By the 8th or 9th century islet construction had started, but the distinctive megalith
Megalith
A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. Megalithic describes structures made of such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement.The word 'megalith' comes from the Ancient...

ic architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

 was probably not begun until perhaps the 12th or early 13th century.

Little can be verified about the megalithic construction. Pohnpeian tradition claims that the builders of the Lelu complex on Kosrae
Kosrae
Kosrae , formerly known as Kusaie, is an island in Micronesia. The State of Kosrae is one of four states of the Federated States of Micronesia, and includes, besides the island of Kosrae, about a dozen satellite islands and islets, the most significant of which is Lelu Island.-Geography:With a...

 (likewise composed of huge stone buildings) migrated to Pohnpei, where they used their skills and experience to build the even more impressive Nan Madol complex. However, this is unlikely: radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 indicates that Nan Madol predates Lelu. Like Lelu, one major purpose of constructing a separate city was to insulate the nobility from the common people.

A local story holds that when Nan Madol was being built a powerful magician living in the well inhabited region on the northwest of the island was solicited, and that his help was a major factor in completing the buildings. In particular, he was responsible for supplying the huge stone "logs" used in much of Nan Madol by "flying" them from their source to the construction site.

Purpose and features

The elite centre was a special place of residence for the nobility and of mortuary activities presided over by priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s. Its population almost certainly did not exceed 1,000, and may have been less than half that. Although many of the residents were chiefs, the majority were commoner
Commoner
In British law, a commoner is someone who is neither the Sovereign nor a peer. Therefore, any member of the Royal Family who is not a peer, such as Prince Harry of Wales or Anne, Princess Royal, is a commoner, as is any member of a peer's family, including someone who holds only a courtesy title,...

s. Nan Madol served, in part, as a way for the ruling Saudeleur chiefs to organize and control potential rivals by requiring them to live in the city rather than in their home districts, where their activities were difficult to monitor.

Madol Powe, the mortuary sector, contains 58 islets in the northeastern area of Nan Madol. Most islet
Islet
An islet is a very small island.- Types :As suggested by its origin as islette, an Old French diminutive of "isle", use of the term implies small size, but little attention is given to drawing an upper limit on its applicability....

s were once occupied by the dwellings of priests. Some islets served special purpose: food
Food
Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals...

 preparation, canoe
Canoe
A canoe or Canadian canoe is a small narrow boat, typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or small electric or gas motors. Canoes are usually pointed at both bow and stern and are normally open on top, but can be decked over A canoe (North American English) or Canadian...

 construction on Dapahu, and coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 oil preparation on Peinering. High walls
Walls
- Other uses :*Wall's , a company that makes ice cream*Wall's sausages, a British sausage brand*Walls, an episode of Power Rangers S.P.D.- Music :*Walls EP, a 2005 album by The Red Paintings*Walls , 2007...

 surrounding tomb
Tomb
A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes...

s are located on Peinkitel, Karian, and Lemenkou, but the crowning achievement is the royal mortuary islet of Nandauwas, where walls 18 – high surround a central tomb enclosure within the main courtyard.

Supposedly there was an escape tunnel beginning at the center of Nan Madol and boring down through the reef to exit into the ocean. Scuba divers continue to look for this "secret" route, but so far a complete tunnel has not been discovered.

Food and water

On Nan Madol there is no fresh water
Fresh Water
Fresh Water is the debut album by Australian rock and blues singer Alison McCallum, released in 1972. Rare for an Australian artist at the time, it came in a gatefold sleeve...

 or food; water must be collected and food grown inland. During Saudeleurs rule the occupants of Nan Madol brought to the site what they needed. When the Saudeleurs were overthrown and the period of the Nahnmwarkis began, the Nahnmwarkis lived at Nan Madol, but had to gather their own water and grow their own food. This is thought to have caused them eventually to abandon Nan Madol and move back to their own districts, although there are other explanations for the deserting of the complex, such as a sharp population decline.

Archaeology and tourism

Today Nan Madol forms an archaeological district covering more than 18 km² and includes the stone architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

 built up on a coral reef flat along the shore of Temwen Island
Temwen Island
Temwen Island is a small island off the southeastern coast off the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. It is best known as the location of the ruined city of Nan Madol, which consisted of a series of artificially constructed islets off Temwen's southern coast....

, several other artificial islets, and the adjacent Pohnpei main island coastline. The site core with its stone walls encloses an area approximately 1.5 km long by 0.5 km wide and it contains nearly 100 artificial islets—stone
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 and coral
Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

 fill platforms—bordered by tidal canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s.

Carbon dating indicates that the construction of Nan Madol began around AD 1200, while excavations show that the area may have been occupied as early as 200 BC. Some probable quarry
Quarry
A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, and gravel. They are often collocated with concrete and asphalt plants due to the requirement...

 sites around the island have been identified, but the exact origin of the stones of Nan Madol is yet undetermined. None of the proposed quarry sites exist in Madolenihmw
Madolenihmw
Madolenihmw is one of the administrative divisions of the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. It is located in the central east of the island, to the east of Mount Nahna Laud and south of Mount Kapwuriso. The coast of Madolenihmw includes a large bay which contains the island of Temwen, famous for its...

, meaning that the stones must have been transported to their current location. It has been suggested that they might have been floated via raft from the quarry, and a short dive between the island and the quarries shows a trail of dropped stones. However, no one has successfully demonstrated or explained the process. Some modern Pohnpeians believe the stones were flown to the island by use of black magic
Black magic
Black magic is the type of magic that draws on assumed malevolent powers or is used with the intention to kill, steal, injure, cause misfortune or destruction, or for personal gain without regard to harmful consequences. As a term, "black magic" is normally used by those that do not approve of its...

.

In 1985 the ruins of Nan Madol were declared a National Historical Landmark. Currently, a greater effort is being made to preserve them. No permission is required to visit the complex other than payment of a modest fee collected at a private home, from where a trail leads down to the shore, and a plank walkway leads to the complex. A visitor in 2009 reported that the plank walkway was falling into disrepair.

In fiction

Nan Madol has inspired a number of works of fiction about lost civilisations:
  • The ruins of Nan Madol were used as the setting for a lost race story by A. Merritt
    A. Merritt
    Abraham Grace Merritt — known by his byline, A. Merritt — was an American editor and author of works of fantastic fiction.-Life:...

    , The Moon Pool
    The Moon Pool
    The Moon Pool is a fantasy novel by Abraham Merritt . It originally appeared as two short stories in All-Story Weekly: "The Moon Pool" and its sequel, "Conquest of the Moon Pool" . These were then reworked into a novel released in 1919. The protagonist, Dr...

    (1918), in which the islands are called Nan-Tauach and the ruins are called the Nan-Matal.
  • Nan Madol is the name of an album recorded by Edward Vesala
    Edward Vesala
    Edward Vesala , born Martti Vesala, was a Finnish avant-garde jazz composer, bandleader and drummer....

     in 1974.
  • Nan Madol and its history have been used as the basis of the novel Deep Fathom
    Deep Fathom
    Deep Fathom is a novel by James Rollins. Ex-Navy SEAL Jack Kirkland surfaces from an aborted underwater salvage mission to find the earth burning. Solar flares have triggered a series of gargantuan natural disasters. Earthquakes and hellfire rock the globe. Air Force One has vanished from the skies...

    (2001) written by James Rollins
    James Rollins
    * For the American baseball pitcher, see Jim Czajkowski* For the American baseball shortstop, see Jimmy Rollins* For the 19th century American politician from Missouri, see James S. Rollins...

    .
  • It is also featured in Clive Cussler
    Clive Cussler
    Clive Eric Cussler is an American adventure novelist and marine archaeologist. His thriller novels, many featuring the character Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than seventeen times...

    's 2009 novel Medusa.

Theories

There have also been theories, although the "lost continents
Lost Continents
Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature is a study by L. Sprague de Camp. It is considered one of his most popular works...

" of Lemuria and Mu are considered to be falsified by plate tectonics
Plate tectonics
Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere...

.
  • Nan Madol was one of the sites James Churchward
    James Churchward
    James Churchward is best known as a British born occult writer. However, he was also a patented inventor, engineer, and expert fisherman....

     identified as being part of the lost continent of Mu
    Mu (lost continent)
    Mu is the name of a hypothetical continent that allegedly existed in one of Earth's oceans, but disappeared at the dawn of human history.The concept and the name were proposed by 19th century traveler and writer Augustus Le Plongeon, who claimed that several ancient civilizations, such as those of...

    , starting in his 1926 book The Lost Continent of Mu Motherland of Man.
  • In his book Lost City of Stones (1978) writer Bill S. Ballinger
    Bill S. Ballinger
    Bill S. Ballinger was a prolific American author and screenwriter...

     theorizes the city was built by Greek sailors 300 years before the time of Christ.
  • David Hatcher Childress
    David Hatcher Childress
    David Hatcher Childress is an American author and publisher of books on topics on alternative history and historical revisionism. His works cover such subjects as pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact, Atlantis, Lemuria, Ancient Astronauts, UFOs, Nikola Tesla, the Knights Templar, lost cities and...

    , an author of travel guides, speculates that Nan Madol is connected to the lost continent of Lemuria
    Lemuria (continent)
    Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical "lost land" variously located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The concept's 19th century origins lie in attempts to account for discontinuities in biogeography; however, the concept of Lemuria has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics...

    .
  • The 1999 book The Coming Global Superstorm
    The Coming Global Superstorm
    The Coming Global Superstorm is a 1999 book by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber which predicts that global warming might produce sudden and catastrophic climatic effects.The book posits the following theory:...

     by Art Bell
    Art Bell
    Arthur W. "Art" Bell, III is an American broadcaster and author, known primarily as one of the founders and the original host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM. He also created and formerly hosted its companion show, Dreamland...

     and Whitley Strieber
    Whitley Strieber
    Louis Whitley Strieber is an American writer best known for his horror novels The Wolfen and The Hunger and for Communion, a non-fiction account of his perceived experiences with non-human entities. Strieber also co-authored The Coming Global Superstorm with Art Bell, which inspired the film about...

    , which predicts that global warming
    Global warming
    Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

     might produce sudden and catastrophic climatic
    Climate
    Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

    effects, claims that the construction of Nan Madol, with exacting tolerances and extremely heavy basalt materials, necessitated a high degree of technical competency. Since no such society exists in the modern record - or, even, in legend - this society must have been destroyed by dramatic means.
  • See also the book by Erich Von Daniken "the gold of the gods", 1972.

Further reading

  • Ayres, William S. Nan Madol, Pohnpei. SAA Bulletin. Vol. 10, Nov. 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.
  • Ayres, William S. Mystery Islets of Micronesia. Archaeology Jan-Feb 1990, pp. 58–63.
  • Ratzel, Prof. Friedrich The History of Mankind Book II, London 1896. Races of the Pacific and their migrations pp.  159-60. Includes a drawing entitled `Sepulchral monument in Ponapé, Caroline Islands. (From a photograph in the Godeffroy Album.)'

External links

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