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Like giant footsteps across the islands of
Oceania, our prehistoric forefathers left behind some very imposing
architectural creations to mark their passing. From the most western islands
of Micronesia, throughout Melanesia and the far-flung islands of Polynesia
through to distant Easter Island there remain vast monuments to the passing
of prehistoric man.
No site in Oceania surpasses the dramatic
beauty of ancient Nan Madol, perched on the very edge of the vast Pacific
Ocean. Situated on the east coast of Pohnpei, the elite administrative and
ceremonial centre grew, flourished, and declined during the centuries
preceding western contact.
Here, in a shallow lagoon, the ancient
Pohnpeians constructed a magnificent complex of 92 artificial islets
inter-connected by a network of waterways. Today, the islets are mostly
covered by dense jungle growth, and the waterways are largely chocked with
mangrove swamps. Even in their present state, the megalithic ruins of Nan
Madol are present-day reminders of the splendid achievements of the
pre-historic people of Micronesia.
The building of the ancient capital
of Mu'a must have begun many thousands of years ago when the island was slightly
lower in relation to the ocean and the lagoon. Tonga has risen about a metre over
the last few thousand years and such constructions as the wharf and the canals
of the ancient city of Mu'a were rendered useless. This is quite possibly the
reason for the abandonment of the ancient city of Mu'a.
Prehistoric remains, Tinian Islands,
The Tahitian pyramid temple of Mahaiatea.
Tradition has it
that one of the early sacred Kings of Tonga named Tuitatui who ruled in
approximately 1200 AD was responsible for the building of this Trilithon. The
period must have been one of great power and prosperity to enable the
construction of such a lasting monument.
There had been a great deal of
speculation about the purpose of the Ha'amonga. Some people believed that it was
a gateway to a royal compound while others speculated that it bore a resemblance
to the ancient Celtic monuments of Stonehenge.
In May 1976, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV
advanced a theory that the notch carved on the top lintel may have some
significance in the ancient lunar calendar. The King was present on the shortest
day 21st February, 1997 when the morning sun rose and the bearings taken matched
perfectly with the Tropic of Cancer while a similar bearing taken on the longest
day matched the Tropic of Capricorn. This would appear to confirm that the two
points do in fact mark the position of the rising sun on the shortest and
longest days of the year. In short, this construction was used in ancient times
to determine the seasons of the year.
The ancient langi Tauhala at Mu'a.
Probably the largest block of stone used in construction
of the pyramids of Mu'a, it is curiously
notched into the block on its right.
This used slab of beach rock has been
split by an earthquake since this photograph was taken in 1900.
The huge statues on Easter Island stand in mute
testimony to the
skills and fortitude of the ancient
Polynesian people of Easter Island.