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City In The Sea

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Exploring The Ruins Of Nan Madol

By James Donahue

There exist some strange ruins of an ancient city of massive rock structures separated by water, built on coral on the southern edge of the remote island of Pohnpei located in the South Pacific.

Known as Nan Madol, the long uninhabited place is nearly lost in jungle foilage that hides much of the amazing architecture that exists there. Not only were the buildings standing as islands among themselves, but like the other great megaliths of the world, they were made of rocks and columns so heavy that nobody knows how it was built.

Local legend is that Nan Madol was once occupied by a people known as the Saudeleur, who ruled the island for over a millennium, having abandoned the place as late as 1628. It was believed that only the ruling class and the high priests occupied these island structures. They ruled over the Saudeleur dynasty, estimated to be about 25,000 people.

The great mystery of Nan Madol is how this strange city of massive rock slabs, some weighting over 60 tons and forming not only slabs for the floors, but basalt walls 18 to 25 feet high and over 17 feet thick, were brought there and put in place.

Archaeologists have combed the island and neighboring islands, all part of the Federated States of Micronesia to determine probably quarry sites. Some probable sites on Pohnpei have been found, but a more probable source of the massive slabs of rock appears to be the neighboring Island of Madolenihmw. This suggests that huge barges or ships existed to transport such heavy cargo. Since there are no ruins of such vessels found in the waters, this theory is not considered likely.

So how did they do it? Some contemporary island residents say the stones were flown to the island by the use of black magic. Pohnpeian legend contains a story of twin corcerers named Olisihpa and Olosohpa who chose the island to build an altar so they could worship Nahnisohn Sahpw, the local god of agriculture. They levitated the massive stones with the help of a flying dragon.

Would this story not suggest that a flying ship of some kind was used? And if this was true, how far back into antiquity do we have to go to consider this kind of strange megolithic construction? It obviously ranks with the other rock structures like Stone Henge, the Great Pyramid of Giza and the great temples of Central and South America.

Nan Madol was no minor construction project. It contains 92 artificial islands of stone spread over 200 acres and separated by a network of canals by which food, water and supplies were brought to the occupants via boat or canoe.

In his book, Pohnpei, An Island Argosy, author Gene Ashby notes that the name Nan Madol means "spaces between." The original name of the place was Soun Nan-Leng, which means "Reef of Heaven."