Il mistero di Nan Madol

Nan Madol is one of the most important and interesting site in South Pacific. Lying within the protective coral reef of the island and covering around 200 acres, this place consists of a series of small artificial islands linked by a network of canals and channels: 92 man-made islands within a rectangular perimeter. It was the capital of the Saudeleur Dynasty until about 1628. This magic city was constructed in the blu lagoon. The site core with its stone walls encloses an area approximately 1.6 km long by 0.5 km wide. The construction of the islands started by the 8th or 9th century, According to Pohnpeian legend, Nan Madol was constructed by twin sorcerers Olisihpa and Olosohpa from the mythical Western Katau, or Kanamwayso. “The brothers – says the legend – arrived in a large canoe seeking a place to build an altar so that they could worship Nahnisohn Sahpw, the god of agriculture. After several false starts, the two brothers successfully built an altar off Temwen Island, where they performed their rituals. These brothers levitated the huge stones with the aid of a flying dragon. When Olisihpa died of old age, Olosohpa became the first Saudeleur. Olosohpa married a local woman and sired twelve generations, producing sixteen other Saudeleur rulers of the Dipwilap (“Great”) clan. The founders of the dynasty ruled kindly, though their successors placed ever increasing demands on their subjects. Their reign ended with the invasion by Isokelekel, who also resided at Nan Madol, though his successors abandoned the site”. Nan Madol was the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur Dynasty, which united Pohnpei’s estimated 25,000 people until about 1628.

Map of Nan Madol: 92 man-made islands within a rectangular perimeter and about 100 of small artificial islands linked by a network of canals and channels.

Map Nan Madol

Carbon dating indicates that the construction of Nan Madol began around 1200 CE, while excavations show that the area may have been occupied as early as 200 BCE. The exact origin of the stones of Nan Madol is yet undetermined. None of the proposed quarry sites exist in Madolenihmw, meaning that the stones must have been transported to their current location, but from where? And how?

Among the structures are houses, feasting areas, tombs and various other chambers, all constructed of columnar basalt, a volcanic rock that cools into six or eight sided crystals, also well known in such formations as Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway and The Devil’s Tower in the United States.


The outcrops where the basalt was mined on Pohnpei are located sixteen miles away on the other side of the island. Each “log” weighs between five and fifty tons. These logs were cut and stacked into walls that were twenty-five feet tall and seventeen feet thick. Basalt is pretty hard, but each of the “logs” has been cut to an exacting length and at that time they had not the modern technology. What did they use to cut the thousands and thousands of columns, smoothly, evenly and to the exact length needed?

Questions without answers. Some modern Pohnpeians believe the stones were flown to the island by use of black magic: supernatural powers or magic. Nan Madol has been interpreted as remains of one of the “lost continents” Mu. In addition, divers said that the ruins continue out into the ocean, to depths farther than the divers can reach. The local fishermen said that there is another city there, like Nan Madol and called “Kanemwesa,” which they have seen at very low tides lying in that deeper water. A deep mystery.


Today Nan Madol is an archaeological district covering more or less 20 km² and includes the stone architecture built up on a coral reef flat along the shore of Temwen Island, several other artificial islets, and the adjacent Pohnpei main island coastline.