As a New Zealander I felt as though it were high time I did a post from Oceania -possibly one of the more often overlooked regions when looking at the world’s ancient history.
The archaeological site I will be looking at today is Nan Madol, which is on the island of Pohnpei (in the Micronesia subregion of Oceania, check out this map).
Dating from 200 BCE, Nan Madol was the ceremonial and ritual centre in the Saudeleur dynasty for the ruling chiefs. Often called the “Venice of the Pacific”, Nan Madol (meaning “between spaces”) consists of a series of 90 small islands linked by a network of canals. Although there were many chiefs, the majority of Nan Madol residents were commoners.
An intriguing aspect of Nan Madol is the close correlation between the oral history of the site, passed down through the centuries, and evidence unearthed during archaeological excavations.
For example, oral traditions make references to small canals cut into the islets, allowing sacred eels to enter from the sea so that they could be honored through the sacrifice of captured sea turtles. Subsequent excavations have revealed traces of both the small canals and the sacrificial turtles. Recently, archaeologists have begun creating computerized reconstructions of the city in order to gain insights into its original appearance. (x)
Photos courtesy & taken by Tara Sturm & Wayne Batzer. When writing up this post, this article by J. Wagelie was of great use.