Ancient Micronesia and the Lost City of Nan Madol

Ancient Micronesia and the Lost City of Nan MadolDavid Hatcher Childress

I first ran about Nan Madol last month in Oliver Sack’s Island of the Colorblind. The city of Nan Madol is located deep in Micronesia. The partially sunken city once covered 11 square miles and was cut through with Venetian style canals and ringed with man-made islands. The massive walls are comprised of 250 million tons of basalt – the equivalent of a small mountain. And yet, the tiny Micronesian islands surrounding Nan Madol can only support a few thousand people. The many-ton basalt crystal are far too large to be moved by canoe or raft. Carbon dating gives dates as early as thousand so years to the late 1800s. What was this city for and who built it? Where did they find the stone? How did they manage to move the stones to the location and then up the tall walls?

Equally interesting are other examples of enormous building projects throughout Guam, Micronesia, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and as far as Madeline Island. Sixteen foot pyramid shaped pillars topped with many ton coral capstones spot islands throughout Oceania. The most fascinating, and one of the least visited places in the world, is Madeline Island. Despite being uninhabited and 500 miles away from the nearest spit of land, the island is crisscrossed with a series of roads that lead off into the sea. Numerous enormous stone altars and spread across the island. Who came here and why did they go to the trouble of building such complex systems?

While Childress does an excellent job of giving an overview of the various archaeological sites throughout Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Guam and other islands, he tends to slide into some rather flakey new-age theories. The ancients used tuning forks to make the magnetic basalt float above the ground. Or perhaps the Egyptians came to help. Or Greek warships. Then, after a few paragraphs of out-there supposition, Childress snaps back to reality and gives another fascinating description of another mysterious site.

Oceanic archeology seems to be a thinly covered subject and this book is one of the few I have found on the topic. A totally intriguing read, but to be taken with a small pyramid of salt.