Micronesian Diary
Felicia R. Beardsley
Pohnpei State, FSM - September to October 1998
Nan Madol
Dr. Beardsley at Nan Madol
Dr. Beardsley at Nan Madol - Royal mortuary compound at Islet Nandauwas
Nan Madol photo Nan Madol is a 200-acre stone complex comprised of approximately 92 man-made islets located on the southeast shore of Temwen island off the coast of Pohnpei. It is most often accessed by boat from Kolonia, though the water is shallow and boats must sometimes be pulled by someone in the water. It can also be approached by land, crossing Temwen Island on foot. A network of canals link the islets within the complex. The collapsed remains of walls and platforms are everywhere, and dense growth covers many of the islets and threatens to overcome the rest.

Nan Madol is synonymous with the Saudelaur Dynasty. It presents a very problematic living environment, as there is no fresh water there, and no food. One must go inland to gather water and grow food. The Saudelaurs had no problem with this, as they were the supreme rulers, and the people brought them everything they needed. When the Saudelaurs were overthrown, and the period of the Nahnmwarkis began, the Nahnmwarkis lived at Nan Madol, but they had to gather their water and grow their food themselves, as they could not depend on anyone bringing the goods. Life was harsh, so eventually they moved back to their own districts, abandoning Nan Madol.

Retty Lawrence gave me what I think a very good chronology of Pohnpei history: Ancient times, Priestly times, Saudelaur times, Nahmwarki times, and the time of Foreigners. This is at odds with some of the chronologies established by one or two American archaeologists. Frankly, though, some of their descriptions leave much to be desired, so, for now anyway, I'm inclined to give more weight to the indigenous version.

There is much work to be done here --- I would like to come in from the landward side where there are dozens of platforms that no one has really seen, other than the Germans who actually mapped the site --- but I may have to spend my time writing legislation to give this place greater protections before I can do any kind of field work. It looks like I may get more work done at the Lelu complex on Kosrae. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Next: Pingalap


Nan Madol photo
Nan Madol photo
Nan Madol photo
Nan Madol photo