The Lost City of Mu'a

On the southernmost island of Tonga, called Tongatapu, are many megalithic ruins from a lost city known as Mu’a. The most visible is a massive stone trilithon called the Ha’amonga Maui, meaning the Arch, or Burden, of Maui. From 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C. an empire of pottery-making people spanned the western Pacific and it is these people that are considered to have made the megaliths of Tonga, including the building of the city of Mu'a and Tonga's great Trilithon. This megalithic structure consists of two upright stones supporting a precisely fitted horizontal slab, creating an impressive archway. Elsewhere on the island are sev­eral platforms of expertly fitted stones, pyramids, a well-constructed harbor and a road and moat system, all suggesting a highly sophisticated civilization. Archaeologists are unsure how they built it and the exact reason for the abandonment of the Lost City of Mu'a.

Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a state and an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of ocean in the South Pacific. An Austronesian-speaking group linked to the archaeological construct known as the Lapita cultural complex reached and colonized Tonga around 1500–1000 BCE. Scholars continue to debate the exact dates of the initial settlement of Tonga. Not much is known about Tonga before European contact because of the lack of a writing system during prehistoric times. However, oral history has survived and been recorded after the arrival of the Europeans. The Tongan people first encountered Europeans in 1616 when the Dutch vessel Eendracht made a short visit to the islands to trade.

Pottery shards found on Tongatapu match those found on many islands in Melanesia and are identified with the Lapita People, the progenitors of Tonga and Polynesian culture. Mounting evidence indicates that Tongatapu was the central naval base for a pan-Pacific empire that existed for thousands of years and had only fallen into decline a few hundred years before European contact. The basis of power at Mu’a was its natural harbor, which housed a huge fleet of sea-going vessels. In times of antiquity the captains of Mu’a navigated and uni­fied the vast Pacific Ocean. The glory of the ancient Sun Empire of the Pacific made its capital at Tongatapu, which means “Sacred Tonga” or “Sacred South” in Polynesian. Mu’a was the governmental port city, while nearby Haketa where the Ha’amonga trilithon stands had been a great university of astronomy, navigation, climatology and theologi­cal history. This maritime empire traded with pow­erful countries all around the Pacific Rim, including North and South America.

Ha'amonga Trilithon

There has been much spec­ulation about the purpose of the Ha’amonga trilithon. Some thought it a gateway to a royal compound, while others note its resemblance to ancient European monu­ments such as Stonehenge. Nevertheless this was enough for the king of Tonga Tāufa’āhau Tupou IV to come in 1967 with the theory that the Ha’amonga had an astronomical significance too, telling the position of sunrise at solstices and equinoxes. Because he was the king, this account is still quoted nowadays. However, after a few research a notch carved on the top lintel points directly to the summer and winter solstices exactly, confirming that the structure was an astronomical observatory. In popular myths the Ha’amonga is believed to have been made by the demigod Maui, as the stones would be too huge for mortals to handle. The word ha’amonga means: a stick with loads on both ends, carried over the shoulder. Maui was supposed to have the stones obtained from ‘Uvea (Wallis Island) and carried on to Tonga. In reality the stones are of coralrock, which structure matches that of old quarries along the neighbouring coasts. It is unknown how the edifice was built. One theory is that dirt was piled between the two upright pillars, and the lintel raised into position that way. The area of the trilithon is called Haketa.

An Overgrown Pyramid at the Lost City of Mu'a

The central area of Mu’a was surrounded by a huge canal that offered a sheltered berthing place for smaller canoes and protection from an advancing army. The huge stones at the ancient port on the lagoon side of Mu’a are evidence for the docking of immense transoceanic vessels in ancient times. Mu’a was a planned city that had roads leading from it in all directions. Most of the pyra­mids at Mu’a are overgrown with trees and bushes growing through the cracks, yet the expert masonry and notched fittings on the famous Tauhala Stone can be seen. The emerging picture of ancient Tonga is one of an extremely advanced culture that built a sophisticated system of roads, canals, monumental pyramids, and other megalithic remains. Evidence does suggest however that a rise in the land level rendered the wharf and the canal system inoperative. This is thought to be one possible reason why Mu'a was abandoned.

Sources :
Sacred Places Around The World : 108 Destinations by Brad Olsen;;;;

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