We recently covered the mythical lost city (lost country more like) of Aghartha so it might be nice to feature some actual, real life lost cities. Nan Madol fits the bill nicely.
Nan Madol is located on the island of Pohnpei, an island in a group of island states called The Federated States of Micronesia which lay in the Western Pacific Ocean.
Nan Madol has long been abandoned to the jungle, overgrown for centuries but in its heyday was one of the most impressive places in the South Seas. It was the center of the Saudeleur dynasty, which united about 25,000 people across Pohnpei until its final fall in about 1628.The city had temples, tombs and house platforms separated by a maze of canals and protected by a wall around the city. The architectural impressiveness of the place is made more poignant by the fact that it was built without mortar, with tools capable of sculpting stone, and no knowledge of the arch or vault.
It’s essentially a great temple complex. A Forbidden City. Nowdays of course the jungle has reclaimed it.
The native Ponapean legends of the city correspond quite decently with carbon dating and other investigations and are considered to probably be broadly accurate.
As the legend goes, two brothers, Olsihpa and Olsohpa came to the island in a canoe (twin sorcerers) and became the island’s rulers. (They may have been shipwrecked Polypenisians whose civilization was already familair with using stone to build.) They set about to build a great stone temple in which they could worship their god of agriculture Nahnisohn Sahpw, but more to the point which would also function as a protected seat of power from which to rule. Their first 3 attempts failed but their fourth try, Nan Madol, became the capital.
Eventually Olsipha died and Olsohpa became the first king or Saudeleur. 15 generations of Saudeleurs followed but in the reign of the 16th, when the culture had become soft, a war chief, Isokelekel, from a far western island called Kusaie invaded and founded a new dynasty. This dynasty was much shorter. 5 Saudeleurs later the city was abandoned to the jungle.
The Nan Madol complex worked very well to isolate the rulers and ruling chiefs and priests from the populace. It was virtually unconquerable and the Saudeleurs would also require various chiefs, certainly potential rivals, to reside there for periods, thus keeping them closely monitored and in line. There is no fresh food or water in Nan Madol, it must be brought in from the outside and boats would deliver them at set points of the day. The Saudeleur would get his food at a particular inlet.
It is possible that the city was abandoned in part because of the new ruling dynasty’s troubles gathering their own water and growing their own food. Five rulers into it they may very well have decided it was more trouble then it was worth.
For awhile Nan Madol was used by various wishful thinking esotericists to elucidate a theory about Mu, that infamous lost continent (which we’ll get around to discussing here one of these days). Nan Madol has been claimed to be a lost “Muvian metropolis” but as the actual history of the city is more and more clear and established this is happening less and less.