The Mysterious Ruins of Nan Madol


(by Dr. Von Zuko)

A short distance off the coast of the remote Micronesian island of Pohnpei lies one of the greatest archeological mysteries in the world, the Lost City of Nan Madol. Built on an ancient coral reef and covering more than 11 square miles, this ancient city is made up of hundreds of artificial islets, intersected by numerous manmade canals. Even more curious, many of the city’s larger islands are connected by submerged tunnels. First discovered in the early 1800’s by European sailors, this baffling and immense megalithic stone city may contain evidence for the fabled lost continent of Mu.

The mysterious Nan Madol is built entirely out of gigantic magnetized basalt crystals, some weighing as much as fifty tons. In fact, the entire city contains an estimated 250 million tons of the prismatic basalt rock.

How this city came into existence, continues to baffle archeologists. Considering that radiocarbon dating and archeological excavations establishes Nan Madol to be as old as 200 BC, any conventional explanation for this massive construction (such as brute force) simply does not work very well. Native mythology suggests that the stones were magically flown through the air and placed in the city.


Nan Madol is steeped in scientific controversy and legend. The word ‘Pohn-pei’ means ‘on the alter’ and ‘Nan-Madol’ means ‘the spaces between’, indicating the canals – or spaces between the artificial islands.

The origin of the basalt building stones of Nan Madol is unknown. It did not come from the immediate area. The hexagonal shape of the stones is natural and is not man-made, however, due to the sheer size of the basalt blocks, one has to question how they could have possibly been transported to the coral reef.

The massive basalt logs are stacked to form walls as high as 50 feet and as thick as 17 feet. How was this accomplished in an age before machines? Additionally, the numerous canals were clearly cut into the reef with a very high degree of precision, but how?

While the architecture of Nan Madol is anything but ornate (its design is sober and very utilitarian), there are rumors of incredible treasures being found there.

Before the outbreak of World War II, the Japanese administered the strange island. The Japanese investigated a Nan Madol legend that referred to corpses resting in the ‘House of the Dead’, and allegedly their divers discovered an underwater structure containing elaborate watertight coffins made of pure platinum. Records indicating how much of the platinum may have been removed by the Japanese, or if any of the platinum watertight coffins still exist, has been either hidden away or destroyed in the Second World War.


By any measure, the city is impressive. The work is of such scale that it easily compares in scope with the building of the Great Wall of China or the Great Pyramid of Egypt (the average weight of a stone in the Great Pyramid was only three tons). It becomes even more remarkable, however, when you consider that many of the areas current inhabitants live in humble grass huts and not massive stone buildings. What could have possibly caused such a regression of technology and culture in the area?

There are no existing records that can answer questions about who built the city, when the city was built, how it was built, or even why it was built. Archeologists have uncovered human bones that belonged to people considerably larger than the Micronesians who live there today. They have also uncovered pottery shards that have been “thermo-luminescence” dated as being at least 2000 years old. Adding to the mystery are the persistent rumors and physical evidence of another sunken city, Madolynym, in the water near Nan Madol.

The Legend of Nan Madol

Local legend holds that the construction of Nan Madol was at the hands of a powerful magician from the inhabited northwest region on the island.  It is said that through his sorcery, the gargantuan stone “logs” were flown to the Nan Madol construction site from some mysterious source.

Although scientists have treated the legend as pure fantasy rather than having any basis of fact, the type of stone used does not occur anywhere in the vicinity of Nan Madol, and the ‘then’ populated area was on the opposite side of the island.


The Raft Theory:  Some believe that the stones were floated to the site via rafts, however, at this time, no one has successfully demonstrated the method.

In support of the raft theory, some feel that there is evidence of raft use.  Divers have discovered what they believe to be a trail of ‘dropped stones.’  As new discoveries are made by archaeologists, only time and research will reveal the truth, or pose more questions!

Image Source: Wikipedia

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