sábado, 28 de diciembre de 2013

Nan Madol: the coral reef city (Oceania)

The megalithic city of Nan Madol lies on the eastern shore of the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia acting as a ritual and ceremonial centre for the ruling chiefs of the Saudeleur Dynasty. However, this architectural marvel is not yet well known, even although the 1000 year old ruins are a testament to ancient engineering achievements.
City of stone
Excavations at the site show that there may have been occupation on the coral reef as early as 200 BCE.
Using C14 dating, construction of the main megalithic buildings is known to have begun around 1200 CE. The entire monumental city consists of nearly 100 small artificial islands bordered by tidal canals.
The name Nan Madol means “spaces between” and refers to the canals that criss-cross the ruins. However, its traditional name was Soun Nan-leng (Reef of Heaven), according to Gene Ashby in his book Pohnpei, An Island Argosy.
The city sits on a coral reef and the various enclosures and complexes were built primarily from columnar basalt, a volcanic rock that is formed into massive rod-like blocks. The shape of the blocks makes an ideal building material which can be stacked horizontally, log cabin style, to form walls as high as 15 metres and up to 5 metres thick.
The average weight of each stone is 5 tons, with some weighing as much as 25 tons and it has been estimated that the total weight of the columnar basalt that make up the city’s construction is up to 750,000 metric tons.
Probable quarry sites around the island have been identified, but the exact origin of the stones used in the construction of Nan Madol is yet to be determined.  No quarries exist in the immediate vicinity meaning that the stones must have been transported to their current location. It is suggested that they may have been floated via raft from source because of a trail of stones seen lying on the sea bed.
One ruler
Order was maintained by one man, the Saudeleur, and the land, its contents, and its inhabitants were owned by the ruler, who leased land to landlord classes. They oversaw the commoners and were required to present the ruler with frequent tributes of fruit and fish.
The Saudeleur Dynasty are remembered by the local population as deeply religious but tyrannical and cruel, and the remains of their temples and mortuary platforms are often viewed with fear and superstition by modern-day Pohnpeians.
The elite centre was a place of residence for the nobility and also included areas for food preparation and canoe building as well as mortuary activities presided over by the Saudeleur priests. The population almost certainly never exceeded 1,000 inhabitants, most of whom were either commoners who served the rulers and chiefs from other districts and who were kept at the city in order to better control their people.
Logistical difficulties
The site does present logistical difficulties as there is no fresh water and no place capable of growing crops, but the Saudelaurs had no problem with this because the people of the island brought them everything they needed. When they were finally overthrown in 1628, and the period of the Nahnmwarkis began, the new rulers at first resided at Nan Madol but they could not depend on anyone regularly supplying them with food and water and eventually they moved back to their own districts, abandoning Nan Madol forever.

Source: Past Horizons: http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/12/2013/nan-madol-the-coral-reef-city

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