The Mystery Behind the Ancient Stone City of Nan Madol

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Image: CT Snow

Legends of lost cities like Atlantis and El Dorado have always fascinated mankind throughout the centuries, because of their mystery. But off the coast of Micronesia lies a real mysterious city called Nan Madol.

Nan Madol is located at the eastern coast of Pohnpei, Micronesia, and is unique in the whole world because of what it is and how it was made. Nan Madol is a city spanning 80 acres, and comprises about 90 man-made islands. Nan Madol means “spaces between”, and probably the city was named this because the “spaces between” the islands are a network of canals surrounding the island. In the map below, drawn by Holger Behr, you can see how the islands are separated from each other by of the canals.


Image: Holger Behr

Nan Madol has earned the awe of many archaeologists because the islands are made almost entirely of basalt walls that are 18 to 25 feet high and about 17 feet thick. Basalt is a stone formed by volcanic lava. The walls are built by alternately stacking the stone logs in a criss-crossed pattern, as we can see below. The city’s interior was covered with coral rubble to form an elevation that high tides cannot reach.

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Image: CT Snow

Archaeologists estimate that a whopping 250 million tons of these basalt logs are needed to construct the whole city. But the question archaeologists have yet to answer is, “How in the world were these walls constructed so high, given how heavy the basalt logs were?” In fact, each basalt log can weigh as much as 50 tons.

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