Nan Madol
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Basic Information

Nan Madol is a ruined city off the coast of one of the islands in what is now the Federated States of Micronesia. Construction on the city began sometime between the 8th Century and 13th Century. It was the home to the Saudeleur dynasty until the 1450s. It was abandoned some time after the Saudeleur's defeat (by Isokelekel the Nahnmwarki), but before the first Europeans arrived in the area in the early 19th Century.

The city was built over the sea. The city is sometimes known as "the Venice of the Pacific" due to it's many canals. The architecture is megalithic, being built of large slabs of rock anchored to coral reefs and man-made islands. It is comprised of 92 small man-made islands (or islets). Some possible quarry sites have been located, but it's still unknown how the large rocks were moved into place. (Local legend maintains that a Stone-Flying Wizard made the stone "logs" float through the air, that men rode the rocks through the air, and that the canals were carved by a Dragon.) There is no source of fresh water or food in the city. Vital resources, enough to support the 500 to 1,000 inhabitants, needed to be brought in from far inland. Tradition holds that there is a hidden escape tunnel through the reef from the middle of the city to an underwater cave or exit onto the sea.

Other interesting trivia:

  • Some critics believe that R'lyeh (the non-euclidean city of the Cthulhu Mythos) was inspired by Nan Madol.
  • Nan Madol may also be linked to the lost continent of Lemuria.
  • According to legend, the names of the Stone-Flying Wizards who built Nan Madol are Olo-Sipe and Olo-Sopa. They lived on the nearby island of Jokaz. The first several temples they built fell into the sea, so they eventually used magic to build it all of stone.
  • Until about 1800 or so, Nan Madol was the site of worship of Nanusunsap, the god of turtles.


2. Book: Ancient Micronesia & The Lost City of Nan Madol by David Hatcher Childress Online Exerpt
4. Book: Ancient Ruins and Archaeology, L . Sprague and Catherine de Camp

Game and Story Use

  • Why was Nan Madol abandoned?
    • What disaster might have claimed it's people?
    • What dark secrets lay buried beneath the waters?
    • Legend says Iskokelel was the son of a Thunder God - perhaps the site is now cursed by (or holy to) the Gods.
  • The idea of a Stone-Flying Wizard also appears in one of the explanations behind Stonehenge - perhaps the two sites are linked somehow?
    • Nan Madol might have been Merlin's vacation spot.
      • Though that has unfortunate implications, so it'd be more politically correct to assume independent invention, or that Merlin learned the skill in the course of his travels to exotic places (namely, Nan Madol). Season to taste.
      • For those of us that don't like politically correct, it could also be a part of humanity's shared memory (much like the Great Flood) that appears in different forms in different cultures - both legends are recalling a single figure who could (literally or metaphorically) do pretty much what he liked with stone.
        • Or flying stone wizardry was a skill set taught by - say - the Egyptians or whoever built the Tower of Babel.
  • In an ancient astronauts campaign or one in which humanity turns out to be struggling back to an advanced tech level from which we fell millennia ago Ole-Sipa and Ole-Sopa might be no more than the tail codes of a pair of helicopters (or equivalent machines) that were used to lift the blocks into place.
  • The powerful empires of your fantasy campaign world might have similar impractical capitol cities. Such cities could serve as a showcase for their artisans and engineering skills, or as a way of separating the nobility from the common man.
    • Seems a fitting home for a king who is a god. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind agrees with you.
    • After The End, future civilizations will be clueless how the ancients accomplished the creation of such an amazing place.
  • If you want to run with an operational version of one of these cities, consider that besides the stonework, you might well have a lot of wooden structures built over the waterways, either floating or on stilts (or a combination of the two).
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