The Stonehenge of the South Pacific: Haʻamonga ʻa Maui

photo: author’s own.

Located in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga, this ancient stone trilithon is found on the main island of Tongatapu.

It is made of three slabs of limestone weighing approximately 40 tonne each and arranged into a gate formation through the use of a mortised joint cut out of the rock.

Legend has it that over a thousand years ago, Maui, the Polynesian folk hero and trickster, was responsible for transporting the giant slabs of rock across the Pacific from Wallis Island, 1000 km away.

Fitting then, that the name Haʻamonga ʻa Maui translates to: Maui’s burden.

Other theories have the 11th King of Tonga ( or Tui Tonga) Tu’itatui ordering its construction approximately 800 years ago. This theory is supported by an enormous vertical slab of rock near the gate called the Esi Makafakinanga. Historians believed this was a throne or backrest for the King that allowed him to oversee construction of the trilithon whilst also protecting him from pesky assassination attempts. Specifically the kind that sneak up from behind.

Photo: author’s own

Meanwhile, the specifics of how and why these weightly slabs were hauled and maneuvered into position remain a mystery.

It is speculated that the 3 slabs may have been a monument to brotherhood with each pillar symbolising each of Tu’itatui’s two sons and the slab above representing their unifying bond. However, other researchers and historians have argued it may have been the gateway to a long since destroyed palace especially given its proximity to ancient tombs. Others have theorised that, as with Stonehenge, it is an astrological tool used by islanders to predicting events like solstices and equinoxes.

A quick and worthwhile trip from the capital Nuku’alofa, the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui is a source of national pride for the Tongan people and is even featured on the label of its local beer, Maka.

Tonga – a Monument & Some Petroglyphs | Tony Wheeler's Travels

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