Haamonga Trilithon in Tonga

Haamonga TrilithonThe trilithon at Ha’amonga on Tongatapu, Tonga, is one of Polynesia’s most enigmatic archaeological monuments. Ha’amonga means “a burden,” as carried by two men. This archway of coral rock near the village of Niutoua is thought to have been the entrance gate to the royal compound of the old Tongan capital. The two upright stones are calculated to weigh 30-40 tons apiece, while the cross piece is almost six meters long.

The structure was built around A.D. 1200 by King Tu’itatui, a ruler who felt dissension within his family. Each of the upright columns respresents a son while the massive lintel morticed into supports represents the bond between the sons. Nearby is a 2.7-meter tall slab against which, it’s said, this king would lean while addressing his people, a precaution to prevent anyone from spearing him in the back. His name means “the king who hits the knees” because he would administer a sharp clap with his staff to anyone who came too close to his regal person.

Built over 700 years ago, it’s been suggested that the trilithon is a seasonal calendar, a sort of Polynesian stonehenge. The structure has notches on the lintel that correspond to the sun’s rising on the longest and shortest days of the year.