Micronesia History and Culture

By | October 17, 2021

Micronesia, which was settled from Eastern Melanesia around 3,500 years ago, was discovered by the Spaniards in the 16th century and later colonized. Sold to the German Empire in 1899 after the Spanish-American War, it was occupied by Japan in 1914, which received a League of Nations mandate over Micronesia in 1920. American troops took Micronesia during World War II; from 1947 it was administered by the USA as a UN trust territory. In 1979 the Federated States of Micronesia were proclaimed, which after the signing of the Compact of Free Association (1982, adopted by referendum 1983) and its implementation on November 3, 1986, were granted limited sovereignty in free association with the USA. On December 22, 1990, the UN Security Council lifted the trusteeship; in September 1991 the Federated States of Micronesia were admitted to the UN. 1991-97 was Bailey Olter (* 1932, † 1999) Head of State and Government, followed 1997–99 by Jacob Nena (* 1941), 1999–2003 Leo A. Falcam (* 1935), 2003–07 Joseph J. Urusemal (* 1952), 2007–15 Emanuel Mori (* 1948), 2015-19 P. M. Christian and 2019 David W. Panuelo (* 1964) in this office.

The stone money from Yap, Micronesia

Yap’s stone money

On the westernmost islands of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Yap archipelago, stone wheels the size of millstone stand in front of some houses. Called “Fä” or “Raay” by the residents, they represent an archaic form of money. The value of each stone is measured according to the effort that had to be expended in its manufacture and transport. The residents of the islands know the location and value of every single stone wheel. Today the Raay are used for real estate transactions, but above all as status symbols. A stone that the bride brings into the marriage she takes with her in the event of a divorce; thus the stone treasure ensures marital peace. About 6 500 such stone wheels are on the islands, the oldest are dated by archaeologists to the year 125 AD.

The cost of producing the stone money was considerable, because the islanders only had stone tools at their disposal. The stones were carved out of the rock in weeks of work in a quarry on the island of Palau, about 400 km from Yap, and then transported to the beach. There they were polished and, if the wind was favorable, they were transported to Yap in outrigger canoes.

World Heritage Sites in Micronesia

World Heritage Site

  • Nan Madol Ruins (2016)

Nan Madol (World Heritage)

Off the east coast of Pohnpei, a volcanic island in the center of Micronesia, lies the ruined city of Nan Madol on over 90 artificially created islands. The mysterious, strictly geometrical complex was probably built between the 12th and 15th centuries during the Saudeleur dynasty and still holds many secrets to this day. See themotorcyclers.com for the worlds 10 least visited countries.

Nan Madol: facts

Official title: Nan Madol – the ceremonial center of Eastern Micronesia
Cultural monument: over 90 artificially created islands with palaces and temples, administration buildings, houses and places of worship, including the central building (Nan Douwas); the complex, including the canals and surrounding stone walls, covers an area of ​​over 70 hectares
Continent: Australia and Oceania
Country: Federated States of Micronesia
Location: Pohnpei (334 km²), largest island in the East Carolina, in the western Pacific
Appointment: 2016
Meaning: most important archaeological site in Micronesia and an exceptional example of the Austronesian culture of the Pacific region

The Venice of the South Seas

Nan Modol lies on a fringing reef off the Temwen peninsula. The artificial islands were built from coral rubble and basalt blocks, surrounded by meter-high walls of layered basalt columns and connected to one another via navigable canals. Remains of palaces and temples, administration buildings, houses and places of worship can be found on the platforms. The “place of the gaps” was the seat of the ruler and religious center and reserved only for the nobility and the priesthood.

After the ruling family was ousted by warriors from the island of Kosrae, some 560 kilometers southwest, Nan Madol was presumably abandoned and declared taboo. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that scientists began to look into the mysterious place, but apart from the ruins, there was hardly any evidence of the original culture and religion to be found. Nan Madol is now directly threatened by changes in the natural environment. Therefore, when it was declared a World Heritage Site, the ruined city was also included in the Red List of Endangered Sites.

Micronesia History and Culture