MICRONESIA PREHISTORY

KOSRAE

         

 

The island city of Leluh rise on a shallow
reef some 1,600 feet on the east coast of Kosrae.

The island city of Leluh lies within the reef on the east coast of Kosrae, more than 1,600 feet from the closest point on the mainland shore. To the south is Leluh harbour, a narrow pass through the coral reef connects the harbour to the open Pacific Ocean. European sailing vessels found that this harbour was easy to enter during the day because of prevailing winds from the east.

At the time of European contact, Leluh was nearly at the high point of its architectural development. Early visitors found a feudal state that was presided over by the King. The complex society had three levels below the King. All of the island's high chiefs resided on Leluh with the King and led lives of leisure. The low chiefs, supervised production on the main island and assured a constant flow of tribute to the high chiefs and the King. The low chiefs lived in the villages on Kosrae although some also may have maintained residences in Leluh. At least two-thirds of Leluh's inhabitants were probably commoners. Most of them lived on the main island, where they gathered food, farmed and fished. The King and the high chiefs alone owned the land, while the commoners had only land use rights and thus were peasants.

Information on the prehistoric architecture of Kosrae comes primarily from the remains themselves and from the accounts of early European visitors who were present when Leluh was at its pinnacle of development. Today, relatively little of the original city remains. During the past century, modern Leluh has been built on top of most of the prehistoric city, leaving only a few of the compound in nearly original condition.

Most of the island city was built on artificial fill over a shallow reef in the lagoon west of Leluh island. Apparently, construction activity occurred over the period of perhaps A.D. 1250 to 1850. Radio carbon dating indicates that Leluh's first compounds were built on artificial fill between 1250 and 1400, but that the original island was inhabited earlier.

 

Before 1250: The Original Island

The highest point of Leluh Island is 2363 foot high Mount Poro. Prior to the expansion of Leluh, sand fringed the western shore and alluvial deposits occurred along the stream. As Leluh expanded in succeeding centuries, alluvium was used as fill material on some of the nearby artificial islets. Basalt outcroppings on the original island of Leluh probably provided some of the stones that were used to build the ancient city, but most of the megaliths appear to have come from quarries on the main island of Kosrae. 

1250-1400: Early Expansion

The Kosraeans gave names to each of the compounds of Leluh. Finlas, Losr, and Ketaf seem to have been built and occupied the first in the sequence of westwood expansion. Apparently no compound were enclosed by stone walls at this time. About 1400 of Kosrae's several societies became united under the leadership of Leluh, thus enabling the rapid expansion of the island city.

1400-1600: Building of The Great Walls

The largest and most impressive walls of Leluh were constructed between 1400 and 1600. The walls were built of stacked prismatic basalt up to 21 feet high. The highest walls enclosed Posral, the royal residential compound.

1600-1650: Consolidation of Central Leluh

The infilling of Leluh's central core probably occurred between 1600 and 1650. This period marked the end of the building of high walled compounds at Leluh and seems to have been a time of consolidation rather than of major expansion. Between 1650 and 1800, the final phase of construction at Leluh extended the island city to its western terminus on Pisin islet. About 1800, a severe typhoon apparently struck Kosrae with winds of possibly 200 miles per hour. Considerable damage was done to the city of Leluh and part of it had to be abandoned. 

Aerial view of Kinyeir Fulat from the southeast

Beyond the walls of Fanana/Sremuta's west corner lie the remains of
the central canal that once served numerous boat landings in Leluh, Kosrae.

 

Yenasr islet lies some 1,540 feet north of the Ketaf compound
seawall. Royal remains were reported to have been interred
in the reef hole beyond and to the left of the islet.

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