Skip to main content Accessibility help

Monumentality and the development of the Tongan maritime chiefdom

  • Geoffrey Clark (a1), David Burley (a2) and Tim Murray (a3)


On Tongatapu the central place of the rising kingdom of Tonga developed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries AD. Marked out as a monumental area with a rock-cut water-carrying ditch, it soon developed as the site of a sequence of megalithic tombs, in parallel with the documented expansion of the maritime chiefdom. The results of investigations into these structures were achieved with minimum intervention and disturbance on the ground, since the place remains sacred and in use.



Hide All
Asawani, S. & Graves, M. W.. 1998. The Tongan maritime expansion: a case in the evolutionary ecology of social complexity. Asian Perspectives 37: 135–64.
Baker, S. W. n.d. Koe gaahi lagi oku tu'u 'i Mu'a [Tombs in Mu'a where the Royal Family are buried]. Pacific Manuscripts Bureau 1203 Baker Papers Microfilm Reel List SB/214/2.
Beaglehole, J. C. (ed.) 1967. The journals of Captain James Cook on his voyages of discovery edited from the original manuscript. The voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776-1780 (Part One, Volume III). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the Hakuluyt Society.
Bott, E. 1982. Tongan society at the time of Captain Cook's visits: discussions with Her Majesty Queen Salote Tupou (Polynesian Society Memoir 44). Wellington: Polynesian Society.
Burley, D. V. 1998. Monumental architecture and the use of stone in the classical Tongan chiefdom, in Stevenson, C. M., Lee, G. & Morin, F. (ed.) Easter Island in Pacific context. South Seas Symposium: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Easter Island and East Polynesia, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 5-10 August 1997 (Easter Island Foundation Occasional Paper 4): 318–24. Woodland (CA): Easter Island Foundation.
Burley, D. V. 2007. Archaeological demography and population growth in the Kingdom of Tonga 950 BC to the Historic Era, in Kirch, P. V. & Rallu, J-L. (ed.) The growth and collapse of Pacific Island societies: archaeological and demographic perspectives: 177202. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Campbell, I. 1992. Island kingdom, Tonga ancient and modern. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press.
Churchward, C. M. 1959. Tongan Dictionary. London: Oxford University Press.
Gifford, E. W. 1923. Tongan place names (Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 6). Honolulu: Bishop Museum.
Gifford, E. W. 1924. Tongan myths and tales (Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 8). Honolulu: Bishop Museum.
Gifford, E. W. 1929. Tongan society (Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 60). Honolulu: Bishop Museum.
Green, R. C. 1973. Tonga's prehistoric population. Pacific Viewpoint 14: 6174.
Kirch, P. V. 1984. The evolution of Polynesian chiefdoms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kirch, P. V. 1990. Monumental architecture and power in Polynesian chiefdoms: a comparison of Tonga and Hawaii. World Archaeology 22: 206–22.
McKern, W. C. 1929. Archaeology of Tonga (Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 60). Honolulu: Bishop Museum.
Martin, J. 1991. Tonga Islands: William Mariner's account (5th edition). Nukua'lofa, Tonga: Vava'u Press.
Maurat, L. 1833. Plan des tombeaux des chefs de Tongatabou. Plate No. 101, in Voyage de découvertes de l'Astrolabe exécuté par ordre du Roi, pendant les années 1826-1827-1829, sous le commandement de M. J. Dumont d'Urville. Volume 1: atlas historique. Paris: Tastu.
Neich, R. 2006. Pacific voyaging after the exploration period, in Howe, K. R. (ed.) Vaka Moana, voyages of the ancestors: the discovery and settlement of the Pacific: 198245. Auckland: David Bateman.
Petersen, G. 2000. Indigenous island empires: Yap and Tonga considered. Journal of Pacific History 35: 527.
Sand, C. 1999. Empires maritimes préhistoriques dans le Pacifique: Ga'asialili et la mise en place d'une colonie tongienne a Uvea (Wallis, Polynésie occidentale). Journal de la Société des Océanistes 108: 103–23.
Spennemann, D.H.R. 1989a. 'Ata 'a Tonga mo 'ata 'o Tonga: early and later prehistory of the Tongan Islands. A study in settlement and subsistence patterns, with special emphasis on Tongatapu. Volume I. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Australian National University.
Spennemann, D.H.R. 1989b. 'Ata 'a Tonga mo 'ata 'o Tonga: early and later prehistory of the Tongan Islands. Volume I. 2 Appendices. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Australian National University.
Spennemann, D.H.R. & Head, M. J.. 1998. Tongan pottery chronology, 14C dates and the hardwater effect. Quaternary Geochronology 17: 1047–56.
Stuiver, M. & Reimer, P. J.. 1993. Extended 14C database and revised CALIB 3.0 14C calibration program. Radiocarbon 350: 215–30.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed