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Federated States of Micronesia

Likinlulem, wall under road fill
Photograph by F. Beardsley, courtesy of Micrnesia Historic Preservation Office

Likinlulem is an exceptional site in the archeological record of the island of Kosrae, in the Federated States of Micronesia. It was continually occupied from at least AD 1200 to 1600, a period of great importance in the traditional history of the island. Radiocarbon dating, however, can expand these dates to include occupation from AD 1000 to 1800, with the mid-range period (AD 1200-1600) being the formative era, when regional centers were vying for power and control over the island’s population and resources. Likinlulem was a prominent feature in the island’s oral histories and the place from which the island’s traditional titles, political system and chiefly lines originated. Likinlulem was, for all intents and purposes, the residence of an elite-virtually all the oral histories that reference this site note it as the home of the island’s high chiefs, its “kings.” Likinlulem also has the benefit of location within the island’s history; it stands at the heart of the earliest settled region on the island, a position that reinforced status, prestige, rank, and privilege. Today, the site is hidden by a thick jungle.

Likinlulem, Opening in wall, Compound 6
Photograph by F. Beardsley, courtesy of Micrnesia Historic Preservation Office

Little is known about the history of Kosrae. Information gleaned from scattered oral histories, a small number of historical eyewitness accounts, and the few archeological investigations provides little beyond a sketchy outline of events since the arrival of the founding population some 2,000 years ago. What is known, or rather accepted, is that some 2,000 or more years ago, the founder population landed on the southwest coast of the island. This was where settlement began; this was the place with the longest occupation on the island, and the place from which status and chiefly position was derived. The standing of chiefs in the island-wide system of prestige and the hierarchy of power was reinforced if they could trace their ancestry to this part of the island through a recitation of genealogies.
Likinlulem is one of the few southwest coastal sites that are mentioned in oral histories and the place where Kosraean culture and traditions are said to have originated. Later Leluh became the cultural center of power, housing the island’s greatest chiefs before the onset of the post-European Contact period in 1824.

Likinlulem, entrance into site from canoe landing
Photograph by F. Beardsley, courtesy of Micrnesia Historic Preservation Office

At its most basic, Likinlulem is described as an archeological complex of nine large compounds with internal features such as pavements and earthen platforms, a canoe landing, a channelized stream, and an open-air platform that is inundated during high tide. The site played a key role in the mythical oral histories of the island, ‘before time began.’ Likinlulem was a self-contained community. Oral traditions about Likinlulem contain the tale of Nepartak, a hero who conquered Pohnpei Island (some 200 miles to the northeast), and the story of how Nahkontawe the whale’s daughter had a son, prince Nwelihk , who became the first king of the island of Leluh.

Likinlulem was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on February 2, 2004. The above account of Likinlulem was condensed from the National Register Registration Form by Dr. Felicia R. Beardsley.

Likinlulem | Bromley Farm -- Koizuma Hishinuma Farm
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