Nan Madol was the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur Dynasty, which united Pohnpei’s estimated 25,000 people until about 1628. Set apart between the main island of Pohnpei and Temwen Island, it was a scene of human activity as early as the first or second century A.D. By the 8th or 9th century, islet construction had started, with constrution of the distinctive megalithic architecture beginning 1180 – 1200 A.D.
According to Pohnpeian Legend, Nan Madol was constructed by twin sorcerers Olosihpa and Olosohpa from the mythical Western Katau, or Kanamwayso. The brothers arrived in a large canoe seeking a place to build an altar so that they could worship Nahnisohn Sahpw, the god of Agriculture. After several false starts, the two brothers successfully built an altar off Temwen Island, where they performed their rituals. In Legend, these brothers levitated the huge stones with the aid of a flying dragon. When Olosihpa died of old age, Olosohpa became the first Saudeleur. Olosohpa married a local woman and sired tweleve generations, producing sixteen other Saudeleurs rulers of the Dipwilap (“Great”) clan. The founders of the dynasty ruled kindly, through their successors placed ever increasing demands on their subjects. Their reign ended with the invasion by Isokelekel, who also resided at Nan Madol, though his successors abandoned the site.