According to myth, the demigod Maui threw a fishhook from Samoa and yanked Tonga out of the sea. He then stomped on the islands to make them flat and suitable for gardening. The historic Polynesians reached Tonga from Fiji or Santa Cruz in the Solomon Islands almost 3,000 years ago. These early arrivals made incised lapita pottery, though the art was lost around A.D. 200.
Tangaloa, the creator god, descended from the sky and had a son, Aho'eitu, by a beautiful Tongan maiden named Va'epopua. This child became the first hereditary king, or Tu'i Tonga, perhaps around A.D. 950, initiating the "classical era" in Tongan history, which continued until about 1600. Many of the great monuments of Tongatapu were built during this period, which gradually ended after European contact. The Tu'i Tonga were absolute monarchs and the only Tongan males who were not tattooed or circumcised; there was an elaborate etiquette to be observed in all contacts with their subjects.
Fierce Tongan warriors traveled throughout Western Polynesia in large double-hulled canoes (kalia), each capable of carrying up to 200 people. In the 13th century, the domain of the Tu'i Tonga extended all the way from Rotuma in the west through part of the Lau Group, Wallis and Futuna, Samoa, and Tokelau, to Niue in the east.
The eventual collapse of this empire led to unrest and a series of Tu'i Tonga assassinations, so in 1470 the 24th Tu'i Tonga delegated much of his political power to a brother, the hau or temporal ruler, while retaining the spiritual authority. Later, the power of the hau was divided between the Tu'i Ha'atakalaua and Tu'i Kanokupolu, resulting in three distinct lines.
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