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Tonga Travel Guide

Lapaha Archeological Area

Map of Lapaha Archaeological Area

Adjacent to the Paepae 'o Tele'a is the Namoala, a three-tiered pyramid with the stone burial vault still intact on top. The Hehea mound opposite Namoala bears another two vaults.

For over 600 years beginning around A.D. 1200, Lapaha (Mu'a) was the seat of the Tu'i Tonga dynasty. Nothing remains of the royal residence today, but some 28 langi (burial mounds of ancient royalty) have been located in or near Mu'a. Due to local objections, none have yet been excavated. Several of these great rectangular platforms with recessed tiers of coralline limestone are clearly visible from the main road, including the langi of the last Tu'i Tonga (1865), a Catholic, which has a cross on top.

The finest of the terraced tombs, rather hidden down a side road, is the Paepae 'o Tele'a, built during the early 17th century for the 29th Tu'i Tonga. Notice in particular the gigantic L-shaped monoliths at the corners, the slanting upper surfaces, and the feet that extend underground. In its context, this mighty monument has all the power and emotional impact of a classical Greek temple.