Introduction to Ancient Tongan Navigational Compass

Introduction to Ancient Tongan Navigational Compass

This is a map of the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga. My home town of Mu’a, Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga is on the Eastern side of the Island.

Humans throughout history have created structures for the preservation of their history and to practice the knowledge and skills a civilization has accumulated. I (Tevita H. Fale) have been researching and conducting field work for decades on the origins of my people in Tonga and Polynesia. I chose ancient astronomy as the point of reference to uncover the history of ancient Tonga and Polynesia as a whole. Astronomy had always been something that has drawn my attention.

As I dedicated multiple decades of my life researching ancient astronomy using the same tools as my ancestors, I made many discoveries. Discoveries that were very much against the popular opinions of the academic scientists of today and the accepted theories of the these Western philosophers. Theories and philosophies that have been perpetuated by not only westerners but also Tongans/Polynesians who blindly accepted the Western foreign definitions and language misinterpretations of where their ancestors came from and the level of complexity in Polynesians societies. The ancient Polynesian cultures, religion, science, political organizations, and physical structures far exceed what the western world could understand at the the time. It is important to note that these Western philosophies echoed the message that Tonga, i.e. Polynesia, lacked sophistication and advanced knowledge; and thus, had little to offer the West.  It has been relatively recent that we are starting to just begin to understand the depth and advanced knowledge held by the Polynesian societies of the world in which they lived.

Why did I have a keen interest in the origins of my people?

I grew up in the ancient capital of Tonga, and I was surrounded by ancient ruins. Most of these ancient constructions were of the many “langi” mounds built throughout my village of Mu’a. I have fond memories of seeing these ancient ruins and having them in my backyard so to speak. Ruins that served as my childhood playground. This is where the seeds of curiosity were planted and a connection to the ancient langi burial grounds where my ancestors lay. As I climbed and shot birds in the trees around these langi mounds, my mind would think about so many questions left behind unanswered  by those who laid buried in the ruins. Questions such as these would flood my mind, and I would often sit up in the trees and ponder the possible answers to the questions I was asking myself:  How did they build these structures? Why did they build these structures? Did they build it for future generations to learn from or just to be a playground for young Tongans like myself?

Ancient Tongan Navigational Compass
This is one of the Langis found in Mu’a, Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga. There are multiple ancient ruins like this throughout Mu’a in the Kingdom of Tonga.

The greatest impressions made upon me while still a young boy are the voices of family and Tongan elders who held a wealth of knowledge about the past. A wealth of knowledge that too often they took with them to their mortal resting places after departing this world. One of the unique opportunities I had was serving “kava” to the wise men and elders in Mu’a. This is where I was exposed to vast amounts of knowledge and information about the political, social, economics, and scientific history of Tonga.

As I have grown older and look back on my life I use to wonder why was I, basically a youth, given access to this inner circle of knowledge? I would soon learn why I was invited to serve the “kava” at these ceremonies and why I felt drawn to the Langi’s in Mu’a which contains much of the history of my people. It was here that the personal questions I had as a young boy were answered. Why are my direct ancestors buried in langi mounds? Why am I going to be buried on a langi mound? Through the discussions at the kava circles and the work I have done on my family history, my questions were answered as to my connection to the langis mounds, and why I was drawn to them.

All Langi’s in Mu’a are under the supervision of the Noble Kalaniuvalu Fotofili except for two Langis or burial mounds. These two mounds are called Langi Nakulu ki Langi under the supervision of the Tu’i Lakepa family and Langi Malomaloa’a which is under the supervision of my family line, the Fale family.

My father, Siaosi Fale, and grandfather, Tevita Fale, (whom I am named after) are both buried in the Langi Malomaloa’a. My grandmother, Malia and her father ‘Unga Papalangi (my brother’s namesake) are both buried at Fale Fakauo, the Tu’i Ha’atakalaua burial grounds are called Fale, (my first cousin is named after this Fale) with the Ha’atakalaua Fale and Mulikiha’amea (the last Tu’i Ha’atakalaua) who is my sixth great grandfather. The last Tu’i Tonga, Laufilitonga, who is my fifth great grandfather on my grandmother Malia’s mother’s side, is buried at Langi Tu’ofefafa. My great grandmother ‘Akilele, my sister’s namesake, and her children are buried at Langi Tofaua except for my grandmother Malia. Malia is buried at Fale Fakauo.  Also buried in Langi Namoala are my third (Nanasipau’u), fourth (Tu’ipulotupau’u), and fifth (Siulolovao) great grandmothers, where the recently deceased Tu’i Pelehake and his wife are buried. (This is the reason why King Tupou IV urged me in the beginning of my research to complete this work. This work was not only beneficial for my family but also for Tonga and the Polyneisan people as a whole.)

Ancient Tongan Navigational Compass
Drawing of a Tongan Langi from early Europeans arriving in Tonga.

When I first moved to the United States, I wanted to continue building my knowledge of Tongan history. I wanted to continue my education that began from the teachings of my ancestors and elders in Tonga around the kave bowl. However, I was shocked at what I discovered when I read the history books about my country and people. The Western world was painting a very different picture of Tonga in regards to ancient Tongan religion, ancient Tongan science, ancient Tongan government organizations, and the ancient physical structures in Tonga. This is why I pursued my own path of discovery regarding my history, my people, and my country.

As mentioned, I have made a multitude of discoveries that are in direct contradiction to the claims of Western science and Western philosophers regarding Tongan history. I was even mocked in many instances as I published my findings and presented material at conferences. However, many of the things that I discovered and proclaimed decades ago are only now being accepted and at least looked upon as possibilities. One example of this was the fact that I was one of the first to propose and provide evidence that ancient Polynesians could navigate using the stars/constellations to travel in the Southern Hemisphere despite the fact that all these stars and constellations move in the southern sky, i.e. no Northern Star to gauge direction of north, east, and west as is done in the Northern Hemisphere. Many accept this now, but that was not the case 20 plus years ago when I expressed this idea and the evidence. I had  supported constellation navigation in ancient Polynesia and Tonga for decades.

I made many discoveries (of which we will discuss here on my blog over time) as I conducted research and field experiments. However, in 2004 I still felt that something was missing. The dimensions and directions from the ancient navigation knowledge was challenging to connect together. This is when I realized that it may be the framework in which I gauged ancient dimensions and directions was the problem. I was using a Western framework of dimension and directions, which is primarily based from a perspective of a Northern Hemisphere framework. To understand the dimensions and directions of ancient Tongan/Polynesian astronomy which is based off a southern hemisphere framework, I had to change the way I was viewing the skies of the Southern Hemisphere. The Western framework has the direction of north as up (or on top) on a map, which makes sense because they are in the Northern Hemisphere.   We all know however that the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere are opposites of each other. I figured that those who lived in the Southern Hemisphere would view their world in the same manner as the Northern so I placed south as up to understand the dimensions and directions of ancient Tongan/Polynesian astronomy. It was this simple adjustment that allowed me to make sense of so many findings of my research and field experiments. An adjustment that lead to my discovery of Maui’s Compass. The knowledge and means by which ancient Tongans/Polynesians not only gauged direction but also how and why certain ceremonies and structures were organized in a specific manner. Ceremonies such as the kava circle, structures like the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui, double outrigger sailing ships, canoes, kava bowls etc.

Ancient Tongan Navigational Compass
This knowledge of the movement of the sun is carved on top of the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Sun Gate. This Double V tracking of the sun is found in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Americas, and now Tonga. This knowledge of the order of the heavens was reflected in every day life in Tonga such as Kava Bowl design, traditional kava ceremony, Large Double Outrigger ships, canoes etc.

In the upcoming articles, I will go over Maui’s Compass and its relations to ceremonies and structures that Tongans and Polynesians see in many objects, including ancient structures and traditional ceremonies. I have attached below a quick overview to understanding how the burial mounds were ordered.

The Chiefly Lines and Burial Langis in Tonga


Tulou moe Tapu’oe Tuku fakaholo pea moe Topu Tapu ‘o Tano, kae ‘ata ke faka hoko hoku fatongia kihe fonua.

i) Tu’i Tonga line: They were buried in the langi mounds. All the langis in Mu’a are under the supervision of the noble Kalaniuvalu Fotofili except for two lanais or burial mounds. These two mounds are called Langi Nakulu ki Langi which is under the supervision of the Tu’i Lakepa family, and Langi Malomaloa’a which is under the supervision of the Fale family.

ii) Tu’i Ha’a Takalaua Line:    These chiefly lines were buried in the Fale mounds:

1. Fale Pulemalo

2. Fale Tuipapai

3. Fale Fakauo

4. Fale Ha’akili

iii) Tu’i Kanokupolu Line: They were buried in the Mala’e mound. Mala’ekula and their relatives were buried in the Mala’e’aloa and part of Mala’ealoa is named after the four Fales (houses) of the Takalaua line.

iv) Nobles and Hou’eiki: They were buried at Mo’unga sia mounds.

v) Ha’ame’avale: The commoners were buried at the fa’itoka or tanu’anga. In the past, large ceremonial burials were done only for the high chiefly lines, but nowadays there are government cemeteries in every town for the commoners.

Ancient Tongan Navigational Compass

5 thoughts on “Introduction to Ancient Tongan Navigational Compass

  1. Nate

    I am excited to see your information about navigation. This has baffled me for years! Also, tell me more about this double V sun chart. I cannot read the Tongan words in your picture.

    1. tualaufale

      Nate thank you for your comment. This Article is an introduction to the Ancient Tongan Compass used for navigation. The Double V sun chart will be explained as well as how it relates to navigation, Kava Bowl Design, Double Outrigger Ship Design, Kava Ceremony Organization etc. And it will be in in English so you will not miss out on anything.

  2. Analyn Vimahi

    I’m anxious to learn more! Thanks for sharing your findings with us!

  3. ari'ihere

    Malo e lelei e Tevita.So fascinating.So we have to look at this chart looking at hema or tonga,south as ‘olunga,up,and lalo,down is tokelau,north.Reverse of what is commonly thought.

  4. Pelenaise

    Omg!! I’m excited to hear and learn more about this! So eager now to learn more knowledge of how our people navigated. You have absolutely got an amazing opportunity to this and I hope that you continue to explore and share with us young generation. Just wish we had the opportunity to study and explore our real history back in school. But thanks to you, our youth and young generation will know once you have discovered more facts information. Please keep it up…
    Excited to here more ..

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