The Ancient Royal Tombs of Lapaha: Community and World Heritage

Geoffrey Clark, Christian Reepmeyer, Nivaleti Melekiola

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Lapaha is a village community of around 2200 people in the Hahake (eastern) district of Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga. It is the location of an ancient royal dynasty headed by the holder of the paramount Tu’i Tonga title, which held political authority over the dispersed islands of the Tonga Group during the 2nd millennium AD and influenced other parts of the Pacific such as Samoa, east Fiji and Wallis/’Uvea Island. The royal tombs of the Tu’i Tonga were included on Tonga’s Tentative List in 2007, and this paper outlines community involvement in the cultural heritage of Lapaha including recent progress on the nomination of the ancient burial structures to the World Heritage List. Community management of Lapaha’s heritage sites is central to their preservation with continuing use of the ancient tombs for burial of senior title holders involving ceremony and ritual dating to the Tu’i Tonga chiefdom. The traditional burial practices demonstrate the continuing cultural significance of the royal tombs to Tongan society, which is strongly hierarchical and consists of kings, chiefs and commoners. The tombs are also emblematic of the ancient Tongan kingdom that was the only Pacific society to extend significantly to other archipelagos and islands.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationWorld Heritage in a Sea of Islands: Pacific 2009 Programme
    Editors Anita Smith
    Place of PublicationParis, France
    PublisherUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
    ISBN (Print)9789822250152
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    Dive into the research topics of 'The Ancient Royal Tombs of Lapaha: Community and World Heritage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this