ancient and recent history
Over 3,000 years
The Kingdom of Tonga’s history stretches back over 3000 years, beginning with the migration of the Lapita people from the mainland and islands of Southeast Asia. Tongan culture and customs began with these earliest of Polynesians, and many ancient traditions have continued respectfully through to the present day. The arrival of European explorers and navigators from the 17th century saw the introduction of Christianity, now an integral part of the modern Kingdom of Tonga. Experiencing the beautiful harmonies filling Tongan churches every Sunday is an essential experience for all visitors to the Kingdom. Across the ensuing centuries, Tonga’s authentic culture has continued to be respected and maintained across the pristine islands of this Polynesian archipelago.
Around 3,000 years ago, the Lapita people from Southeast Asia migrated west via the Malay peninsula and the remote islands of the East Indies to settle in the scattered and pristine islands of the South Pacific. In Tonga, these original ancestors of today’s Polynesian people founded settlements at Toloa – near the present day location of Fua’amotu International Airport – and at Heketa, on the northeastern edge of Tongatapu. Three millennia later, reminders of these ancient times are dotted throughout the islands. The fascinating Ha’amonga a Maui trilithon still stands as an imposing legacy of early Tongan ingenuity. Eventually settling in the far-flung island groups of the Kingdom’s archipelago, these early ancestors also developed a distinctive culture that still underpins traditional Tongan life in more contemporary times.