About that trilithon
I recently ran into 'Opeti Taliai, my old boss at the 'Atenisi Institute, at Auckland hospital. I was there to pick up a new-fangled drug; he was getting his new liver tested. We'd lost touch, and got to talking about his recent efforts to develop his PhD thesis, which is called The Legitimation of Economic and Political Power in Tonga, into a book. I mentioned that I'd raided the thesis when I was reviewing the Tongan New Zealand artist Sione Faletau's remarkable flesh and blood reconstruction of the trilithon for EyeContact.
Ha'amonga a Maui translates approximately as burden of Maui, and 'Opeti links the structure with the centralisation of power in Tonga, and the extraction of a regular 'inasi, or tribute, from farmers. He suggests that the trilithon, which stood beside Heketa, Tonga's earliest capital, might have been designed as a gateway through which commoners had to bring their 'gifts' to a nascent monarchy.
'Opeti Taliai's explanation for the Ha'amonga is surely more plausible than the late King Tupou IV's claim that the monument was designed as a sort of open-air observatory, or Gavin Menzies' theory that it was raised by Chinese interlopers.
You can read 'Opeti's thesis here.