General info
 
The Maluku Islands (also known as the Moluccas, Moluccan Islands, the Spice Islands or simply Maluku) are an archipelago in Indonesia. Maluku or the Moluccas Province consists of   thousands of small islands. The Chinese and Europeans also historically knew the islands as the �Spice Islands� since it produces cloves and nutmegs.

The size of the province is 87,100 sq. km. It has a total population of 1.5 million.   The major ethnic group is the Ambonese. They are predominantly Catholics and Protestants, while a few are Muslims.  Other ethnic groups are the Javanese and the Buginese who migrated to this island as traders or businessmen. Ambon is the capital city of Moluccas.  The city is known for its fresh seafood and beautiful shores.  
 
Most of the islands are mountainous, some with active volcanoes, and enjoy a wet climate. The vegetation of the small and narrow islands, encompassed by the sea, is very luxuriant; including rainforests, sago, rice, and the famous spices--nutmeg, cloves and mace, among others.

Though originally Melanesian, many island populations, especially in the Banda Islands, were killed in the 17th century. A second influx of Austronesian immigrants began in the early twentieth century under the Dutch and continued in the Indonesian era.

Politically, the Maluku Islands formed a single province from 1950 until 1999. In 1999 the North Maluku (Maluku Utara) and Halmahera Tengah (Central Halmahera) regency were split off as a separate province, so the islands are now divided between two provinces, Maluku and North Maluku. 

Maluku consists these following major islands:

Maluku Province

    * Ambon Island, main island
    * Aru Islands
    * Babar Islands
    * Banda Islands
    * Buru
    * Kai Islands
    * Kisar
    * Leti Islands
    * Seram
    * Tanimbar Islands
    * Wetar

North Maluku Province

    * Ternate, main island
    * Bacan
    * Halmahera - at 20,000 km2 is the largest of the Maluku Islands.
    * Morotai
    * Obi Islands
    * Sula Islands
    * Tidore

History

The earliest archaeological evidence of human occupation of the region is about thirty-two thousand years old, but evidence of even older settlements in Australia may mean that Maluku had earlier visitors.

Evidence of increasingly long-distance trading relationships and of more frequent occupation of many islands, begins about ten to fifteen thousand years later.

Onyx beads and segments of silver plate used as currency on the Indian subcontinent around 200BC have been unearthed on some of the islands. In addition, local dialects employ derivations of the Malay word then in use for 'silver', in contrast to the term used in wider Melanesian society, which has etymological roots in Chinese, a consequence of the regional trade with China that developed in the 500s and 600s.

Maluku was a cosmopolitan society where spice traders from across the region took residence in settlements, or in nearby enclaves, including Arab and Chinese traders who visited or lived in the region.

Geology and ecology
The geology and ecology of the Maluku Islands shares much similar history, characteristics and processes with the neighboring Nusa Tenggara region. There is a long history of geological study of these regions since Indonesian colonial times, however, the geological formation and progression is not fully understood, and theories of the island's geological evolution have changed extensively in recent decades. The Maluku Islands comprise some of the most geologically complex and active regions in the world, resulting from its position at the meeting point of four geological plates and two continental blocks.

The Maluku islands lies in Wallacea, the region between the Sunda Shelf (part of the Asia block), and the Arafura Shelf (part of the Australian block). Wallacea also encompasses Nusa Tenggara and Sulawesi, and within this region of small islands lies some of the world's deepest seas.

Malukan biodiversity and its distribution is affected by various tectonic activities; most of the islands are geologically young being from 1 million to 15 million years old, and have never been attached to the larger landmasses. The Maluku islands differ from other areas in Indonesia; it contains some of the countries smallest islands, coral island reefs scattered through some of the deepest seas in the world, and no large islands such as Java or Sumatra. Flora and fauna immigration between islands is thus restricted, leading to a high rate of endemic biota evolving.

The ecology of the Maluku Islands has fascinated collectors for centuries; Alfred Wallace's famous book, The Malay Archipelago was the first significant recording of this natural history, and remains one of the most important sources on Indonesian natural history. Maluku is the source of two major historical works of natural history; George Everhard Rumpf wrote the Herbarium Amboinense and the Ambonische Rariatenkamer.

While many ecological problems affect both small islands and large landmasses, small islands suffer their particular problems. Development pressures on small islands are increasing, although their effects are not always anticipated. Although Indonesia is richly endowed with natural resources, the resources of the small islands of Maluku are limited and specialized; furthermore human resources in particular are limited.

 
 
 
 
 

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