Melanesia & the Melanesians

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The name Melanesia is composed of the words ‘melas’ and ‘nesia/nesos’, Greek words which mean ‘black’ and ‘islands’. Islands where black or dark-skin people live.. A definition based on race. In this case it concerns the race of the ‘black Oceanians’.They are the original occupants of the Sahulplat, where Australia and Papua New-Guinea form the main component.

West-Melanesians from Flobamora, Timor, Maluku, West-Papua en Australia
East-Melanesians from Papua Niugini, Solomoni, Kanaki, Vanuatu & Fiji

The name Melanesia has been given by the French researcher Dumont d’Urville in 1832 at the subdivisioning of Oceania in cultural area’s. Other area’s which he distinguishes are: Polynesia (many islands), Micronesia (small islands) and the southeast Asian islands of Indonesia (islands around the Indian ocean) & Malaysia (country of the Malayans).


Pacific islanders of the Sahulplat (Flobamora, Timor, Maluku, Papua and Australia) mainly belong to the Melanesian nations in the Pacific of the Negroid (black) race. The Asian people of the Sundaplat (Sumatera, Java, Kalimantan, Malaysia and Singapura) mainly belong to the Malayan nations in Asia of the Mongoloid (yellow) race.


Continental plates: Sunda and Sahul

The existance of the geographical position of Malaysia/Indonesia and Australia/Melanesia
The Asian Sundaplat and the Oceanic Sahulplat were uncovered during the ice-age, as a result of the sea-level fall. Characterising for these area’s is the difference in flora and fauna (see the line of Wallace).

Line of Wallace

The dark- (pic.1) and thicker parts (pic.2) indicate the Asian (Sundaplat) and the Australian (Sahulplat) landmasses during the ice-age.


Interesting is the passage area between the Asian Indonesian Sunda-islands (Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan) and the Oceanic Melanesian Sahul-islands (Australia, Papua, Maluku and Timor-islands).

Sulawesi is one of the most complicated islands in the world, at geological area. It was spread out in two parts over the primal continent for about 250 million years (click here for an Animation: the splitting of the primal continent). The western part of the island Sulawesi split itself from the primal continent 180 million years ago.

About ninety million years later the eastern part split from Antarctica together with Papua, Maluku and Australia (Antarctica wasn’t the Southpole like we know it now yet and accomodated it’s own unique flora and fauna at the time). The eastern and western part of Sulawesi finally got together fifteen million years ago, after a long excursion to the north. Because the floe on which Papua lies moved anti-clockwise and Australia was moving to the north, Sulawesi’s eastern arm was pushed into her western arm, which gave the island it’s characteristic ‘K’-form.

The countrymass of this ‘prime’-Sulawesi was pushed so far to the west, that it eventually collided with Kalimantan. This is clear when you lay the current eastcoast of Kalimantan next to the westcoast of Sulawesi. Three million years later Sulawesi broke apart from Kalimantan again, which resulted in the arise of the Street of Makassar. The island has always had a different appearance since then, because of the in- and decreasing of the sea mirror.

Sulawesi, which is clasped between the Asian- and Australian continent, still moves. The west of Sulawesi characterises itself with particularly an Asian flora and fauna. The eastern part of the island accomodates Oceanic/Australian characteristics. This is particularly seen in the marsupials in East-Sulawesi that are relative to those of Maluku, Papua and Australia.

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