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Facts and History of Sulawesi for Kids


One of the four Greater Sunda Islands, and the world’s eleventh-largest island, it is situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands. In Indonesia, only Sumatra, Borneo, and Papua are larger in territory, and only Java and Sumatrahave larger populations.

  • Sulawesi comprises four peninsulas: the northern Minahasa Peninsula; the East Peninsula; the South Peninsula; and the South-east Peninsula.
  • Three gulfs separate these peninsulas: the Gulf of Tomini between northern Minahasa peninsula and East Peninsula; the Tolo Gulf between East and Southeast Peninsula; and the Bone Gulf between the South and Southeast Peninsula.
  • The Strait of Makassar runs along the western side of the island and separates the island from Borneo.
  • The name Sulawesi possibly comes from the words sula and besi and may refer to the historical export of iron from the rich Lake Matano iron deposits.
  • The name Celebes was originally given to the island by Portuguese explorers.
  • The northern peninsula contains several active volcanoes such as Mount Lokon, Mount Awu, Soputan, and Karangetang.
  • According to plate reconstructions, the island is believed to have been formed by the collision of terranes from the Asian Plate, and from the Australian Plate, with island arcs previously in the Pacific.
  • Before October 2014, the settlement of South Sulawesi by modern humans had been dated to c. 30,000 BC on the basis of radiocarbon dates obtained from rock shelters in Maros.
  • Initial settlement was probably around the mouth of the Sa’dan river, on the northwest coast of the peninsula, although the south coast has also been suggested.
  • The first Europeans to visit the island were the Portuguese sailors Simão de Abreu, in 1523, and Gomes de Sequeira in 1525, sent from the Moluccas in search of gold, which the islands had the reputation of producing.
  • A Portuguese base was installed in Makassar in the first decades of the 16th century, lasting until 1665, when it was taken by the Dutch.
  • One of the most recent publications is “When the bones are left,” a study of the material culture of central Sulawesi, offering extensive analysis.
  • The central part of the island is ruggedly mountainous, such that the island’s peninsulas have traditionally been remote from each other, with better connections by sea than by road.
  • The conversion of the lowlands of the south western peninsula to Islam occurred in the early 17th century.
  • Christians are concentrated on the tip of the northern peninsula around the city of Manado, which is inhabited by the Minahasa, a predominantly Protestant people, and the northernmost Sangir and Talaud Islands.
  • Sulawesi is part of Wallacea, meaning that it has a mix of both Asian and Australasian species.
  • In 2007, scientists found that 80 percent of Sulawesi’s forest had been lost or degraded, especially centered in the lowlands and the mangroves.