Based on contributions broadcast on Maluku-Net mailing list <>:
(a) Fri, 27 Jun 1997 21:40:02 +0200 (MET DST)
(b) Mon, 30 Jun 1997 21:39:02 +0200 (MET DST)
(c) Mon, 30 Jun 1997 21:39:54 +0200 (MET DST)

First mounted: Nov. 11, 1997
Partly mirrored at the IRJA· COM Irian Jaya site: Section (a), (b), (c)

Discussion in Maluku-Net has in more or less regular intervals returned to arguments between members who were quite contented to find Maluku being an integral part of Indonesia, and members who found this quite horrible and only saw a future for Maluku separated from the rest of Indonesia. Of late, the latter prospect of extracting Maluku from Indonesia has been stepped up a notch further by a proposed re-alignment of Maluku into Melanesia. It thus seemed useful to more closely inspect the cultural and histroical affinities between the two regions, which could have some bearing on the perspectives of setting up the proposed alliance.


Although Micronesia was at least partially accessed from the Philippines or perhaps the Sangir-Talaud and North Sulawesi region, it seems safe to assume that the main stream of Austronesian migration into Oceania passed through East Indonesia, particularly Maluku. This must be particularly true for the Austronesians of Melanesia, so that one could even assert that ancestors of Austronesian (i.e. Non-Papuan) Melanesians once inhabited Maluku. Actually, all of Oceania was originally uninhabited, and Papuans too, just as the Australian Aborigines before them, once migrated to their present homes from Asia over the Philippines and Indonesian land-bridge during the last glacial period.

With regard to the Papuans, or the Non-Austronesians in general, of Melanesia and Indonesia (particularly the North Halmaherans of North Maluku and the Oirata of East Nusatenggara), the so-called Indo-Pacific hypothesis of Greenberg, which assumed them and some other groups to form a common stock, has not been substantiated so far. One has only been able to establish certain affinity between North-Halmaheran languages and one phylum of Papuan languages of Irian Jaya.

With regard to the Austronesian languages involved, more clarity exists, even though there still is quite a number of yet unsolved problems. All the languages from Bimanese (in the South) and languages of the Sula Islands (in the North) eastwards seem to belong to a single distinct group within the Austronesian family, which was named the Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian (CEMP) languages by Robert Blust, who subdivided them as follows:

CEMP --.-- Central MP
       '-- Eastern MP --.-- South-Halmahera-West-New-Guinea
                        '-- Oceanic

I have used this somewhat unusual way of schematizing the grouping hierarchy, so as to use the same scheme for visualizing a concept of how the Austronesian migration proceeded, which was put forward by Malcom Ross. This is that the migration took place step by step, whereby each successive step was only followed by part of those who took part in the previous one. In our example this means, that Austronesians coming to Central and South Maluku settled down here and spread out in this region. Only one group among them decided to move further, and then settled and spread around in the region of South Halmahera and Irian Jaya. From here, again, only one group moved further, whose language became precursor of all the present Oceanic Austronesia languages, including of course those of Melanesia. With regard to time, the movement through the Philippines and Sulawesi into East and West Indonesia seems to have taken place between 2,500 and 1,500 BC (Peter Bellwood), and reached the Bismarck Archipelago by 1,600 BC (Matthew Spriggs).

One culture feature seems to favour this scheme. The word for "pig" in the Non-Austronesian, i.e. Papuan languages of Melanesia is typically of Austronesian origin, deriving from Proto-Austronesian *BeRek "domesticated pig". Two conclusions can be made here: (1) the domesticated pig was introduced into Oceania by Austronesians, and (2) as the protoform is common to practically the whole distribution area of Austronesians, the domesticated pig must have already been known to the Austronesians before they spread out from their homeland in Taiwan (or the immediately contiguous mainland). There is one problem though. I have learned from Matthew Spriggs that the domesticated pig in Oceania is not the species which originated from Southeast China and Southeast Asia, but was originally endemic in Maluku. To my mind, there is one explanation for this: The Austronesians originally must have had the East/Southeast Asian species which they took with them on their migrations. Those who settled in Maluku, however, met upon a different species, which was better acclimatized to the local tropical conditions, and gradually replenished their stock with the local species, but retaining the word for pig they already had in their language. In other words, the ancestors of the Oceanic Austronesians must have shared a longer stay in Maluku before moving on eastwards.

With regard to the Austronesian migration and subgrouping of Austronesian languages, there is another interesting aspect which is of relevance here. Through lexicostatistical computations based on a large database for Austronesian languages, Isidore Dyen had already even earlier provided a tentative classification of Austronesian languages. The most puzzling feature of Dyen's results were however, that they revealed the existence of two areas of high digree of linguistic diversity: one in Taiwan, and another, perhaps even higher degree of diversity, in the Bismarck Archipelago and contiguous mainland PNG. A high degree of linguistic diversity in a region within the distribution area a language family is a relatively reliable indication for the place of original homeland of the family. The longer two sister-languages were separated, the futher they have generally diverged. The first splits of the precursor language into daughter languages took place in the homeland or in its direct vincinity. When some of these daughters move out and split apart abroad, then their daughters must obviously be less diverged than the languages near the homeland. The situation dicovered by Dyen thus even gave rise to the question, whether perhaps the Austronesian homeland was in the Bismarck Archipelago rather than in Taiwan.

Beside this, results of archaeological investigations have suggested, that early hearths of plant domestication existed at the "heads" above both ends of the Malayan Archipelago, in Southeast Asia/Southeast China, and in Papua-New Guinea, more or less coinciding with the end of the last glacial period and rising of the seas between 12,000 and 8,000 BC or pretty soon after that. In a publication of 1988 I proposed the following explanation, which at the same time combined the two plant domestication hearths with the problem of the duplicate regions of highest diversity of Austronersian languages: When the rising waters started inundating the lowlands on the Sunda Shelf (that is the land which originally connected the present islands of West Indonesia with Indochina) and the Sahul Shelf (connecting North Maluku, the Bismarck Archipelago and New Guinea with each other and with Australia), the population from the lowlands retreated to the highlands. This led to intermingling of peoples with lowland and highland cultures in Southeast Asia/Southeast China and in New Guinea. More important, however, it led to a concentration of population. It is known, that peoples on the threshold to the neolithic were often acquainted with the principles of plant domestication, without actually practicing it because there was no need to do so. Only when there was sudden change in the relationship between density of population and abundance of natural food supply, were the people forced to resort to agriculture or horticulture to maintain their subsistence. It is therefore understandable, that the rising seas, causing a retreat of the population to both ends of the island chain, led at both those ends to conditions favouring the emergence of agriculture or horticulture.

The Austronesians leaving the Asian continent, and heading utlimately for Oceania, originated from the culture sphere which evolved from the neolithic hearth at one end of the island chain. Upon entering Oceania, they apparently came upon the culture sphere which had evolved out of the other hearth at the opposite end of the chain. It seems reasonable to suppose, therefore, that Austronesians arriving in the Bismarck Archipelago area met and intermingled here with local peoples having a compatible culture of an equal or almost equal degree of sophistication (New Guinea, the second largest island in the world after Greenland, is nevertheless small and isolated, compared with East and Southeast Asia with its open retreat into the expanses of Eurasia which offered far more favourable conditions for exchange and development). Both ethnic groups (imigrant Austronesian and autochthonous Papuan) must have profited tremendously from the intensive exchanges between mutually complementary cultures, leading to increased productivity and ethnic expansion. This must have led not only to increased spawning off of new comunities from older established, with obvious consequences on language divergence, but also to frequent instances of full or partial acquisition of Austronesian as language by originally Papuan communities, or its occasional creolisation. This would have given rise to "Austronesian" language groups of which already the proto-language could have differed considerably more from referent contemporary Austronesian languages, than expected for languages ensuing from normal splits. Hence, perhaps, the exceptionally high degree of diversity.

Indeed, we witness the emergence of a remarkable culture tradition in the Bismarck Archipelago region beginning around 1,600 (Matthew Spriggs), known as the Lapita culture. It was spread by (Oceanic) Austronesians throughout Melanesia and Western Polynesia, up to Tonga and Samoa in the East, and New Caledonia in the South. The experts are divided as to whether the culure is Austronesian or Papuan in origin, which is probably a good sign that they are both right. The spread of Lapita in Oceania coincides with the spread of the three domesticated animals: pig, dog, chicken, all of insular Southeast Asian origin (Matthew Spriggs). The stone tool kit of Lapita is either identical with or a development of that of the Austronesians in Asia (Roger Green). But, although Lapita crops are also known to Austronesians in Insular Southeast Asia, they are however endemic in the New Guinea-Bismarcks area as well, and some have been shown to be of New Guinea origin (D.E. Yen). The characteristic Lapita pottery has affinities with Austronesian pottery on the Asian side in the form of the jars, but the ornamental design seems to be a local development. Most recent archaeological investigations led by John Terrel at Aitape (North PNG) indicate that a local ceramic tradition, the Sumalo culture, predating the appearance of first Austronesians in the area, must be the long sought actual precursor of Lapita pottery.

To SUMMARIZE what we have up to here: with regard to the deepest prehistoric layer, we seem to observe two aspects in the relationship between Maluku and Melanesia. ON ONE SIDE, all Austronesian languages of Oceania and those of East Indonesia up to Flores and the Sula Islands apparently form one one group and are thus more closely related to each other than to any other Austronesian languages, including those of Central and West Indonesia. The Austronesian migration into Oceania must have made station for some time in Maluku, so that culture features brought along with them to Oceania must also have included novel features which were originally specific of Maluku (e.g. the species of domesticated pig), and thus not shared in the culture of Austronesians further West. ON THE OTHER SIDE, The unique Lapita culture, being so to speak a joint Austronesian-Papuan development, stood at the head of Oceanic culture history. This heritage is not shared by the cultures of East Indonesia. The contemporaneous linguistic development in the Bismarcks, in which Papuan languages surely also had some influence, will likewise have left certain distinct typological imprints on the Austronesian languages of Oceania, in contrast with Austronesian languages on the Indonesian side including Maluku.

It is difficult to evaluate the significance of this earliest layer in the characteriziation of affinities and differences in the cultural identities of the peoples of Maluku and Melanesia of today. Developments in the later, i.e. more recent prehistorical and historical periods can probably be said to have a greater actuality in this respect.

The next stage is a bit problematic, because there are two opinions as to the beginnings of the planting of cereals by Austronesians. The formerly established opinion was, that Austronesians originally planted tubers as starch staple, particularly taro (Colocasia esculenta; Indonesian talas = keladi), yams (Dioscorea spp.; Indon. ubi), alocasia (Alocasia microrhiza and other spp.; Indon. birah). Only at the later period did they start planting rice (Oryza sativa; Indon. padi), explaining why the distribution only goes as far east as to include East Indonesia, but not Oceania. If we stopped here, we could conclude another important difference in the culture of the two regions, Maluku and part of Irian Jaya (North, up to Cendrawasih Bay inclusively) with its at least partially cereal agricultural economy, and Oceania, particularly (the rest of) Melanesia with an agriculture economy based on cultivation of tubers.

However, that old picture of the development does not account for some particularities uncovered by closer linguistic study and newer archaeological discoveries. Reflexes of the protoform *pajei are not only well represented in languages of Indonesia (e.g. Indon. padi) and the Philippines, but also in those of Taiwan. The protoforms of the names of the tubers (*tales, *quBi, *BiRaq), on the other hand, being well represented throughout Oceania and Indonesia, partly also the Phlippines, do not have reflexes in languages of Taiwan, with some rare exceptions which may be the result of relatively recent borrowing. Insofar as that the highest order (earliest) split in the Austronesian language family was between that of the Formosan languages (Austronesian languages of Taiwan) from Extra-Formosan Austronesian languages, a protoform represented in Formosan as well as Extra-Formosan languages must originate from Proto-Austronesian, unless there has been a secondary propagation of reflexes of the protoform through borrowing. In other words, the Proto-Austronesians must have been acquainted with rice, and were probably not acquainted with the tubers or at least not intensively enough for these to have left a lasting imprint in the language.

From biological data its is known, furthermore, that wild varieties of the tubers in question are endemic in regions in mainland and insular Southeast Asia. Rice, on the other hand, was first domesticated in a long zone at the northern rim of Indochina and Assam, and southern rim of presentday China. Archaeological data show that it was already cultivated in Zhejiang (the mainland province across from Taiwan) by 5000 BC (Peter Bellwood). This is well before the date of first split of Proto-Austronesian, estimated at 4000 BC (Robert Blust) by linguists, and slightly later (Peter Bellwood) by archaeologists. On Taiwan itself, however, earliest trace of rice in the form of imprints on pottery is dated at around 3000 BC (Peter Bellwood). If indeed rice had been cultivated by the Proto-Austronesians intensively enough to leave such a clear trace in the language, one needs to find an explanation for the absence of cereal cultivation in pre-contact Oceania.

There is one important feature in rice cultivation, which is probably crucial for the understanding of the particularities of its dispersal through Austronesian migrationary and contact movements. For its ripening, original varieties of rice required a longer daily photoperiod than that which is given in the tropical zone (the day in non-tropical zones is longer than in the tropics in summer, when rice ripens, and shorter in winter). Therefore, the original varieties of rice were not suitable for the tropics. Even if the Austronesians had been rice-growers since the very beginning, arriving in the Philippines (where they are already reported in the Cagayan valley of Luzon around 3000 BC, Robert Blust) they must have been forced to look around for a new starch staple before moving on. Indeed, they appear not only to have taken up the already mentioned tubers here, but also the coconut (Cocos nucifera; reflexes of *nieur, e.g. Indon. nyiur, well represented all over Oceania and insular Southeast Asia, are missing in Taiwan). In other words, it must have been only after a total agricultural re-equipment that they proceeded onwards into the tropics and further into Oceania. This will perhaps also help us understand, why it was that Hendrik Kern, determining the homeland of the Austronesians on the basis of their common zoological and botanical vocabulary, decided over a century ago that this must have been in tropical Southeast Asia.

In a 1994 publication I suggested on the basis of various considerations, that the first rice to have been spread through the Philippines and Indonesia was a highland variety, and that even then it was not cultivated as main staple. It was just sufficiently present to have its name propagated mostly in phonologically regular form (i.e. not through later borrowing which would have rendered the sound correspondences irregular) throughout the Philippines and Indonesia, without it having a role of any importance in the economy. The first cereal to have been widely dispersed through this area as staple seems to have been foxtail millet (Setaria italica; Indon. jawawut), represented in Proto-Austronesian by the protoform *beCeng, having reflexes in Taiwan, through the Philippines, Central and East Indonesian up to Cendrawasih Bay in the North of Irian Jaya. The word was also borrowed into Non-Austronesian languages of North Halmahera.

The grain is first attested in Timor in a layer slightly younger than 1000 BC, and is the earliest cereal here (aside from Job's tears, Coix lacryma-jobii; Indon. jelai = enjelai, which occurs wild here and over most of Indonesia). That is about one millennium later than earliest finds of the domesticated pig on the island. Apparently, Austronesians proceeding further south from Luzon for the first thousand years did not have a cereal staple but tubers instead, and they are the first Austronesian settlers in Maluku, from among whom were the ancestors of the Oceanians. Only later, after having sufficiently learned to cultivate the cereals in tropical conditions, did Austronesians moving south from Luzon cultivate a cereal as staple, and this was foxtail millet. Rice in sufficient quantity was apparently only cultivated even later, around 500 BC in Sulawesi (Peter Bellwood) and the Malayan Peninsula (Janice Stargardt). Reflexes of *pajei are also represented till as far east as Cendrawasih Bay, but this may be at least partly due to secondary contact influence.

This leads to TWO CONCLUSIONS having relevance to our problem of the relationship between Maluku and Melanesia. Although rice was indeed cultivated in the Austronesian homeland in Taiwan perhaps as early as the time of Proto-Austronesian, whereas the tubers were probably not, the first Austronesians to head for Oceania from Maluku were probably indeed growers of the tubers, and not of rice or another cereal. While a distinct local culture tradition, the Lapita culture, was developing and spread out in Melanesia, later newcomers arrived on the scene in Maluku, mingling with the first settled Austronesians (which were closestly relate to the Oceanians), apparently abandoning their language for that of the earlier settlers (for which reason no non-CEMP Austronesian languages are found in the area). These newcomers, however, brought the technology of cereal cultivation here, a culture feature not shared by the Melanesians.

It is possible, that an analogical process of introduction of a new staple crop also took place in Melanesia, though at a much later period. Apparently, contacts between Polynesians and Amerindians led to the introduction of the sweet potato (Ipomea spp., particularly Ipomea batatas; Indon. ketela, particularly ketela rambut) into Oceania. The crop seems to have been gradually propagated westwards through trade contacts, though not further than New Guinea by contact time. Propagation further west into Maluku and the Philippines seems to have been the result of activities of the Spaniards. Incidentally, the word ketela apparently entered Malay through Maluku and reflects the word Castilian (through something like ubi ketela "Castilian yams").

It is of course not surprising, that the peoples of the two regions experienced divergent developments and influences after separation. Nevertheless, it is in my opinion possible that even after they had separated, there were contacts at several occasions. However, this touches a controversial point in the reconstruction of Oceanic linguistic and culture (pre)history. From a linguistic point of view, the Oceanic language group, encompassing all Austronesian languages of Oceania, is a compact language group. That is to say, it has a distinct single common precursor, Proto-Oceanic, which can be identified with the language of the ancestral peoples which originally found their way from the South Halmahera / North Irian Jaya area to the Bismarcks region. This is generally understood to mean that there was only one Austronesian movement into Oceania, and the archaeologists too seem to be quite satisfied with this picture.

However, the compactness of the language group does not, in my opinion, exclude later incursions from East Indonesia. Thus, the compactness of the Romance language group with vulgar Latin as its unique common precursor is not impaired by the well-known fact, that Germanic tribes settled in Gaul and Iberia, taking over the Romance languages of the local, originally Celtic population, or that Slavic peoples settled in Roumania, taking over the Romance language of local Dacians. In the Pacific too, in my opinion, there were several subsequent movements from East Indonesia which advanced varyingly deep into Oceania.

The first of these movements, in my opinion, introduced regular long-distance navigation and construction of megalithist monuments such as hill-top and ridge fortifications and stone temples. They seem to have been a dynamic and expansive peoples with a relatively advanced social stratification, perhaps even at the threshold to state formation, and seem to have sweeped through Indonesia from the center in two directions: eastwards all the way to Polynesia, intermingling with Oceanians and taking up their language as they passed through the Solomons and the South Pacific, and westwards all the way to South India, partially also to Northeast India up the Ganges/Brahmaputra systems. Their word for "sailing boat for long-distance navigation", *peDaHu/*paDaHu, is well represented along the route route from the Bismarcks till Polynesia, as well as in Dravidian languages of South India. This suggests that they were the ones who introduced long-distance navigation to both areas. Stone constructions reminiscent of those of Polynesia in several respects can be found in East Indonesia (particularly in Nusatenggara), Java, Sumatra, and Northeast India (I reported on this in a paper in 1994, scheduled to appear in print this year, and in part in a 1994 publication).

Crucial is here perhaps, that megalithism has not so far been indicated as a particular feature of Lapita. If there had not been a second wave, then the quite sophisticated megalithist monuments of Polynesia would have to be assumed to be an Oceanic innovation. Resemblance to megalithist constructions in Nusatenggara, Java, Sumatra and Northeast India would have to be considered as coincidences. This is not altogether unlikely, because no exact comparative archaeological studies have been made so far. But the distribution of reflexes of *peDaHu/*paDaHu would then be rather surprising. Assuming, on the contrary, that there was this second wave, then Maluku and Melanesia experienced some common influences or developments quite some time after completion of the first split. But this involves features not unique to East Indonesia in the West, but also shared by Central and East Indonesia, and even Northeastern and Southern India.

The establishment of regular maritime communication between India and West Indonesia seems to have facilitated the introduction of first staple cereal into the later region, sorghum (Sorghum vulgare = Andropogon sorghum; Indon. jawaras, Toba Batak jabaure) just before foxtail millet was introduced into Indonesia. This seems to be the reason why reflexes of *beCeng "foxtail millet" are not represented in West Indonesia. Instead, the name for sorghum, *zawaH (from Pali java, reflecting Sanskrit yava "barley"; reflexes in some languages in India have the meaning "sorghum") reflected e.g. in Malay as jawa- (as in jawa-wut, jawa-ras), became generalized to mean "grain", including foxtail millet. Thus we can place the date of movement of the *peDaHu-sailors through Maluku before earliest cereals dated right after 1000 BC in Timor. This also means that they did not cultivate cereals either, but probably had tubers as staple.

Another possible movement into Oceania seems to have taken place at a later time, probably not before 700 BC, but certainly before the dispersal of Dongson-type bronze and the "ship-of-the-dead" cult throughout Indonesia between the 5th century BC and the 1st century AD, because this latter culture feature did not advance eastwards further than Irian Jaya, and thus serves to differentiate Maluku from Melanesia. The preceding movement seems to have introduced the lashed-lug plank-hulled boat to the Northern Solomon Islands (which seems to have been the furthest eastern extent of the movement). The construction principle of the boat is identical with that of the orembai in Maluku, and otherwise only still found with the Yamis of Botel Tobago Island (Southeast of Taiwan). It originated perhaps as a result of copying of the so-called "dragon boats" of mainland Daic (a.k.a. Tai-Kadai) peoples of Southeast Asia and Southeast China by Austronesians accustomed to the lashed-lug technique of the traditional Austronesian dugout-based so-called five-section boat. This is perhaps the same movement which carried a Mon-Khmer form for betel peper (Piper betle; Indon. sirih), i.e. *bVlu[] (cf. Old Mon se-blu') through Sulawesi (cf. Mandar buulu), Nusatenggara and Southeast Maluku (cf. Bimanese bulu, Wetar huru) to the St. Vitiaz languages Southwest of the Bismarcks (Siassi ful, Gedaged fu).

This was apparently the last movement into Oceania, contributing to common culture features between Maluku and Melanesia, happening before two major developments which brought in the metal age into East Indonesia, and thus constituted the FIRST ESSENTIAL CULTURALLY ALIENATING DEVELOPMENT in the relationship between Maluku and Melanesia.

The FIRST of these two developments was the introduction of a metal tradition apparently associable with the bronze of Dongson with its "ship-of-the-dead" cult. The cult itself is not attested further east than among the Asmat of Irian Jaya. For metals we find reflexes of three important protoforms, which are insofar remarkable, that they are not reflected in either Malay or Javanese and thus indicate that knowledge of metal was not introduced by either of these. The protoforms are: *ntiti "copper", *mamu/*maum "iron", and *buLauan "gold". The two former are practically restricted to East Indonesia. The form for gold apparently originally had the meaning "copper" or "bronze" when it was propagated, perhaps through trade contacts, from Taiwan through the Phillipines into Kalimantan and Sulawesi. In the Philippines and Sulawesi, it came to mean "gold", and it is under this meaning that it was dispersed throughout East Indonesia, and also in West Indonesia where, after having been mostly superceded by reflexes of *emas, it is only still attested on small islands to the west of Sumatra (Simalur, Sikhule), and in the interior of Kalimantan (Busang, Penihing). I reported on this in the publication of 1994.

The SECOND of the two developments alluded to above was Maluku's opening to the world market, initiating the integration of Maluku into a maritime network spanning the whole of Indonesia, based on the spice-trade which brought cloves from Ternate, Tidore, Mutir, Makian and Bacan, and nutmeg from Banda to the region of the Strait of Malacca, from where it was transported further to India and China. Although Malay-speakers (for the greater part apparently negrito Orang Lauts rather than nuclear Malays themselves) can be shown to have played a major role in the trade, it seems to have been Malukuans (more especially Central Malukuans) who originally did the first lap of the transportation and thus actually initiated the trade. The reasons for this assumption are too lengthy to include here, I reported them in my 1994 publication. Originally, the spices seem to have been transported by Malukuans to somewhere in North Sulawesi or the Sangir-Talaud Islands, from where they were further transported by Malay speakers to the Strait of Malacca and from here to India and China. Malays themselves probably did not start sailing all the way to Maluku until the 6th or 7th centuries.

Two things seem to be important for us here in connection with the latter development: FIRST, it brought first iron and onyx beads (the latter originating from India) to North Halmahera, where they have been uncovered in recent archaeological diggings led by Peter Bellwood in layers dated to the 2nd century BC. This agrees beautifully with my own dating of first introduction of cloves to India and China in the 2nd century BC based on historiographic sources (in my 1994 publication), and thus gives us the date of the second of the two metal-age heralding developments. Trade is always characterized by movement in two, mutually opposed directions: when values move from A to B, then equivalent values must move from B to A. With the appearance of cloves from North Halmahera in India, and onyx beads from India in North Halmahera, the existence of trade between the two points on the globe since the second century BC can thus be said to be established.

SECOND, the contact with Old Malay shipping apparently led to the introduction of the Old Malayan canted rectangular sail (replacing the more original triangular two-boom sail of the Austronesians) in East Indonesia. From here it was furthered into Oceania till as far as the Bismarcks and Nissan Island in North PNG, and to the Luisiade Islands in South PNG., together with the use of double outrigger boats (otherwise outrigger boats of Oceania, just like those of South India, are single outrigger boats). This seems to reflect contacts carried out by Malukuans. Linguistic data exist, suggesting that North Halmaherans sailed through the Torres Straits to the Gulf of Papua. This seems to have been the last instances of contact between Maluku and Melanesia (other than Irian Jaya), having taken place at a time when Maluku was already tied as integral and active part of the Pan-Indonesian maritime trade-routes system. As for Irian Jaya, Central Malukuans apparently introduced the words for metals to the Cendrawasih Bay area. Sometime later, Tidore (North Maluku) spread its suzerainty over part of Vogelkop, Cendrawasih Bay and Sarmi Coast. Earliest recorded West Indonesian contact with Irian Jaya dates to the 14th century AD, when the Onin region is mentioned in Prapanca's Nagarakrtagama as a vassal territory of the emperor of Majapahit. The name of the territory is given as Wanin (Old Javanese -wa- regularly corresponds to -o- of the modern language).

Before we however proceed to the final, post-contact period, there are still two points which I believe are of importance for evaluating the culture relationship between Maluku and Melanesia, dating from the pre-contact period.

FIRST, is the character or form of trade contacts within the respective regions. Maritime contact and trade is a fundamental feature of Austronesian culture. The nature of trade activities and contacts kept up by an Austronesian community is therefore an important moment in the characterization of its tradition and culture. In Melanesia, particularly Papua-New Guinea, a particular ritualized form of trade developed in pre-contact times, in which one or two ethnic communities specialize in carrying out periodic trading expeditions to and between other communities involved in the tradition, in which particular items of either utilitarian or symbolic value are contributed or received by each respective community. In the Gulf of Papua, it is carried out by the Motu and is known as the hiri. In Kiriwina (a.k.a. Trobriands) it is known as the kula, being the first to have been described (in Borislav Malinowski's "Argonauts of the Western Pacific"). Similar ritualized trading ring organizations are or were operative practically around the entire PNG coast.

It seems very likely to me, that comparable trade rings existed in East Indonesia, and remnants or relicts may perhaps still be traceable in some places in Southeast Maluku and East Nusatenggara or on the Irian Jaya coast. However, since Maluku became involved in the Pan-Indonesian maritime trade network, the prevailing form of trade was that of exchange of wares for metal money (silver) at markets or emporiums (originally, "leaves" of silver were cut to the needed size to meet the concrete payment to be made. At what date coinage entered the market I cannot tell off hand). In Malay, which was the prevailing language on the trade routes since apparently already the 2nd century BC, the word originally used for money silver was salaka (a word of Indic origin). In the 3rd or 4th century AD, during the period of Funan hegemony on the South China Sea, it was superceded by pirak / perak apparently originating from Khmer prak "silver". The word for silver which became widespread in Maluku and even in languages of the Cendrawasih Bay, are reflexes of salaka, thus testifying not only to the antiquity of Maluku involvement in the trade, but also to the antiquity of the development of the more sophisticated silver-mediated form of trade in the region. It was introduced here earlier than in the Philippines, where the respective word for money/silver generally reflects pirak (it is possible, however, that gold as money-bullion was circulating in some areas before Malay speakers started sailing through the Philippines in the 3rd-4th century AD).

SECOND, is the characterization of the degree of social stratification and political consolidation of the communities. In Micronesia and Polynesia, social stratification in pre-contact society was quite advanced, and had in several places already attained the sophistication of more or less preliminary stages of development of a despotic state. The Kingdom of Hawaii probably represented the most advanced development in pre-contact Oceania. In Melanesia, however, relatively egalitarian societies with at best rather marginal degrees of stratification prevailed.

In East Indonesia, particularly in Nusatenggara, developments similar to those in Polynesia probably date back quite far. The involvement of Maluku in the Pan-Indonesian maritime trade network, however, occasioned a new type of development here, which was quite different from that in any part of Oceania. This was a development which echoed the specific Old Malayan form of state, which I have found convenient to call the thalassocratic state (using a term introduced, I believe, by Oliver Wolter for the specific form of the state of Sri Vijaya). I shall not clutter up a lot of space with a description of that form of statecraft, but shall only concentrate on one aspect of its manifestation, which was echoed throughout the maritime trade network, and even maintained by the Dutch East India Company, leading even in the later period of liberal economic policy to a condition, described (I believe by Wertheim, but please correct me if wrong) as the dualistic system of social and economic development. It is the juxtapositioning of, on one side, culturally fairly sophisticated, wealthy, even mondane trading city-states of a despotic type, and of, on the other side, socially and economically relatively unsophisticated, more-or-less egalitarian societies being in some contact with or dependency to those first mentioned. This situation of sometimes quite extreme developmental contrast all over Indonesia has persisted well into the period of post-colonial independence, and still remains a source of sometimes quite serious social and economical antagonisms in all parts of the country to this day.

Now, let us enter the CONTACT period. Above, I refered to the development of metal-age culture and inclusion into the Pan-Indonesian maritime trade network as the first essential culturally alienating development in the relationship between Maluku and Melanesia. The beginnings of the contact and colonial period ushered in the SECOND ESSENTIAL CULTURALLY ALIENATING DEVELOPMENT.

The central and determining factor here is that the principal colonial power in Melanesia was Britain, and in Maluku, just as in the rest of Indonesia, it was the Netherlands.

Both colonial administrations had a pronounced integrative effect within the respective regions, and already this conditions the alienation of the two regions from each other, because separate inward consolidation leads to more uniformity within, and to a more uniform contrast with whatever is outside. Due to the fact, that Indonesia had already reached a relatively advanced state of integrative development because of the Pan-Indonesian maritime trade network in the pre-colonial period, it also ended up with a more tightly integrated condition after colonial rule, compared with Melanesia. The greatly divergent degrees of integration at the beginning seem also to be the reason for the totally different kind of result: The uniting language or language-dialects of Melanesia are pidginized forms of English (the language of the colonial administrator), i.e. Tok Pisin and Bislama. In Indonesia, where such a language already existed in the pre-colonial period, that language, Malay, was retained, only having become even more extensively appliable throughout the country. In this, Maluku played a crucial role in those further steps of development of Malay as unifying language of communication which characterized the colonial period. But this is best inspected in some more detail when discussing the position of Maluku within Indonesia. Although some languages in Melanesia had already attained some regional significance as language of communication (e.g. Motu in Southern PNG), they did not have a chance to suddenly cover the entire area of Melanesia encompassed by administration by the same administrator.


In the economic and cultural development too, the integrative processes operating during the colonial and also post-colonial period have tied the East Indonesian communities more tightly within an overall Indonesian network. Thus for instance Ambonese (who have a relatvely high average degree of education by Indonesian standards), but also other East Indonesians can be found all over the country (that is, also e.g. in West Indonesia) as teachers, university lecturers, publicists, doctors, and in other intellectual occupations with "socially helpful" functions. A comparable exchange across the border to Melanesia, of course, does not exist.

In SUMMARY, therefore, one can in my opinion discern three large periods:

  1. the earliest prehistoric period with its to-and-fros of developments having either converging or diverging effects;
  2. the metal-age period in the West, leading to a first fundamental divergence between the two regions; and
  3. the contact and colonial period, which seems to have hammered the final nail into the coffin of likely perspectives for Maluku-Melanesian integration.

But apart from all the divergences, there remains of course one basic feature, which unites the people of Melanesia and that of Maluku, and actually also all the people of the world, and that is that they are all parts of mankind, of humanity. They are all human. And insofar any two human communities may form an alliance with each other, this perspective is of course essentially also open to Malukuans and Melanesians with each other. It is somewhat sad though, that this has had to be confirmed by some recent developments, which neither critics nor propounders of a Maluku-Melanesian alliance could be happy about.

Some days ago, I read in my daily newspaper that PNG was being troubled by problems of political instability, and that there had even been two changes of cabinet within one day. At the same time, Port Moresby seems to be having difficulties, coping with a guerilla in Bougainville. For someone like me, who still remembers the situation in Indonesia during the 1950-s, this was so very very familiar, that I almost felt relieved, that Papuans are not better (or worse) than Javanese or other peoples in the world. It is certainly not exactly a most joyous occasion, to draw the obvious message from this last development, which is that getting Maluku out of Jakarta's jurisdiction into a Melanesian one can hardly be expected to guarantee fundamentally better conditions, except of course if the Malukuans were to be made boss and to administrate Melanesia like Jakarta does rest Indonesia. It is very doubtful though, that the Melanesians would greet such a development.

© Waruno Mahdi, 1997

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