Banda Islands

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The Banda Islands (Indonesian: Kepulauan Banda) are a volcanic group of ten small volcanic islands in the Banda Sea, about 140 km (87 mi) south of Seram Island and about 2,000 km (1,243 mi) east of Java, and are part of the Indonesian province of Maluku. The main town and administrative centre is Bandanaira, located on the island of the same name. They rise out of 4–6 km deep ocean and have a total land area of approximately 180 km2. They have a population of about 15,000. Until the mid 19th century the Banda Islands were the world's only source of the spices nutmeg and mace, produced from the nutmeg tree. The islands are also popular destinations for scuba diving and snorkeling.



Pre-European history

Before the arrival of Europeans, Banda had an oligarchic form of government led by orang kaya ('rich men') and the Bandanese had an active and independent role in trade throughout the archipelago.[1] Banda was the world's only source of nutmeg and mace, spices used as flavourings, medicines, preserving agents, that were at the time highly valued in European markets; sold by Arab traders to the Venetians for exorbitant prices. The traders did not divulge the exact location of their source and no European was able to deduce their location.

The first written accounts of Banda are in Suma Oriental, a book written by the Portuguese apothecary Tomé Pires who based in Malacca from 1512 to 1515 but who visited Banda several times. On his first visit, he interviewed the Portuguese and the far more knowledgeable Malay sailors in Malacca. He estimated the early sixteenth century population to be 2500-3000. He reported the Bandanese as being part of an Indonesia-wide trading network and the only native Malukan long-range traders taking cargo to Malacca, although shipments from Banda were also being made by Javanese traders.

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