Maluku Islands

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The Maluku Islands (also known as the Moluccas, Moluccan Islands, the Spice Islands) are an archipelago in Indonesia, and part of the larger Maritime Southeast Asia region. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. Geographically they are located east of Sulawesi (Celebes), west of New Guinea, and north of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the "Spice Islands" by the Chinese and Europeans, but this term has also been applied to other islands outside Indonesia.

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,[1] many island populations, especially in the Banda Islands, were killed off in the 17th century during the Spice wars. A second influx of Austronesian immigrants began in the early 20th century under the Dutch and continues 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) regencies were split off as a separate province, so the islands are now divided between two provinces, Maluku and North Maluku. Between 1999 and 2002 they were known for religious conflicts between Muslims and Christians but have been peaceful in recent years.

Spice Islands most commonly refers to the Maluku Islands and often also to the small volcanic Banda Islands, once the only source of mace and nutmeg. This nickname should not be confused with Grenada, which is commonly known as the Island of Spice. The term has also been used less commonly in reference to other islands known for their spice production, notably the Zanzibar Archipelago off East Africa consisting of Unguja, Mafia and Pemba. These islands were formerly the independent state of Zanzibar but now form a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania.

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