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Sulawesi (formerly known as Celebes, English pronunciation: /səˈliːbiːz/) is one of the four larger Sunda Islands of Indonesia and is situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands. In Indonesia, only Sumatra, Borneo, and Papua are larger in territory, and only Java and Sumatra have larger Indonesian populations.



The Portuguese were the first to refer to Sulawesi as 'Celebes'. The meaning of this name is unclear. One theory claims it means "hard to reach" due to rough waters full of currents and streams surrounding the island. The modern name 'Sulawesi' possibly comes from the words sula ('island') and besi ('iron') and may refer to the historical export of iron from the rich Lake Matano iron deposits.[1]


According to plate reconstructions, the island is believed to have been formed by the collision of terranes from the Asian Plate (forming the west and southwest), from the Australian Plate (forming the southeast and Banggai), and from island arcs previously in the Pacific (forming the north and east peninsulas).[2]


The settlement of South Sulawesi by modern humans is dated to c. 30,000 BC on the basis of radiocarbon dates obtained from rock shelters in Maros.[3] No earlier evidence of human occupation has been found, but the island almost certainly formed part of the land bridge used for the settlement of Australia and New Guinea by at least 40,000 BC[4] There is no evidence of Homo erectus having reached Sulawesi; crude stone tools first discovered in 1947 on the right bank of the Walennae river at Berru, which were thought to date to the Pleistocene on the basis of their association with vertebrate fossils,[5] are now thought to date to perhaps 50,000 BC[6]

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