KEI ISLANDS [Ke, Key, Kii, etc.; native, Ewab], a group in the Dutch East Indies, in the residency of Amboyna, between 5 and 6 5' S. and 131 50' and 133 15' E., and consisting of four parts: Nuhu-Iut or Great Kei, Roa or Little Kei, the Tayanda, and the Kur group. Great Kei differs physically in every respect from the other groups. It is of Tertiary formation (Miocene), and has a chain of volcanic elevations along the axis, reaching a height of 2600 ft. Its area is 290 sq. m., the total land area of the group being 572 sq. m. All the other islands are of post-Tertiary formation and of level surface. The group has submarine connexion, under relatively shallow sea, with the Timorlaut group to the south-west and the chain of islands extending north-west towards Ceram; deep water separates it on the east from the Aru Islands and on the west from the inner islands of the Banda Sea. Among the products are coco-nuts, sago, fish, trepang, timber, copra, maize, yams and tobacco. The population is about 23,000, of whom 14,900 are pagans, and 8300 Mahommedans.
The inhabitants are of three types. There is the true Kei Islander, a Polynesian by his height and black or brown wavy hair, with a complexion between the Papuan black and the Malay yellow. There is the pure Papuan, who has been largely merged in the Kei type. Thirdly, there are the immigrant Malays. These (distinguished by the use of a special language and by the profession of Mohammedanism) are descendants of natives of the Banda islands who fled eastward before the encroachments of the Dutch. The pagans have rude statues of deities and places of sacrifice indicated by flat-topped cairns. The Kei Islanders are skilful in carving and celebrated boat-builders.
See C. M. Kan, " Onze geographische kennis der Keij-Epanden," in Tijdschrift Aardrijkskundig Genoolschap (1887); Martin, "Die Kei-inseln u. ihr Verhaltniss zur Australisch-Asiatischen Grenzlinie," ibid, part vii. (1890); W. R. van Hoevell, " De Kei-Eilanden," in Tijdschr. Batavian. Gen. (1889) ; " Verslagen van de wetenschappelijke opnemingen en onderzoekingen op de Keij-Eilanden " (18891890), by Planten and Wertheim (1893), with map and ethnographical atlas of the south-western and south-eastern islands by Pleyte; Langen, Die Key- oder Kii-Inseln (Vienna, 1902).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)