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Malay Archipelago

MALAY ARCHIPELAGO 1 (variously called Malaysia, the Indian Archipelago, the East Indies, Indonesia, Insulinde), the largest group of islands in the world, lying south-east of Asia and north and north-west of Australia. It includes the Sunda Islands, the Moluccas, New Guinea, and the Philippine Islands, but excludes the Andaman-Nicobar group. The equator passes through the middle of the archipelago; it successively cuts Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes and Halmahera, four of the most important islands. A. R. Wallace (who includes the Solomon Islands as well as New Guinea in the group) points out that the archipelago "includes two islands larger than Great Britain; and in one of them, Borneo, the whole of the British Isles might be set down, and would be surrounded by a sea of forests. Sumatra is about equal in extent to Great Britain; Java, Luzon, and Celebes are each about the size of Ireland. Eighteen more islands are on the average as large as Jamaica; and more than a hundred are as large as the Isle of Wight."


Estimated Population.

Sunda Islands .... Moluccas, with Celebes New Guinea .... Philippine Islands .

459,578 "5.334 312,329 115,026 32,632,400 3,000,000 800,000 7,635,400 The islands of the archipelago nearly all present bold and picturesque profiles against the horizon, and at the same time the character of the scenery varies from island to island and even from district to district. The mountains are arranged for the most part in lines running either from north-west to south-east or from west to east. In Sumatra and in the islands between Sumatra and Borneo the former direction is distinctly marked, and the latter is equally noticeable in Java and the other southern islands. The mountains of Borneo, however, rise rather in short ridges and clusters. Nothing in the general physiognomy of the islands is more remarkable than the number and distribution of the volcanoes, active or extinct. Running south-east through Sumatra, east through Java and the southern islands to Timor, curving north through the Moluccas, and again north, from the end of Celebes through the whole line of the Philippines, they follow a line roughly resembling a horseshoe narrowed towards the point. The loftiest mountain in the archipelago would appear to be Kinabalu in Borneo (13,698 ft.). An important fact in the physical geography of the archipelago is that Java, Bali, Sumatra and Borneo, and the lesser islands between them 1 For more detailed information respecting the several islands and groups of the archipelago, see the separate articles BORNEO ; JAVA; PHILIPPINE ISLANDS; SUMATRA, etc.

and the Asiatic mainland, all rest on a great submerged bank, nowhere more than 100 fathoms below sea-level, which may be considered a continuation of the continent; while to the east the depth of the sea has been found at various places to be from 1000 to 2500 fathoms. As the value of this fact was particularly emphasized by Wallace, the limit of the shallow water, which is found in the narrow but deep channel between Bali and Lombok, and strikes north to the east of Borneo, has received the name of " Wallace's Line." The Philippines on the other hand, " are almost surrounded by deep sea, but are connected with Borneo by means of two narrow submarine banks " (A. R. Wallace, Island Life). The archipelago, in effect, is divided between two great regions, the Asiatic and the Australian, and the fact is evident in various branches of its geography zoological, botanical, and even human. It is believed that there was a landconnexion between Asia and Australia in the later part of the Secondary epoch, and that the Australian continent, when separated, became divided into islands before the south-eastern part of the Asiatic did so.

The most notable fact in the geological history of the archipelago is the discovery in Java of the fossil remains of Pithecanthropus erectus, a form intermediate between the higher apes and man. In its structure and cranial capacity it is entitled to a higher place in the zoological scale than any anthropoid, for it almost certainly walked erect; and, on the other hand, in its intellectual powers it must have been much below the lowest of the human race at present known. The strata in which it was found belong to the Miocene or Upper Pliocene. Among the rocks of economic importance may be mentioned granite of numerous kinds, syenite, serpentine, porphyry, marble, sandstones and marls. Coal is worked in Sumatra, Borneo and Labuan. Diamonds are obtained in Borneo, garnets in Sumatra, Bachian and Timor, and topazes in Bachian, antimony in Borneo and the Philippines; lead in Sumatra, Borneo and the Philippines; copper and malachite in the Philippines, Timor, Borneo and Sumatra; and, most important of all, tin in Banka, Billiton and Singkep. Iron is pretty frequent in various forms. gold is not uncommon in the older ranges of Sumatra, Banka, Celebes, Bachian, Timor and Borneo. Manganese could be readily worked in Timor, where it lies in the Carboniferous Limestone. platinum is found in Landak and other parts of Borneo. Petroleum is a valuable product of Sumatra and Java, and is also found in Borneo.

Climate, Flora, Fauna. The most striking general fact as regards climate in the archipelago is that wherever that part of the south-east monsoon which has passed over Australia strikes, the climate is comparatively dry, and the vegetation is less luxuriant. The east end of Java, e.g. has a less rainfall than the west; the distribution of the rain on the north coast is quite different from that on the south, and a similar difference is observed between the east and the west of Celebes. The northwest monsoon, beginning in October and lasting till March, brings the principal rainy season in the archipelago.

Most of the islands of the archipelago belong to the great equatorial forest-belt. In its economical aspect the vegetation, whether natural or cultivated, is of prime interest. The list of fruits is very extensive, though few of them are widely known. These, however, include the orange, mango, mangosteen, shaddock, guava and the durian. The variety of food-plants is equally notable. Not only are rice and maize, sugar and coffee, among the widely cultivated crops, but the coco-nut, the bread-fruit, the banana and plantain, the sugar-palm, the tea-plant, the sago-palm, the coco-tree, the ground-nut, the yam, the cassava, and others besides, are of practical importance. The cultivation of sugar and coffee owes its development mainly to the Dutch ; and to them also is due the introduction of tea. They have greatly encouraged the cultivation of the coco-nut among the natives, and it flourishes, especially in the coast districts, in almost every island in their territory. The oil is largely employed in native cookery. Pepper, nutmegs and cloves were long the objects of the most important branch of Dutch commerce; and gutta-percha, camphor, dammar, benzoin and other forest products have a place among the exports.

To the naturalist the Malay Archipelago is a region of the highest interest ; and from an early period it has attracted the attention of explorers of the first rank. The physical division between the Asiatic and Australian regions is clearly reflected in the botany and zoology. The flora of the Asiatic islands (thus distinguished) " is a special development of that prevailing from the Himalayas to the Malay Peninsula and south China. Farther east this flora intermingles with that of Australia " (F. H. H. Guillemard, Australasia). Similarly, in the Asiatic islands are found the great mammals of the continent the elephant, tiger, rhinoceros.

t. JU> . , i B Aftf Wi g *FS %! , -A <!' SIMMs - sJO* 3?|t: _3 pr~ ""^SSsSaLl fK*fI -''n= / '"- - / v;-t'. l N| ; \ \ s^Sfilix /Hi-'-'l r^pftil/ , ! i s |fk" anthropoid ape, etc., which are wanting in the Australian region, with which the eastern part of the archipelago is associated. (For details concerning flora and fauna, see separate articles, especially JAVA.)

Inhabitants. The majority of the native inhabitants of the Malay Archipelago belong to two races, the Malays and the Melanesians (Papuans). As regards the present racial distribution, the view accepted by many anthropologists, following A. H. Keane, is that the Negritos, still found in the Philippines, are the true aborigines of Indo-China and western Malaysia, while the Melanesians, probably their kinsmen, were the earliest occupants of eastern Malaysia and western Polynesia. At some date long anterior to history it is supposed that Indo-China was occupied first by a fair Caucasian people and later by a yellow Mongolian race. From these two have come all the peoples other than Negrito or Papuan found to-day from the Malay Peninsula to the farthest islands of Polynesia. The Malay Archipelago was thus first invaded by the Caucasians, who eventually passed eastward and are to-day represented in the Malay Archipelago only by the Mentawi islanders. They were followed by an immigration of Mongol-Caucasic peoples with a preponderance of Caucasic blood the Indonesians of some, the pre-Malays of other writers who are to-day represented in the archipelago by such peoples as the Dyaks of Borneo and the Battas of Sumatra. At a far later date, probably almost within historic times, the true Malay race, acombination of Mongol and Caucasic elements, came into existence and overran the archipelago, in time becoming the dominant race. A Hindu strain is evident in Java and others of the western islands; Moors and Arabs (that is, as the names are used in the archipelago, Mahommedans from various countries between Arabia and India) are found more or less amalgamated with many of the Malay peoples; and the Chinese form, from an economical point of view, one of the most important sections of the community in many of the more civilized districts. Chinese have been established in the archipelago from a very early date: the first Dutch invaders found them settled at Jacatra; and many of them, as, for instance, the colony of Ternate, have taken so kindly to their new home that they have acquired Malay to the disuse of their native tongue. Chinese tombs are among the objects that strike the traveller's attention at Amboyna and other ancient settlements.

There is a vast field for philological explorations in the archipelago. Of the great number of distinct languages known to exist, few have been studied scientifically. The most widely distributed is the Malay, which has not only been diffused by the Malays themselves throughout the coast regions of the various islands, but, owing partly to the readiness with which it can be learned, has become the common medium between the Europeans and the natives. The most cultivated of the native tongues is the Javanese, and it is spoken by a greater number of people than any of the others. To it Sundanese stands in the relation that Low German holds to High German, and the Madurese in the relation of a strongly individualized dialect. Among the other languages which have been reduced to writing and grammatically analysed are the Balinese, closely connected with the Javanese, the Batta (with its dialect the Toba), the Dyak and the Macassarese. Alfurese, a vague term meaning in the mouths of the natives little else than non-Mahommedan, has been more particularly applied by Dutch philologists to the native speech of certain tribes in Celebes. The commercial activity of the Buginese causes their language to be fairly widely spoken little, however, by Europeans.

Political Division. Politically the whole of the archipelago, except British North Borneo, etc. (see BORNEO), part of Timor (Portuguese), New Guinea east of the 14151 meridian (British and German), and the Philippine Islands, belongs to the Netherlands. The Philippine Islands which had been for several centuries a Spanish possession, passed in 1898 by conquest to the United States of America. For these several political units see the separate articles; a general view, however, is here given of the government, economic conditions, etc., of the Dutch possessions, which the Dutch call Nederlandsch-Indie.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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