Melanesia: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Map of Melanesia, surrounded by a pink line

Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia. The name Melanesia (from Greek: μέλας black, νῆσος island) literally means "black islands".

The term was first used by Jules Dumont d'Urville in 1832 to denote an ethnic and geographical grouping of islands distinct from Polynesia and Micronesia.



The term Melanesia can be used in either an anthropological or a geographical context. In the former, the term refers to one of the three regions of Oceania whose pre-colonial population generally belongs to one ethno-cultural family as a result of centuries of maritime migrations.

The geographic conception of Melanesia is used as a reference to the area where political, ethnic, and linguistic distinctions are not relevant.[1]

The term is also present in geopolitics, where the Melanesian Spearhead Group Preferential Trade Agreement is a regional trade treaty involving the states of Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.


The original inhabitants of the group of islands now named Melanesia were likely the ancestors of the present-day Papuan-speaking people. They appear to have occupied these islands as far east as the main islands in the Solomon Islands, including Makira and possibly the smaller islands farther to the east.[2]

It was particularly along the north coast of New Guinea and in the islands north and east of New Guinea that the Austronesian people came into contact with these preexisting populations of Papuan-speaking peoples, probably around 4,000 years ago. There was probably a long period of interaction that resulted in many complex changes in genetics, languages, and culture.[3] It is possible that from this area a very small group of people (speaking an Austronesian language) departed to the east to become the forebears of the Polynesian people.[4] This finding is, however, contradicted by a study published by Temple University finding that Polynesians and Micronesians have little genetic relation to Melanesians; instead, they found significant distinctions between groups living within the Melanesian islands.[5] Genome scans show Polynesians have little genetic relationship to Melanesians.[6]


Formerly, in most parts of the area, leaders were chosen not through inheritance, but based on their personality. Key qualities were the candidates' power of persuasion, choosing high-placed women as sexual partners, and other physical qualities such as combat skills.[7]

Today, however, because of the Western influences of colonisation, the island countries of the southwest Pacific have similar, European-style governments, and leadership is thus taken up by democratically elected officials. Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are constitutional monarchies. Parliaments in the region use English or French, a legacy of colonial rule. Traditional leaders in some islands still have considerable social power.

Associated Islands

The following islands and groups of islands since the 19th century have been considered part of Melanesia:

Norfolk Island, listed above, and Rotuma in Fiji are culturally and ethnologically considered to be outliers of Polynesia, and are only considered Melanesian in a geographical context.

Based on ethnological factors, some of the islands to the west of the Moluccas, such as Flores, Sumba, Timor, Halmahera, Alor, and Pantar can also be considered to be part of Melanesia, although most people in this area do not make use of the term.

See also


  1. ^ Diamond, Jared and Ernst Mayr (2001). The Birds of Northern Melanesia: Speciation, Ecology, and Biogeography. N.Y.: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514170-9.  
  2. ^ Dunn, Michael, Angela Terrill, Ger Reesink, Robert A. Foley, Stephen C. Levinson (2005). "Structural Phylogenetics and the Reconstruction of Ancient Language History". Science 309: 2072–2075. doi:10.1126/science.1114615. PMID 16179483.  
  3. ^ Spriggs, Matthew (1997). The Island Melanesians. Blackwell. ISBN 0631167277.  
  4. ^ Kayser, Manfred, Silke Brauer, Gunter Weiss, Peter A. Underhill, Lutz Rower, Wulf Schiefenhövel and Mark Stoneking (2000). "The Melanesian Origin of Polynesian Y chromosomes". Current Biology 10: 1237–1246. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(01)00029-X.  
  5. ^
  6. ^ Friedlaender, Jonathan; Friedlaender JS, Friedlaender FR, Reed FA, Kidd KK, Kidd JR, et al. (2008-01-18). "The Genetic Structure of Pacific Islanders". Public Library of Science (Philadelphia, PA 19122: Temple University) PLoS Genet (4(1): e19 doi=10.1371/journal.pgen.0040019). Retrieved 2008-01-18.  
  7. ^ Tradional Peoples of the World by National Geographic
  8. ^

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Melanesia is a grouping of nations used to refer to:


These countries are part of Oceania

This article is a disambiguation page. If you arrived here by following a link from another page you can help by correcting it, so that it points to the appropriate disambiguated page.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MELANESIA, one of the three great divisions of the oceanic islands in the central and western Pacific. It embraces the Bismarck Archipelago, N.E. of New Guinea, the Louisiade, Solomon, Santa Cruz, New Hebrides and Loyalty islands, New Caledonia, Fiji and intervening small groups. The name (Gr. µXas, black, and vijvos, island) is derived from the black colour of the prevailing native race, the Papuan and its allied tribes. Many of these differ widely from the parent race, but all the Melanesian peoples have certain common characteristics which distinguish them sharply from the inhabitants of Polynesia and Micronesia. Their civilization is lower. The Melanesians are mostly "negroid," nearly black, with crisp, curly hair elaborately dressed; their women hold a much lower position than among the Polynesians; their institutions, social, political and religious, are simpler, their manners ruder; they have few or no traditions; cannibalism, in different degrees, is almost universal; but their artistic skill and taste, as with some of the lower African negroes, are remarkable, and they are amenable to discipline and fair treatment. Their languages, which exhibit considerable difference among themselves, have features which mark them off clearly from the Polynesian, notwithstanding certain fundamental relations with the latter.

See R. H. Codrington, The Melanesian Languages (Oxford, 1885) and The Melanesians (Oxford, 1891); the articles Papuans and Pacific Ocean; also those on the several island-groups, &c.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:





From Ancient Greek μέλας (melas), dark) + νῆσος (nēsos), island), referring to the skin color of the inhabitants.


Proper noun


  1. Part of Oceania, made up of New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.
    • 2004, Mary N. MacDonald, “Thinking and teaching with the indigenous traditions of Melanesia”, Beyond primitivism: indigenous religious traditions and modernity, Routledge, page 315: 
      My job, then, is that of a cultural and religious broker of sorts, co-opting Melanesia to serve as a stimulus to thought in Le Moyne classrooms.


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|A map showing where Melanesia is.]] Melanesia is a region of islands in Oceania.

It stretches from the Western Side of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, to the Arafura Sea, northeast of Australia. Its name means "black islands".

following islands and groups of islands since the 19th century have been considered part of Melanesia:

Islands whose long-established inhabitants are of mixed ancestry who do not necessarily self-identify as Melanesian:

Some of the islands to the west of New Guinea such as Halmahera, Alor, and Pantar can also be considered to be part of Melanesia, although people in this area do not make use of the term.

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