Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes (/ˈsɛlɪbiːz, sɪˈliːbiːz/),
is an island in Indonesia. One of the four Greater Sunda Islands, and
the world's eleventh-largest island, it is situated east of Borneo,
west of the Maluku Islands, and south of
Mindanao and the Sulu
Archipelago. Within Indonesia, only Sumatra,
Borneo and Papua are
larger in territory, and only
Sumatra have larger
The landmass of
Sulawesi includes four peninsulas: the northern
Minahasa Peninsula; the East Peninsula; the South Peninsula; and the
Southeast Peninsula. Three gulfs separate these peninsulas: the Gulf
of Tomini between the northern
Minahasa and East peninsulas; the Tolo
Gulf between the East and Southeast peninsulas; and the Bone Gulf
between the South and Southeast peninsulas. The Strait of Makassar
runs along the western side of the island and separates the island
2.1 Minor islands
5.1 Central Sulawesi
8 Flora and fauna
8.5 Freshwater fish
8.6 Freshwater crustaceans and snails
10 See also
14 External links
Sulawesi possibly comes from the words sula ("island") and
besi ("iron") and may refer to the historical export of iron from the
Lake Matano iron deposits. The name came into common
use in English following Indonesian independence.
The name Celebes was originally given to the island by Portuguese
explorers. While its direct translation is unclear, it may be
considered a Portuguese rendering of the native name
Sulawesi is the world's eleventh-largest island, covering
an area of 174,600 km2 (67,413 sq mi). The central part
of the island is ruggedly mountainous, such that the island's
peninsulas have traditionally been remote from each other, with better
connections by sea than by road. The three bays that divide Sulawesi's
peninsulas are, from north to south, the Tomini, the Tolo and the
Boni.[n 1] These separate the Minahassa or Northern Peninsula,
the East Peninsula, the Southeast Peninsula and the South Peninsula.
The Strait of
Makassar runs along the western side of the
island. The island is surrounded by
Borneo to the west, by
Philippines to the north, by Maluku to the east, and by
Timor to the south.
Selayar Islands make up a peninsula stretching southwards from
Sulawesi into the
Flores Sea are administratively part of
Sangihe Islands and
Talaud Islands stretch northward
from the northeastern tip of Sulawesi, while
Buton Island and its
neighbours lie off its southeast peninsula, the
Togian Islands are in
the Gulf of Tomini, and
Peleng Island and Banggai Islands form a
Sulawesi and Maluku. All the above-mentioned islands,
and many smaller ones are administratively part of Sulawesi's six
Mount Tongkoko is a volcano in North Sulawesi
The island slopes up from the shores of the deep seas surrounding the
island to a high, mostly non-volcanic, mountainous interior. Active
volcanoes are found in the northern Minahassa Peninsula, stretching
north to the Sangihe Islands. The northern peninsula contains several
active volcanoes such as Mount Lokon, Mount Awu,
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) and from the
Australian Plate (forming the
southeast and Banggai), with island arcs previously in the Pacific
(forming the north and east peninsulas). Because of its
several tectonic origins, various faults scar the land and as a result
the island is prone to earthquakes.
Sulawesi, in contrast to most of the other islands in the
biogeographical region of Wallacea, is not truly oceanic, but a
composite island at the centre of the Asia-
zone. Parts of the island were formerly attached to either
the Asian or Australian continental margin and became separated from
these areas by vicariant processes. In the west, the
opening of the
Makassar Strait separated
West Sulawesi from Sundaland
Eocene c. 45 Mya. In the east, the traditional view
of collisions of multiple micro-continental fragments sliced from New
Guinea with an active volcanic margin in
West Sulawesi at different
times since the
Early Miocene c. 20 Mya has recently been replaced by
the hypothesis that extensional fragmentation has followed a single
Miocene collision of
West Sulawesi with the Sula Spur, the western end
of an ancient folded belt of Variscan origin in the Late
See also: Prehistoric Indonesia
Before October 2014, the settlement of
South Sulawesi by modern humans
had been dated to c. 30,000 BC on the basis of radiocarbon dates
obtained from rock shelters in Maros. No earlier evidence
of human occupation had at that point been found, but the island
almost certainly formed part of the land bridge used for the
New Guinea by at least 40,000
BCE. 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, Indonesia, which were thought to date
to the Pleistocene on the basis of their association with vertebrate
fossils, are now thought to date to perhaps 50,000
Following Peter Bellwood's model of a southward migration of
Austronesian-speaking farmers (AN), radiocarbon dates from
Maros suggest a date in the mid-second millennium BC for the
arrival of a group from east
Borneo speaking a Proto-South Sulawesi
language (PSS). Initial settlement was probably around the mouth of
the Sa'dan river, on the northwest coast of the peninsula, although
the south coast has also been suggested.
Subsequent migrations across the mountainous landscape resulted in the
geographical isolation of PSS speakers and the evolution of their
languages into the eight families of the
South Sulawesi language
group. If each group can be said to have a homeland, that
Bugis – today the most numerous group – was around lakes
Témpé and Sidénréng in the Walennaé depression. Here for some
2,000 years lived the linguistic group that would become the modern
Bugis; the archaic name of this group (which is preserved in other
local languages) was Ugiq. Despite the fact that today they are
closely linked with the Makasar, the closest linguistic neighbours of
Bugis are the Toraja.
Bugis society was most likely organised into chiefdoms. Some
anthropologists have speculated these chiefdoms would have warred and,
in times of peace, exchanged women with each other. Further, they have
speculated that personal security would have been negligible and
head-hunting an established cultural practice. The political economy
would have been a mixture of hunting and gathering and swidden or
shifting agriculture. Speculative planting of wet rice may have taken
place along the margins of the lakes and rivers.
Megalithic stone in Central Sulawesi
In Central Sulawesi, there are over 400 granite megaliths, which
various archaeological studies have dated to be from 3000 BC to AD
1300. They vary in size from a few centimetres to around 4.5 metres
(15 ft). The original purpose of the megaliths is unknown. About
30 of the megaliths represent human forms. Other megaliths are in form
of large pots (Kalamba) and stone plates
Hand stencils in Pettakere Cave in Maros
In October 2014 it was announced that cave paintings in
Maros had been
dated as being about 40,000 years old. Dr Maxime Aubert, of Griffith
University in Queensland, Australia, said that the minimum age for the
outline of a hand was 39,900 years old, which made it "the oldest hand
stencil in the world" and added, "Next to it is a pig that has a
minimum age of 35,400 years old, and this is one of the oldest
figurative depictions in the world, if not the oldest
'Padjogé' dancers in Maros, Sulawesi, in the 1870s
Local chief (1872)
Starting in the 13th century, access to prestige trade goods and to
sources of iron started to alter long-standing cultural patterns and
to permit ambitious individuals to build larger political units. It is
not known why these two ingredients appeared together; one was perhaps
the product of the other.
In 1367, several identified polities, located on the island, were
mentioned in the Javanese manuscript
Nagarakretagama dated from the
Majapahit period. Canto 14 mentioned polities including Gowa,
Luwu and Banggai. It seems that by the 14th century,
polities in the island were connected in an archipelagic maritime
trading network, centered in the
Majapahit port in East Java. By 1400,
a number of nascent agricultural principalities had arisen in the
western Cenrana valley, as well as on the south coast and on the west
coast near modern Parepare.
The first Europeans to visit the island (which they believed to be an
archipelago due to its contorted shape) were the Portuguese sailors
Simão de Abreu, in 1523, and Gomes de Sequeira (among others) in
1525, sent from the Moluccas in search of gold, which the islands had
the reputation of producing. A Portuguese base
was installed in
Makassar in the first decades of the 16th century,
lasting until 1665, when it was taken by the Dutch. The Dutch had
Sulawesi in 1605 and were quickly followed by the English,
who established a factory in Makassar. From 1660, the
Dutch were at war with Gowa, the major
Makassar west coast power. In
1669, Admiral Speelman forced the ruler, Sultan Hasanuddin, to sign
the Treaty of Bongaya, which handed control of trade to the Dutch East
India Company. The Dutch were aided in their conquest by the Bugis
warlord Arung Palakka, ruler of the
Bugis kingdom of Bone. The Dutch
built a fort at Ujung Pandang, while Arung Palakka became the regional
overlord and Bone the dominant kingdom. Political and cultural
development seems to have slowed as a result of the status quo.
In 1905 the entire island became part of the Dutch state colony of the
Netherlands East Indies until Japanese occupation in the Second World
War. During the Indonesian National Revolution, the Dutch Captain
'Turk' Westerling led campaigns in which hundreds, maybe thousands
died during the
South Sulawesi Campaign. Following the
transfer of sovereignty in December 1949,
Sulawesi became part of the
federal United States of Indonesia, which in 1950 became absorbed into
the unitary Republic of Indonesia.
Toraja burial site. Tau-tau, the statue representing the buried
people, can be seen in niches on the cliff.
The Portuguese were rumoured to have a fort in Parigi in
1555. The Kaili were an important group based in the Palu
valley and related to the Toraja. Scholars relate[citation
needed] that their control swayed under Ternate and Makassar, but
this might have been a decision by the Dutch to give their vassals a
chance to govern a difficult group. Padbruge commented that in the
1700s Kaili numbers were significant and a highly militant society. In
the 1850s a war erupted between the Kaili groups, including the
Banawa, in which the Dutch decided to intervene. A complex conflict
also involving the Sulu Island pirates and probably Wyndham (a British
merchant who commented on being involved in arms dealing to the area
in this period and causing a row).
In the late 19th century the Sarasins journeyed through the Palu
valley as part of a major initiative to bring the Kaili under Dutch
rule. Some very surprising and interesting photographs were taken of
shamans called Tadulako. Further Christian religious missions entered
the area to make one of the most detailed ethnographic studies in the
early 20th century. A Swede by the name of Walter Kaudern
later studied much of the literature and produced a synthesis. Erskine
Downs in the 1950s produced a summary of Kruyts and Andrianis work:
"The religion of the Bare'e-Speaking Toradja of Central Celebes,"
which is invaluable for English-speaking researchers. One of the most
recent publications is "When the bones are left," a study of the
material culture of central Sulawesi, offering extensive
analysis. Also worthy of study are the brilliant works of Monnig
Atkinson on the Wana shamans who live in the Mori area.
The 2000 census population of the provinces of
14,946,488, about 7.25% of Indonesia's total population.
By the 2010 Census the total had reached 17,371,782, and the latest
official estimate (for January 2014) is 18,455,058. The largest city
Islam is the majority religion in Sulawesi. The conversion of the
lowlands of the south western peninsula (South Sulawesi) to Islam
occurred in the early 17th century. The kingdom of
Luwu in the Gulf of
Bone was the first to accept Islam in February 1605; the Makassar
kingdom of Goa-Talloq, centred on the modern-day city of Makassar,
followed suit in September. However, the
Gorontalo and the
Mongondow peoples of the northern peninsula largely converted to Islam
only in the 19th century. Most Muslims are Sunnis.
Sulawesi by province (2010) 
South Sulawesi (46.4%) Central Sulawesi
Southeast Sulawesi (13%) North Sulawesi
West Sulawesi (6.6%)
Christians form a substantial minority on the island. According to the
demographer Toby Alice Volkman, 17% of Sulawesi's population is
Protestant and less than 2% is Roman Catholic. Christians are
concentrated on the tip of the northern peninsula around the city of
Manado, which is inhabited by the Minahasa, a predominantly Protestant
people, and the northernmost Sangir and Talaud Islands. The Toraja
people of Tana
Central Sulawesi have largely converted to
Christianity since Indonesia's independence. There are also
substantial numbers of Christians around
Lake Poso in Central
Sulawesi, among the
Pamona speaking peoples of Central Sulawesi, and
Though most people identify themselves as Muslims or Christians, they
often subscribe to local beliefs and deities as well. It is not
uncommon for both groups to make offerings to local gods, goddesses,
Smaller communities of Buddhists and Hindus are also found on
Sulawesi, usually among the Chinese, Balinese and Indian communities.
Main article: Languages of Sulawesi
The island is subdivided into six provinces: Gorontalo, West Sulawesi,
South Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi,
Southeast Sulawesi and North
West Sulawesi is a new province, created in 2004 from part
of South Sulawesi. The largest cities on the island are Makassar,
Manado, Palu, Kendari, Bitung, Gorontalo,
Palopo and Baubau.
Densityper km2 (2014)
Province containing the city
Population (2010 Census)
Flora and fauna
The colorful bark of Eucalyptus deglupta
Sulawesi is part of Wallacea, meaning that it has a mix of both
Indomalayan and Australasian species that reached the island by
crossing deep-water oceanic barriers. The
flora includes one native eucalypt, E. deglupta. There are 8 national
parks on the island, of which 4 are mostly marine. The parks with the
largest terrestrial area are Bogani Nani Wartabone with 2,871 km2
Lore Lindu National Park
Lore Lindu National Park with 2,290 km2.
Park which protects a rich coral ecosystem has been proposed as an
UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Early in the Pleistocene,
Sulawesi had a dwarf elephant and a dwarf
form of Stegodon, (an elephant relative, S. sompoensis);
later both were replaced by larger forms. A
giant suid, Celebochoerus, was also formerly present. It
is thought that many of the migrants to
Sulawesi arrived via the
Sulawesi in turn served as a way station for
migrants to Flores. A Pleistocene faunal turnover is
recognised, with the competitive displacement of several indigenous
tarsiers by more recently arriving ones and by
Celebochoerus by other
medium-sized herbivores like the babirusa, anoa and Celebes warty
Sulawesi babirusa is endemic to Sulawesi.
There are 127 known extant native mammalian species in Sulawesi. A
large percentage, 62% (79 species) are endemic, meaning that they are
found nowhere else in the world. The largest of these are the two
species of anoa or dwarf buffalo. Other artiodactyl species inhabiting
Sulawesi are the warty pig and the babirusas, which are aberrant pigs.
The only native carnivoran is the
Sulawesi palm civet
(Asian palm and Malayan civets have been introduced).
Primates present include a number of tarsiers (T. fuscus, Dian's,
Gursky's, Jatna's, Wallace's, the Lariang and pygmy tarsiers) as well
as macaques (Heck's, the booted, crested black, Gorontalo, moor, and
Tonkean macaques). While most of Sulawesi's mammals are placental and
have Asian relatives, several species of cuscus, arboreal marsupials
of Australasian origin, are also present (
Ailurops ursinus and
Sulawesi is home to a large number of endemic rodent genera. Murid
rodent genera endemic to
Sulawesi and immediately adjacent islands
(such as the Togian Islands,
Buton Island, and Muna Island) are
Bunomys, Echiothrix, Margaretamys,
Tateomys as well as
the single-species genera Eropeplus, Hyorhinomys, Melasmothrix,
Paruromys and Sommeromys. Endemic sciurid genera are
Rubrisciurus and Waiomys.
While over 20 bat species are present on Sulawesi, only a portion of
these are endemic:
Scotophilus celebensis and the
megabats Acerodon celebensis, Boneia bidens, Dobsonia exoleta,
Harpyionycteris celebensis, Neopteryx frosti,
Rousettus celebensis and
Several endemic shrews, the
Sulawesi tiny shrew
Sulawesi tiny shrew and
Sulawesi white-handed shrew, are found on the island.
The endemic ornate lorikeet
By contrast, Sulawesian bird species tend to be found on other nearby
islands as well, such as Borneo; 31% of Sulawesi's birds are found
nowhere else. One true endemic is the fiery-browed starling. Another
endemic bird (also found on small neighboring islands) is the largely
ground-dwelling, chicken-sized maleo, a megapode which uses hot sand
close to the island's volcanic vents to incubate its eggs. Others
include the flightless snoring rail, the
Sulawesi masked owl, the
Sulawesi myna and the grosbeak starling. There are around 350 known
bird species in Sulawesi. An international partnership of
conservationists, donors, and local people have formed the Alliance
for Tompotika Conservation, in an effort to raise
awareness and protect the nesting grounds of these birds on the
central-eastern arm of the island.
The larger reptiles of
Sulawesi are not endemic and include
reticulated and Burmese pythons, king cobras, water monitors, sailfin
lizards, saltwater crocodiles and
green sea turtles. An extinct giant tortoise, Megalochelys atlas, was
formerly present, but disappeared by 840,000 years ago, possibly
because of the arrival of humans. Similarly,
komodo dragons or similar lizards appear to have inhabited the island,
being among its apex predators. The smaller snakes of
Sulawesi include endemic forms such as
Calamaria boesemani, Calamaria
Calamaria nuchalis, Cyclotyphlops,
Ptyas dipsas, Rabdion grovesi,
Tropidolaemus laticinctus and Typhlops
conradi. Similarly, the smaller lizards of
Sulawesi include nonendemic
species such as Bronchocela jubata,
Dibamus novaeguineae and Gekko
smithii, as well as endemic species such as
Lipinia infralineolata and
The amphibians of
Sulawesi include the endemic frogs Hylarana
celebensis, H. macrops, H. mocquardi, Ingerophrynus celebensis,
Limnonectes arathooni, L. larvaepartus, L. microtympanum, Occidozyga
celebensis, O. semipalmata and O. tompotika as well as the endemic
Rhacophorus edentulus and R. georgii.
15 species of viviparous halfbeaks are endemic to Sulawesi,
Nomorhamphus (depicted), Dermogenys orientalis, D. vogti,
and Tondanichthys kottelati.
Sulawesi is home to more than 70 freshwater fish species,
including more than 55 endemics. Among these are the genus
Nomorhamphus, a species flock of viviparous halfbeaks containing 12
species that only are found on
Sulawesi (others are from the
Philippines). In addition to Nomorhamphus, the
majority of Sulawesi's freshwater fish species are ricefishes, gobies
Glossogobius and Mugilogobius) and Telmatherinid sail-fin
silversides. The last family is almost entirely restricted
to Sulawesi, especially the Malili Lake system, consisting of Matano
and Towuti, and the small Lontoa (Wawantoa), Mahalona and
Masapi. Another unusual endemic is Lagusia micracanthus
from rivers in South Sulawesi, which is the sole member of its genus
and among the smallest grunters. The gudgeon Bostrychus
microphthalmus from the
Maros Karst is the only described species of
cave-adapted fish from Sulawesi, but an apparently
undescribed species from the same region and genus also
Freshwater crustaceans and snails
Orange delight shrimp (
Caridina loehae) from Sulawesi.
Many species of
Caridina freshwater shrimp and parathelphusid
freshwater crabs (Migmathelphusa, Nautilothelphusa, Parathelphusa,
Sundathelphusa and Syntripsa) are endemic to
Sulawesi. Several of these species have become
very popular in the aquarium hobby, and since most are restricted to a
single lake system, they are potentially vulnerable to habitat loss
and overexploitation. There are also several
endemic cave-adapted shrimp and crabs, especially in the
This includes Cancrocaeca xenomorpha, which has been called the "most
highly cave-adapted species of crab known in the world".
Tylomelania of freshwater snails is also endemic to
Sulawesi, with the majority of the species restricted to
Lake Poso and
the Malili Lake system.
The mimic octopus is also present in the waters of Sulawesi's coast.
Sulawesi island was recently the subject of an Ecoregional
Conservation Assessment, coordinated by The Nature Conservancy.
Detailed reports about the vegetation of the island are
available. The assessment produced a detailed and
annotated list of 'conservation portfolio' sites. This information was
widely distributed to local government agencies and nongovernmental
organizations. Detailed conservation priorities have also been
outlined in a recent publication.
The lowland forests on the island have mostly been
removed. Because of the relative geological youth of the
island and its dramatic and sharp topography, the lowland areas are
naturally limited in their extent. The past decade has seen dramatic
conversion of this rare and endangered habitat. The island also
possesses one of the largest outcrops of serpentine soil in the world,
which support an unusual and large community of specialized plant
species. Overall, the flora and fauna of this unique center of global
biodiversity is very poorly documented and understood and remains
The islands of Pepaya, Mas and Raja islands, located in Sumalata
North Gorontalo Regency
North Gorontalo Regency (about 30 km from Saronde
Island), have been named a nature reserve since the Dutch colonial
time in 1936. Four of the only seven species of turtles can be found
in the islands, the world's best turtle habitat. They include Penyu
Hijau (Chelonia midas), Penyu Sisik (Eretmochelys imbricata), Penyu
Tempayan (Caretta caretta) and Penyu Belimbing (Dermochelys coriacea).
In 2011, the habitat was threatened by human activities such as
illegal poaching and fish bombing activities; furthermore, a lot of
coral reefs, which represent a source of food for turtles, have been
Bunaken Island seen from
Manado Tua island.
The largest environmental issue in
Sulawesi is deforestation. In 2007,
scientists found that 80 percent of Sulawesi's forest had been lost or
degraded, especially centered in the lowlands and the
mangroves. Forests have been felled for logging and large
agricultural projects. Loss of forest has resulted in many of
Sulawesi's endemic species becoming endangered. In addition, 99
percent of Sulawesi's wetlands have been lost or damaged.
Other environmental threats included bushmeat hunting and
The island of
Sulawesi has six national parks and nineteen nature
reserves. In addition,
Sulawesi has three marine protected areas. Many
of Sulawesi's parks are threatened by logging, mining, and
deforestation for agriculture.
List of islands of Indonesia
HMS Celebes (1806)
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^ Kahin (1952), p. 145
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Sulawesi travel guide from Wikivoyage
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