from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sulawesi Political Map
Sulawesi Political Map
Waters Celebes Sea , Moluccas Sea , Banda Sea , Floresee , Strait of Makassar
Archipelago Great Sunda Islands
Geographical location 2 ° 8 ′  S , 120 ° 17 ′  E Coordinates: 2 ° 8 ′  S , 120 ° 17 ′  E
Location of Sulawesi
surface 189,216 km²
Highest elevation Rantemario
3478  m
Residents 16,000,000 (2005)
85 inhabitants / km²
main place Makassar (largest place)
Topographic map
Topographic map

Sulawesi (formerly Celebes ) is an Indonesian island between Borneo and New Guinea with an area of ​​189,216 km².

The population is concentrated in the southwest around Makassar and in the north around Manado , Kota Gorontalo , Poso, Palu and Luwuk .


The island is of volcanic origin and therefore strongly indented and very irregular in shape; their shape is reminiscent of an elephant or octopus . The Makassar Strait in the west of Sulawesi leads from the Celebes Sea in the north into the Java Sea . To the west is Borneo , in the east the archipelago of the Moluccas , in the south of Flores , in the northeast are the Sangihe- and the Talaud Islands .

Sulawesi is cut in the northern part by the equator , which means heavy rainfall all year round for the central mountainous region. The result is a lush vegetation with dense rain and high cloud forest , in which indigenous groups live. The island's lakes include the Poso Lake in central Sulawesi, as well as the Malili Lakes, consisting of the larger lakes Matano and Towuti and the smaller lakes Lontoa , Mahalona and Masapi in the southeast of the island.

Offshore islands

On the northeastern tip of Sulawesi is the island of Siau with the layered volcano Gunung Karangetang , which erupted in late July 2006.

In the south extends an island chain named after the main island Salajar . Off the southeast coast are the Buton Islands with Buton , Muna , Kabaena and Wowoni. The Togian Islands lie between two arms of Sulawesi. The Banggai Islands with Peleng are off the east coast.

Administrative division

The island is divided into the provinces:


Due to its location, the extensive coastline and the extensive shapes of its foothills, Sulawesi is in the area of ​​influence of various wind currents, which bring rain to the island at different times. This fact and the mountainous nature of the island create a climate that is different for many regions.

While the precipitation in the mountains brings up to 2000 mm of rain per year, the southern parts of the islands of Buton and Muna are significantly drier with sometimes only 200 mm per year.



Stone blades of unknown origin prove that Sulawesi was inhabited by humans over 100,000 years ago. They could be from Homo erectus , Homo floresiensis, or the Denisova human . The settlement of South Sulawesi by modern humans is from around 30,000 BC. BC based on the radiocarbon dates of Abris in Maros . Pictures of hand outlines in Leang Timpuseng have been estimated to be 39,900 years old. According to one theory, the Sulawesi was part of the land bridge for the colonization of Australia and New Guinea around 40,000 BC. However, recent research suggests a route across the Lesser Sunda Islands further south is more likely.

According to Bellwood's model of a southward migration of Austronesian farmers, radiocarbon dates from caves in Maros suggest that a group from eastern Borneo who spoke a Proto-South Sulawesian language (PSS) may have been around the middle of the second millennium BC. BC Sulawesi reached. The mouth of the Sa'dan River on the western coast of the Southwest Peninsula was likely first populated, although the southern coast is also an option . Subsequent hikes across the mountainous landscape led to the geographical isolation of the PSS speakers and the splitting of their language into the eight families of the South Sulawesi language group.

Megalith in Central Sulawesi

In the Bada Valley (Central Sulawesi) megaliths and hollowed-out stones from the Bronze Age have been found. These megaliths mostly represent men (75%). They have neither arms nor legs, but genitals are shown. It is still unclear whether they are the direct precursors of today's megaliths or whether there were several “stone ages”.

The area of ​​origin of the Bugis - today the largest group - was around the Tempe and Sidénréng lakes in the Walennaé Depression. This is where the linguistic group that became the modern Bugis speakers lived for about 2000 years; the archaic name of this group, preserved in other local languages, was Ugiq. The Toraja are linguistically the closest neighbors of the Bugis. The Bugis Society was before 1200 BC. Organized in small chieftains who waged war against each other. Headhunting was an established cultural practice. The economy was a mixture of hunters and gatherers as well as slash and burn or shifting cultivation. Speculation is the planting of wet rice along the banks of lakes and rivers.

Rice granary from South Sulawesi. Today it is exhibited in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in
Cologne .

First empires

From the 13th century onwards, access to prestigious trade goods and iron deposits changed long-standing cultural patterns. It was possible to build larger political units. From 1400 onwards, a number of predominantly agricultural principalities emerged in the western Cenrana Valley as well as on the south coast and on the west coast near today's Pare-Pare . Sulawesi has been Islamized since the 15th century when Islam took root in Indonesia. Before that, Buddhism and Hinduism were predominant, but they were heavily steeped in local traditions. Islam also mixed with traditional beliefs.

The arrival of the Europeans

The first Europeans to visit the island (they believed it was an archipelago because of its confusing shape) were Portuguese navigators who came from the Moluccas in 1525 in search of gold. The Dutch arrived in 1605, followed by the English who opened a trading post in Makassar. From 1660 the Netherlands were at war with Gowa , the then most important Makassar power on the west coast. In 1669, Admiral Speelman forced the ruler of Gowa Sultan Hasanuddin to hand over control of the trade to the Dutch East India Company by signing the Treaty of Bongaya . The Dutch were aided in their conquest by the Bugis under warlord Arung Palakka , ruler of the Bugis Empire of Bone . The Dutch built a fortress in Ujung Pandang (now Makassar ) while Arung Palakka became the regional ruler and Bone became the ruling empire. However, political and cultural development seemed to have slowed down as a result of the status quo. In 1905 the entire island became part of the Dutch colony of the Dutch East Indies and remained so until the Japanese occupation in World War II . In 1949, after the Indonesian national revolution in which the notorious Dutch captain "Turks" - Westerling allegedly murdered between 3,000 and 4,000 people in Sulawesi, Sulawesi became part of the independent United States of Indonesia, which in 1945 became part of the Republic of Indonesia converted.

Languages ​​Sulawesis


The population, around 16 million (as of 2005), consists of numerous ethnic groups. Well known are the Macassars and Bugis from the southwestern peninsula, both once feared pirates , the Torajas in the central highlands, whose burial customs have attracted tourist interest, and the Minahasa around Manado. The languages ​​and traditional cultures of the individual population groups often differ completely from one another due to the relative mutual isolation that has existed for centuries due to the relief, which is strongly dissected by mountain ridges.

Muslims make up the majority with 80 percent, 19 percent are Christians (17 percent of them belong to different Protestant faiths, two percent are Catholic). Islam is widespread everywhere except for a few mountain regions in Sulawesi.

The languages ​​spoken on the island are shown on the map to the right.


Sulawesi has been Islamized since the 15th century when Islam took root in Indonesia. Previously, u. a. Buddhism and Hinduism predominated, but they were heavily steeped in their own traditions. Islam also mixed with traditional beliefs. In the meantime, however, the majority of Muslims in Sulawesi practice an Orthodox Islam based on the Arab model. With 28% the Protestants in Central Sulawesi are the second largest and in North Sulawesi they even form the largest religious group in the region with 60%.


Sulawesi's economic development varies greatly from province to province. All six provinces of the island have only one thing in common: the majority of raw materials and products are exported directly to Java. The traditional handicraft of Sulawesi is silk weaving. Silk sarongs from Sulawesi have a special pattern and are also very popular in Bali and Java. However, the main economic drivers are agriculture and fishing. About 7% of all coffee exports from Indonesia come from Sulawesi. In the Banggai region in central Sulawesi there are nickel deposits , in southeast Sulawesi on the island of Buton asphalt , in Gorontalo oil and natural gas production.


The Toraja area north of Makassar, the central highlands - especially for jungle tours -, the diving areas near Palu, the area around the island of Bunaken north of Manado, Lembeh Street, the Banggai Islands (diving time October to March) south of Luwuk and the partly natural Togian Islands , which have been a national park since October 2004 .

The Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park is located on the Minahassa peninsula . It has been named the primary wildlife conservation site in Sulawesi by the Wildlife Conservation Society because of the abundance of endemic species.

The protected area Tangkoko Duasaudara in the extreme northeast is of particular interest , as it is relatively easy to access from the diving island of Bunaken or Manado after a two-hour drive and some endemic and particularly attractive animal species can be found here in a well-mixed secondary forest-like ambience. These include hornbills , Hammer chickens , two Kuskusarten which Sulawesi- Tarsier and Wildlife hordes of Celebes Crested Macaque or -makaken. The in Lore Lindu National Park -based megalithic -Culture is remarkable.

After almost 50 years of construction, the Trans-Sulawesi-Highway now stretches almost 2000 km from the island's capital Makassar in the south to Manado through the island.


Sulawesi and its surroundings are geologically relatively young and a complex area, which is caused by the convergence between three lithospheric plates: the northbound Australian plate , the westbound Pacific plate , and the south-south-east drifting Eurasian plate . Due to plate tectonics , Sulawesi is an area at high risk from earthquakes. Several hundred people died in the great earthquake of 2018 and the subsequent tsunami .

Mountains with over 2000 m height occur in each of the six provinces and make the island with 68% mountainous area the most mountainous in Indonesia. The highest mountain is called Rantemario (3440 m) and is located in the province of South Sulawesi . Because of the strong structure of the island, there is hardly a place on the island that is further than 50 km from the sea.

Sulawesi is partly of volcanic origin, but the twelve volcanoes still active today are located exclusively in the northern part of the island. On October 3, 2018, a few days after the great quake, the Soputan volcano hurled ash over six kilometers into the air. However, a connection between the two events is considered very unlikely.

Flora and fauna

Crested macaque in the Tangkoko Conservation Area
Celebes earfish ( Marosatherina ladigesi )

The flora and fauna of Sulawesi has some special features. In its geological history, the island was neither connected to the Asian mainland nor to the Australian continent. Nevertheless, the island has been inhabited by some of the larger mammal species, including six species of monkeys ( booted macaque , Gorontalo Macaque , tail macaque , moor macaque , Celebes Macaque and tonkean macaque ), the two Kleinrinderfeld lowland Anoa ( Bubalus depressicornis ) and mountain Anoa ( Bubalus quarlesi ) and the pigs deer boar ( Babyrousa celebensis ) and Sulawesi pustular pig ( Sus celebensis ). Eight of the 13 recent species of tarsier also occur only on Sulawesi. A genus of squirrels found only on Sulawesi are the Sulawesi dwarf squirrels ( Prosciurillus ). The marsupials are represented by the bear cuscus ( Ailurops ursinus ), the great bear cuscus ( A. furvus ) and the Sulawesi cuscus ( Strigocuscus celebensis ). The maned deer ( Rusa timorensis ), which is also found on Sulawesi, may have been introduced by humans in earlier times.

Many naturalists, above all Wallace and Weber , have done a great job exploring the island. They discovered that Sulawesi lies exactly in the middle of the Asian and Australian flora and fauna, between the Wallace line and the Weber line. This fact gave rise to flora and fauna that are endemic in many cases. 12 species of birds and a total of 42 bird species are endemic, many of which are on the Red List of Endangered Species .

The reptiles are represented with almost 120 species, four turtles , 45 lizards and 69 snakes .

The island's freshwater fauna is more diverse than any other East Indonesian island. There are a total of 226 species of fish from 112 genera and 56 families. Primary freshwater fish (freshwater fish without salt tolerance) naturally do not exist. The goby are 41 species with the most diverse group of fish, followed by the rice fish with 20 kinds and the Sulawesi rainbow fishes (Telmatherinidae) with 19 species. Together they make up 43% of biodiversity. 65 species are endemic, including all Sulawesi rainbow fish, 17 rice fish and 17 half-beaked fish from the family Zenarchopteridae (genus Nomorhamphus ). 44% of the fish species occur only in fresh water, the rest occur in both fresh water and brackish water . Sometimes they are anadromous or diadromous migratory fish .

The gill slit eels Monopterus albus and Ophisternon bengalense , two flag tails ( Kuhlia ) and the archer fish ( Toxotes jaculatrix ) are found in the lakes and rivers of Sulawesi . Freshwater snails and freshwater crabs ( Parathelphusidae ) are also numerous . Caddis flies (Trichoptera) occur with 95 species.

It has been known since 1998 that the coelacanth, known as living fossils, is not only native to the Comoros, but also 10,000 km further east in the depths of the ocean off North Sulawesi (see Manado coelacanth ( Latimeria menadoensis )).

natural reserve

A number of national parks have been designated on and off Sulawesi:

National park Size km² geographer. Location. International significance
Bantimurung Bulusaraung 480 Sulawesi
Bunaken 890 Sulawesi
Bogani Nani Wartabone 2871 North Sulawesi
Lore Lindu 2290 Central Sulawesi UNESCO biosphere reserve
Rawa Aopa Watumohai 968 Southeast Sulawesi
Taka bone rate 5307 south of Sulawesi
Togian Islands 3620 before Sulawesi
Wakatobi Islands 13900 before Sulawesi

Research projects with German participation are ongoing in various areas of Sulawesi. a. with the University of Göttingen (agricultural biology) and the ZMT Bremen .

In 2012, the Indonesian environmental organization JATAM complained that the mining company PT. According to Ripah Pratama (PT. GRP) in the middle of the Morowali nature reserve, I am promoting the mining of nickel and thereby endangering the endemic flora and fauna.


  • Nigel Barley: Hello Mister Puttymann. ISBN 3-423-12580-2 . (The author, who works for the British Museum in London, paints an authentic picture of the indigenous Toraja people in the form of a novel.)
  • Maria Blechmann-Antweiler: It doesn't work without us - One year with women in Indonesia. LIT publishing house. ISBN 3-8258-5645-3 . (The one year stay in an Indonesian family on the outskirts of Makassar / Ujung Pandang on Sulawesi is vividly described.)
  • Christian H. Freitag: “One time Pisang Epe please!” In: Bürgerbuch Gronau and Epe. 2001/02, pp. 212-213 (about the place Epe on Sulawesi, with the same name as the place Epe, part of Gronau / Westf.)
  • Sydney J. Hickson: A Naturalist in North Celebes. A narrative of travels in Minahassa, the Sangir and Talaud Islands, with notices of the fauna, flora and ethnology of the districts visited. Murray, London 1889. (Reports of scientific expeditions)
  • Martin Kornrumpf: Man and Landscape on Celebes. Supplement 8 to the "Geographische Wochenschrift" ed. by Privatdozent Dr. Irmfried Siedentop, Halle (Saale). Wroclaw, 1935.
  • Bernhard C. Schär: love for the tropics. Swiss natural scientist and Dutch imperialism in Southeast Asia around 1900. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2015, ISBN 978-3-593-50287-8 . (Current historical study of the naturalists Paul and Fritz Sarasin, who explored Sulawesi in seven large expeditions and thus indirectly supported the Dutch conquest of the island.)
  • Markus Strauß: Recording and analysis of ecological spatial units and land use systems in North Sulawesi / Indonesia. In: Klein, Krause (Ed.): Upheaval in Southeast Asia. Abera Verlag Meyer & Co., Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-931567-03-6 .

Web links

Commons : Sulawesi  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Sulawesi: Prehistoric tools pose a puzzle Researchers discover stone blades of unknown origin more than 100,000 years old
  2. Gerrit D. van den Bergh, Bo Li, Adam Brumm, Rainer Grün, Dida Yurnaldi, Mark W. Moore, Iwan Kurniawan, Ruly Setiawan, Fachroel Aziz, Richard G. Roberts, Suyono, Michael Storey, Erick Setiabudi & Michael J. Morwood: Earliest hominin occupation of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Nature 529, 208-211, (January 2016) doi: 10.1038 / nature16448
  3. a b Christopher D. Standish, Marcos García-Diez, Sue O'Connor, Nuno Vasco Oliveira: Hand stencil discoveries at Lene Hara Cave hint at Pleistocene age for the earliest painted art in Timor-Leste , Archaeological Research in Asia, 18. March 2020.
  4. ( Memento of October 2, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Arne Perras in Süddeutsche Zeitung of September 29, 2018: Hundreds of dead in earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia
  6. Indonesia: After tsunami - volcano erupts on Sulawesi island. In: Spiegel Online . October 3, 2018, accessed October 7, 2018 .
  7. Robin Andrews: A Volcano Just Erupted On Indonesia's Tsunami Hit Island. Here's What You Need To Know. In: Forbes . October 3, 2018, accessed October 3, 2018 .
  8. BirdLife International - Important Bird Area-Sulawesi ( Memento from July 31, 2012 in the web archive )
  9. Reptiles Database: Search result "Testudines (tortoises) + Sulawesi"
  10. Reptiles Database: Search result "Sauria (Lizards) + Sulawesi"
  11. Reptiles Database: Search result "Serpentes (snakes) + Sulawesi"
  12. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Miesen, Fabian Droppelmann, Sebastian Hüllen, Renny Kurnia Hadiaty & Fabian Herder: An annotated checklist of the inland fishes of Sulawesi . Bonn Zoological Bulletin 64 (2): 77-106
  13. Petru Banaescu: Zoogeography of Fresh Waters . Page 1373, AULA, Wiesbaden 1990, ISBN 3-89104-480-1