You are on page 1of 1

wpe2B.jpg (79107 bytes) wpe2D.

jpg (86918 bytes) History Some of the islands have been populated continuously for thousands of years and others are still uninhabited today. The earliest known settlement was on Malo Is land, where pottery at least 4000 years old has been unearthed. Prehistoric cult ures in Vanuatu were plagued by inter-tribal warfare. The tribes' rich spiritual life attributed all natural and human-induced bad luck or calamities to sorcery , and they staged lavish festivals to appease the gods. The elaborate burial cha mber of a nobleman buried in AD1265 was excavated on Eretoka Island, off the coa st of Efate, and bears evidence of human sacrifice. Explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quiros laid eyes on the islands in 1606, naming the first one he sighted Nuestra Seora de Austrialia del Espiritu Santo, known today simply as Santo. His lofty - if quixotic - ideal was to found New Jerusalem in t he Pacific on the banks of a river he called the Jordan. But the locals didn't r eally want to be saved and the prevailing south-easterlies continually hindered the Spanish landings. De Quiros wandered off into the Pacific not long after he arrived, presumably believing his failure had condemned the unsuspecting ni-Vanu atu to burn for eternity. Among the Spanish, Portuguese and French explorers who followed was Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who wrote that he had been 'transpo rted to the garden of Eden'. The Englishman Captain James Cook was perhaps less starry-eyed in 1774 when he wrote that the traditional manner of preparing kava 'is as simple as it is disgusting'. Vanuatu's more recent history brims with a panoply of pulpit-pounding priests, s currilous slavers and fumbling colonial bureaucrats. Hot on the heels of the exp lorers came the adventurers to harvest whales and sandalwood and the missionarie s to harvest souls. The Europeans brought epidemics of influenza and measles, ve nereal disease and the slave trade, and the populations of some islands, particu larly in the north, have never recovered. The English and French, often at war w ith each other last century, settled uneasily next to each other in the New Hebr ides, as the archipelago was known until independence, and formed probably the s trangest colonial administration the world has seen. Two declared enemies were s itting in each other's pockets and forced to cooperate in a far-flung outpost of the European empire. They finally settled on a joint mandate early this century with the Anglo-French Protocol (the 'Condominium', sometimes referred to as the 'Pandemonium'), establishing equal influence for both powers.

Related Interests