The Maluku Islands or the Moluccas (/məˈlʌkəz/) are an archipelago within Indonesia. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. Geographically they are located east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north and east of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the Spice Islands by the Chinese and Europeans, but this term has also been applied to other islands outside Indonesia, such as Zanzibar.
They have been known as the Spice Islands due to the nutmeg, mace and cloves that were originally found only there, and the presence of these sparked colonial interest from Europe in the 16th century.
Though originally Melanesian, many island populations, especially in the Banda Islands, were killed off in the 17th century during the Spice Wars. A second influx of Austronesian immigrants began in the early twentieth century under the Dutch and continues in the Indonesian era.
The Maluku Islands formed a single province since Indonesian independence until 1999, when it was split into two provinces. A new province, North Maluku, incorporates the area between Morotai and Sula, with the arc of islands from Buru and Seram to Wetar remaining within the existing Maluku Province. North Maluku is predominantly Muslim and its capital is Sofifi on Halmahera island. Maluku province has a larger Christian population and its capital is Ambon.
Between 1999 and 2002, conflict between Muslims and Christians killed thousands and displaced half a million people.