History and Culture of the Solomons

The people of the Solomon Islands share a diverse history and cultural background. The population is mostly of Melanesian descent but is also made up of Polynesians, Micronesians, Chinese and Europeans.

Ancient peoples are thought to have slowly dispersed through South East Asia and reached parts of the Solomons around 30,000 years ago. Early Melanesians, Lapita people and Polynesians moved in many thousands of years later.

It was a Spanish explorer, Alvoro de Mendana, who was the first European to officially sight the islands and named them after King Solomon's gold. By 1900 the Solomon Islands were a British protectorate but eventually gained full independence in 1978.

War history is a very obvious and unique feature of the islands. The relics from Japanese and American Allied forces attract many visitors to historical sites.

For 6 months between 1942 and 1943, the Solomon Islands was the setting for almost constant combat, typically referred to as the Battle of Guadalcanal and said to be a turning point in the war.

Today in the capital of Honiara, a blend of ancient rituals and modern technology can be seen but the majority of Solomon Islanders still live in traditional rural villages, utilising traditional skills, knowledge and kastom.

Kastom, or custom is at the core of traditional beliefs and many aspects village social, political and economic life, passed down through the generations by ancestral spirits. Community and family ties are very important.

In the past the islands have experienced tribal warfare, headhunting and cannibalism. Traditional shrines are common throughout the country and often contain human skulls and artifacts as offerings.

Art, music, dance and storytelling are of paramount importance. The different groups on the islands express their cultures in various forms, from beautiful carvings and finely woven baskets to shell jewellery and the shell money that is still in use on some islands today.