The name of Indonesia has its roots in two Greek words. Indos meaning Indian and Nesos meaning islands. This is an excellent description about the archipelago, as there are estimated 17,508 islands, some nothing more than tiny outcroppings of barren rocks, others as big as California or Spain and covered in dense tropical jungle. Approximately 6,000 of these islands are inhabited, with five main islands and 30 smaller archipelagos serving as home to the majority of the population. The main islands are Sumatera (473,606 km².), Kalimantan (539,460 km².), Sulawesi (189,216 km².), West Papua (421,981 km².) and Java (132,187 km².).
With more than 200 million people, the islands and people of Indonesia constitutes the fourth most populated nation in the world. Administratively, Indonesia is divided into 30 provinces and special territories.
Evidence of Indonesia’s earliest inhabitants include fossil of Pithecanthropus Erectus (Java Man) which dates back some 500,000 years discovered near the village of Trinil in East Java by Dr. Eugene Dubois in 1809. major migration to Indonesian archipelago began about 3000 years ago as the Dongson Culture of Vietnam and Southern China spread south, bringing with them new Stone, Bronze and Iron Age Cultures as well as the Austronesian language.
Their techniques of irrigated rice culture are still practiced throughout Indonesia today. Other remnants of this culture such as ritual buffalo sacrifice, erection of stone megaliths and ikat weaving are still visible in isolated areas across the archipelago.
Indonesia came under the influence of a mighty Indian civilization through a gradual influx of Indian traders in the first century, when great Hindu and Buddhist empire were beginning to emerge. By the seventh century, the powerful Buddhist kingdom of Sriwijaya was on the rise, and it is thought that during this period the spectacular Borobudur Buddhist Temple was built in Central Java. The thirteenth century saw the dominance of the fabulous Majapahit Hindu Empire in East Java, which united the whole of modern-day of Indonesia and part of the Malay peninsula, ruling for two centuries. Monuments across Java such as the magnificent Prambanan Temple complex near the city of Yogyakarta, the mysterious Penataran temple complex in East Java and the ethereal temples of teh Dieng Plateau are all that remain of the glorious period in Indonesian history.
The first recorded attempt at armed invasion of Indonesia is credited to the notorious Mongol Emperor Kubilai Khan, who was driven back in 1293. Then, Arab traders and merchants laid the foundations for the gradual spread of Islam to the region, which did not replace the Hinduism and Buddhism as the dominant religions until the end of the 16th century. A series of Moslem kingdom sprouted up and spread their roots, but none anticipated the strength and persistence of the powerful European invasions, the Portuguese and then the Dutch, which followed untul the beginning of the second half of the 20th century. The Japanese replaced the Dutch as rulers of Indonesia for a brief period during the world war 2. The surrender of Japanese in 1945 marked the end of the world war in Asia and the start of true independence for Indonesia.