The History of the Spice Trade

The volcano Gunung Api
history images of banda
Pieter van de Broke

These tiny islands lost in the middle of the Banda Sea were the destination of Asian spice traders and merchants for over 4,000 years. In the ancient city of Terqa beside the Euphrates River archeologists unearthed in a ceramic vessel dated at 1,750 BC containing clove buds that could only have come from these islands.

Opposite Luxor in southern Egypt wall paintings from the temple of Queen Hatshepsut show details of ships returning from histories first documented spice trading mission in 1493 BC.

in 77 AD Pliny feared that the export of gold and silver for spices would bankrupt the Roman empire when he stated, "by the lowest reckoning India, China, and the Arabian states take from our empire over 100 million sesterces a year (for spices)."

In the 1400's the Banda Islands came to the attention of the European powers. With their arrival thousands of years of peaceful trade ended as the Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Dutch sought and fought among themselves to establish a monopoly on the lucrative spice trade.

In the end it was the Dutch who prevailed, but not before brutally decimating the population of these islands. It was only when the French succeeded in transplanting nutmeg and clove trees that these islands began the slow slide into their present peaceful obscurity.

Evidence of this long history is to be seen everywhere on Banda Niera in the architecture and copious historic remains that still dominate the traditions and culture. For more detailed information feel free to contact Abba Rizal » at the Mutiara Guest House, Banda Neira.