Historically, this island exported sandalwood and was known as Sandalwood Island.

Before colonization by western Europeans in the 1500s, Sumba was inhabited by Australian and Polynesian people. In 1522 the first ships from Europe arrived, and by 1866 Sumba belonged to the Dutch East Indies, although the island did not come under real Dutch administration until the twentieth century. Jesuits opened a mission in Laura, West Sumba in 1866.

Despite contact with western cultures, Sumba is one of the few places in the world in which megalithic burials, are used as a ‘living tradition’ to inter prominent individuals when they die. Burial in megaliths is a practice that was used in many parts of the world during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, but has survived to this day in Sumba, and has raised significant interest from scholars. At Anakalang, for instance, quadrangular adzes have been unearthed. Another long-lasting tradition is the sometimes lethal game of pasola, in which teams of often several hundred horse-riders fight with spears.

 

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