Geological History

The Marshall Islands first emerged 70 million years ago when volcanic cores erupted at presently extinct hotspots south of the equator. Around 40 million years ago, while the Pacific plate continued to move in a northwesterly direction, the volcanoes began to subside.

The islands were initially high, volcanic islands, but over the course of the ensuing 40 million years, they slowly sank back into the ocean from which they came, propelled by their own weight. Microscopic organisms called polyps, which thrive in warm waters with high salinity, salvaged the remaining rim of what was once a volcano to the extend that, with botanical seeds transported by birds and ocean currents, 3,000 years ago small islets had taken form on the reefs, capable of sustaining life. These islets formed circular rings encircling sheltered lagoons, namely our beautiful atolls we today can share with visitors. For more on the formation of atolls, click here.

Marshall Islands Colonization

The earliest radiocarbon tests from archaeological sites in the Marshalls generally cluster around the 2,000 years before present mark. This evidence suggests that the first signature of human occupation or activity in these islands occurred in and around the late B.C. or early A.D. period. Ancient Marshallese folklore in addition to archeological findings suggest northwestern to southern settlement of the area. Throughout, the ancients gradually adapted to the harsh conditions of their new surroundings, forging ingenious tools and accommodations from such materials as clam shells, sharks teeth, and the indispensable palm tree.

Western And Eastern Contact

The Marshall Islands possess a unique colonial history characterized by early contact with a number of colonial regimes. The significant effects of this colonial history have contributed much to the shaping of the modern-day Marshall Islands. For example, today Christianity and other forms of Western religion are an important part of Marshallese society.

For a brief synopsis of the history of the Marshall Islands from the time of “first contact” with Spanish sailors in the 16th century up to the declaration of the Marshalls as an independent Republic in 1986 (present day status), click here.