Brought to you by Smarthistory. To the north and east of Australia lie the islands known as Melanesia. These islands form one of the most culturally complex regions of the entire world, with 1,293 languages spoken across the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the island of New Guinea (politically divided into Indonesia’s West Papua Province and the nation of Papua New Guinea). It is also a region of great antiquity. New Guinea has been settled for around 45,000 years, the Solomon Islands for 35,000 years, and Vanuatu and New Caledonia for about 4,000.