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An aerial view of Rangiroa, French PolynesiaAn aerial view of Rangiroa, French PolynesiaOceania is the name given to the group of countries located in the South Pacific Ocean. It is made up of Australia—itself an island continent—New Zealand, Papua New Guinea (together known as Australasia) and thousands of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The Pacific islands of the Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian groups are the remains of volcanoes that have erupted beneath the ocean. In many cases they are atolls, coral reefs in the shape of circles: all that is left above water after the extinct volcanoes have vanished beneath the waves. 

A map of OceaniaA map of Oceania
A Maori woman with traditional tatoosA Maori woman with traditional tatoos


The first islands of Oceania to be settled were New Guinea and Australia. People first crossed the sea from Southeast Asia between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago. The settlement of the other South Pacific islands did not begin until about 5000 years ago. Polynesians from the South Pacific, the Maori, first settled New Zealand about 750 years ago. Europeans arrived in Australia in the late 18th century and New Zealand in the 19th century.

More languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea than in any other country: 830. Most of these languages have fewer than 1000 speakers and are spoken by a single tribe.

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