Sites & cities that bear the name of South Tarawa

South Tarawa

Today in : Kiribati
First trace of activity : ca. 2nd century B.C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : Tarawa Teinainano

Description : South Tarawa (in Gilbertese Tarawa Teinainano) is the capital and hub of the Republic of Kiribati and home to more than half of Kiribati's population. The South Tarawa population centre consists of all the small islets from Betio in the west to Bonriki and Tanaea in the north-east, connected by the South Tarawa main road, with a population of 56,388 as of 2015. Tarawa island is central to Kiribati mythology and culture, but life on South Tarawa was little different to that on other islands before it was selected in 1895 as the seat of colonial government for the Protectorate of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. From 1906 to 1942, Ocean Island was the headquarter of the colony, then Funafuti because of the Japanese occupation of the Gilbert Islands until 1946, when it returned to Tarawa. Betio was the location of the Battle of Tarawa. In Kiribati mythology, Tarawa was the earth when the land, ocean and sky had not been cleaved yet by Nareau the spider. Thus after calling the sky karawa and the ocean marawa, he called the piece of rock that Riiki (another god that Nareau found) had stood upon when he lifted up the sky as, Tarawa. Nareau then created the rest of the islands in Kiribati and also Samoa. Gilbertese arrived on these islands thousands of years ago, and there have been migrations to and from Kiribati since antiquity. Evidence from a range of sources, including carbon dating and DNA analyses, confirms that the exploration of the Pacific included settlement of the Gilbert Islands by around 200 BC. The people of Tungaru (native name of the Gilbertese) are still excellent seafarers, capable of making ocean crossings in locally made vessels using traditional navigation techniques. Thomas Gilbert, captain of the East India Company vessel Charlotte, was the first European to describe Tarawa, arriving on 20 June 1788. He did not land. He named it Matthew Island, after the owner of his ship Charlotte. He named the lagoon, Charlotte Bay. Gilbert's 1788 sketches survive.

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