Bali remained obscure in the West for so long because of its lack of spices, fragrant woods, ivory and natural harbors, and because of its natural orientation toward the deep straits and treacherous tidal currents and reefs of the south rather than the tranquil Java Sea. These factors tended to isolate Bali from the elaborate international trade, which swirled around it.
Bali was therefore allowed to evolve uninterrupted artistic and social traditions far more independently than other settlements in the region. But the island soon attracted notice because of its position at the beginning of the Lesser Sunda Islands. In the early 16th century, navigators started labeling the small island east of Java Major "Java Minor". Not long thereafter the name "Bally" began to appear on maps.