New Guinea, located just north of Australia, is
the world's second largest island, having become
separated from the Australian mainland when the area now known as the Torres Strait flooded after the last glacial period. The
name Papua has long been
associated with the island. The western half of the island contains the
Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, while the eastern half forms the
mainland of the independent country of Papua New Guinea.
The island of New Guinea
is divided politically into roughly equal halves across a north-south line:
- The western portion of the island located west of 141°E longitude,
(except for a small section of territory to the east of the Fly River
which belongs to Papua New Guinea)
was formerly a Dutch colony and is now incorporated into Indonesia
as the provinces:
- West Papua with Manokwari as its capital.
- Papua with the city of Jayapura as its capital. A
proposal to split this province into Central Papua (Papua Tengah)
and East Papua (Papua Timur) has not been implemented.
(See also Western New Guinea, which refers to the entire
western half of New Guinea)
- The eastern part forms the mainland of Papua New Guinea, which has
been an independent country since 1975. It was formerly a territory
governed by Australia,
consisting of the Trust Territory of New Guinea (formerly German New Guinea) and the Territory of Papua.
The country consists of four regions:
- Papua, consisting of Western, Gulf, Central, Oro (Northern) and Milne Bay provinces.
- Highlands, consisting of Southern Highlands, Enga
Province, Western Highlands, Simbu and Eastern Highlands
consisting of Morobe, Madang,
East Sepik and Sandaun (West
- Islands, consisting of Manus, West New Britain, East New Britain and
New Ireland provinces, and the Bougainville Autonomous Province.
Each province has an
administration headed by a governor who is also a member of the national
The current population of the island of New Guinea is about 7.1 million people.
Many believe human habitation on the island has been dated to as early as
approximately 40,000 B.C., and first settlement possibly dated back to 60,000
years ago has been proposed. The island is presently populated by very nearly a
thousand different tribal groups and a near-equivalent number of separate
languages, which makes New Guinea
the most linguistically diverse area in the world. Ethnologue 14th
edition lists 826 languages of Papua New Guinea and 257 languages of Irian Jaya, total 1073 languages, with 12 languages
overlapping. They fall into one of two groups, the Papuan languages and the Austronesian languages. The separation was not merely linguistic; warfare among societies was a factor in the
evolution of the men's house: separate housing of groups of adult men,
from the single-family houses of the women and children, for mutual protection
against the other groups. Pig-based trade between the groups and pig-based
feasts are a common theme with the other peoples of southeast
Asia and Oceania. Most societies practise agriculture, supplemented by hunting and
The great variety of the
island's indigenous populations are frequently assigned to one of two main
ethnological divisions, based on archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence:
the Papuan and Austronesian
Current evidence indicates
that the Papuans (who constitute the majority of the island's peoples) are
descended from the earliest human inhabitants of New Guinea. These original
inhabitants first arrived in New
Guinea at a time (either side of the Last
Glacial Maximum, approx 21,000 years ago) when the island was connected to the
Australian continent via a land bridge, forming the landmass known as Sahul.
These peoples had made the (shortened) sea-crossing from the islands of Wallacea
(the present Malay Archipelago) by at least 40,000 years ago, subsequent to the
dispersal of peoples from Africa (circa)
50,000 years ago.
ancestral Austronesian peoples are believed to have
arrived considerably later, approximately 3,500 years ago, as part of a gradual
seafaring migration from Southeast Asia, possibly originating in eastern China. Austronesian-speaking peoples colonised
many of the offshore islands to the north and east of New Guinea, such as New Ireland and New Britain, with
settlements also on the coastal fringes of the main island in places.
Human habitation of New Guinea
over tens of thousands of years has led to a great deal of diversity, which was
further increased by the later arrival of the Austronesians
and the more recent history of European and Asian colonisation.
This process has been accelerated by the transmigration programs and conscious
policies enacted by successive Indonesian governments, which over recent
decades has encouraged the resettlement of as many as one million immigrants to
western New Guinea, predominantly from the islands of Java, Madura, and Bali.
Large swathes of New Guinea are
yet to be explored by scientists and anthropologists. The province
of Irian Jaya
or West Papua is home to an estimated 44 uncontacted tribal groups.
Biodiversity and ecology
With some 786,000 km² of
tropical land — less than one-half of one percent (0.5%) of the earth's surface
— New Guinea has an immense ecological value in terms of biodiversity, with
between 5 to 10% of the total species on the planet. This percentage is about
the same amount as the United States
A high percentage of New Guinea's species are endemic (found nowhere else), and
thousands are still unknown to Western science: probably well over 200,000
species of insect, between 11,000 to 20,000 plant species; over 650 resident
bird species, including most species of birds of paradise and bowerbirds,
parrots, and cassowaries; over 400 amphibians; 455 butterfly species;
marsupials and monotremes including Bondegezou,
Goodfellow's Tree-kangaroo, Huon
Tree-kangaroo, Long-beaked Echidna, Tenkile,
Agile Wallaby, Alpine Wallaby, cuscuses and possums; and various other mammal
species. Most of these species are shared, at least in their origin, with the
continent of Australia,
which was until fairly recent geological times, part of the same landmass (see
for an overview). The island is so large that it is considered 'nearly a
continent' in terms of its biological distinctiveness.
Biogeographically, New Guinea
is part of Australasia rather than the Indomalayan
realm, although New Guinea's
flora has many more affinities with Asia than
its fauna, which is overwhelmingly Australian. Botanically, New Guinea considered part of Malesia,
a floristic region that extends from the Malay Peninsula across Indonesia to New
Guinea and the East
The flora of New Guinea is a
mixture of many tropical rainforest species with origins in Asia,
together with typically Australasian flora. Typical southern hemisphere flora
include the conifers
and the rainforest emergents Araucaria
as well as tree ferns
and several species of Eucalyptus.
New Guinea has 284 species and six orders of mammals: (monotremes,
three orders of marsupials, rodents and bats); 195 of the mammal species (69%)
are endemic. New Guinea has 578 species of breeding birds, of which 324 species
are endemic. The island's frogs are one of the most poorly known vertebrate
groups, currently totalling 282 species, but this
number is expected to double or even triple when all species have been
documented. New Guinea
has a rich diversity of coral life and 1,200 species of fish have been found.
Also about 600 species of reef-building coral — the latter equal to 75 percent
of the world’s known total. The entire coral area covers 18 million hectares
off a peninsula in northwest New
According to the WWF, New Guinea
can be divided into twelve terrestrial ecoregions:
- Central Range montane rain forests
- Central Range sub-alpine grasslands
- Huon Peninsula montane rain forests
- New Guinea mangroves
- Northern New Guinea lowland rain and freshwater swamp forests
- Northern New Guinea montane rain forests
- Southeastern Papuan rain forests
- Southern New Guinea freshwater swamp forests
- Southern New Guinea lowland rain forests
- Trans Fly savanna and grasslands
- Vogelkop montane rain forests
- Vogelkop-Aru lowland rain forests
The WWF and Nature Conservancy
divide New Guinea
into five freshwater ecoregions:
- New Guinea North Coast
- New Guinea Central Mountains
- Southwest New Guinea–Trans-Fly Lowland
- Papuan Peninsula
The WWF and Nature Conservancy
identify several marine ecoregions in the seas
bordering New Guinea:
- Bismarck Sea
- Solomon Sea
- Southeast Papua New Guinea
- Gulf of Papua
- Arafura Sea
The first inhabitants of New Guinea
arrived at least around 40,000 years ago, having travelled through the
south-east Asian peninsula. These first inhabitants, from whom the Papuan
people are probably descended, adapted to the range of ecologies and in time
developed one of the earliest known agricultures. Remains of this agricultural
system, in the form of ancient irrigation systems in the highlands of Papua New Guinea,
are being studied by archaeologists. This work is still in its early stages so
there is still uncertainty as to precisely what crop was being grown, or
when/where agriculture arose.
The gardens of the New Guinea
Highlands are ancient, intensive permacultures,
adapted to high population densities, very high rainfalls (as high as 10,000
mm/yr (400 in/yr)), earthquakes, hilly land, and occasional frost. Complex
mulches, crop rotations and tillages are used in
rotation on terraces with complex irrigation systems. Western agronomists still
do not understand all practices, and it has been noted that native gardeners
are as or more successful than most scientific farmers in raising certain
crops. There is evidence that New Guinea
gardeners invented crop rotation well before western Europeans.A
unique feature of New Guinea
permaculture is the silviculture
of Casuarina oligodon,
a tall, sturdy native ironwood tree, suited to use for timber and fuel, with
root nodules that fix nitrogen. Pollen studies show that it was adopted during
an ancient period of extreme deforestation.
In more recent millennia
another wave of people arrived on the shores of New Guinea. These were the Austronesian people, who had spread down from Taiwan, through
the south-east Asian archipelago, colonising many of
the islands on the way. The Austronesian people had
technology and skills extremely well adapted to ocean voyaging and Austronesian language speaking people are present along
much of the coastal areas and islands of New Guinea.
The first European contact
with New Guinea
was by Portuguese and/or Spanish sailors in the 16th century. In 1526-27 Don Jorge de Meneses
saw the western tip of New
Guinea and named it ilhas
dos Papuas. Ploeg
reports that the word papua is often said to
derive from the Malay word papua or pua-pua, meaning 'frizzly-haired',
referring to the highly curly hair of the inhabitants of these areas. Another
possibility, (put forward by Sollewijn Gelpke in 1993) is that it comes from the Biak phrase sup
i papwa which means
'the land below [the sunset]' and refers to the islands west of the Bird's
Head, as far as Halmahera.
Whatever the origin of the
name Papua, it came to be associated with this area, and more especially
with Halmahera, which was known to the
Portuguese by this name during the era of their colonisation
in this part of the world.
In 1545 the Spaniard Yñigo Ortiz de Retez sailed along
the north coast of New Guinea
as far as the Mamberamo River near which he landed, naming the island 'Nueva Guinea'. The
first map showing the whole island (as an island) was published in 1600 and
shows it as 'Nova Guinea'.
from 1884-1919. The Netherlands
controlled the western half of New Guinea,
Germany the north-eastern
part, and Britain
controlled the south-eastern part.
The first European claim
occurred in 1828, when the Netherlands
formally claimed the western half of the island as Netherlands
In 1883, following a short-lived French annexation of New Ireland, the British
colony of Queensland annexed south-eastern New Guinea. However,
the Queensland government's superiors in the United Kingdom revoked the claim,
and (formally) assumed direct responsibility in 1884, when Germany claimed
north-eastern New Guinea as the protectorate of German New Guinea (also styled Kaiser-Wilhelmsland).
The first Dutch government posts were established in 1898 and in 1902 Manokwari on the North coast, Fak-Fak
in the West and Merauke in the South at the border
with British New Guinea.
Both the Dutch and the British
tried to suppress warfare and head-hunting once common between the villages of
In 1905 the British government
renamed their territory Papua, and in 1906 transferred total responsibility for
it to Australia.
During World War I, Australian forces seized German New
Guinea, which in 1920 became a League of Nations mandated
territory of Australia.
The Australian territories became collectively known as The Territories of Papua and New Guinea
(until February 1942).
Before about 1930, most
European maps showed the highlands as uninhabited forests. When first flown
over by aircraft, numerous settlements with agricultural terraces and stockades
were observed. The most startling discovery took place on 4 August 1938, when
Richard Archbold discovered the Grand
Valley of the Balim River which had 50,000 yet-undiscovered
Stone Age farmers living in orderly villages. The people, known as the Dani, were the last
society of its size to make first contact with the western world.
Guinea and the Australian territories were
invaded in 1942 by the Japanese. The Australian territories were put under
military administration and were known simply as New Guinea. The highlands, northern
and eastern parts of the island became key battlefields in the South West
Pacific Theatre of World War II. Papuans often gave vital
assistance to the Allies, fighting alongside Australian troops, and carrying
equipment and injured men across New Guinea. Following the
return to civil administration, the Australian section was known as the Territory of Papua-New Guinea (1945-49) and then as Papua and New Guinea. Although the
rest of the Dutch East Indies achieved independence as Indonesia on 27 December 1949, the Netherlands regained control of western New Guinea.
the 1950s the Dutch government began to prepare Netherlands
New Guinea for full
independence and allowed elections in 1959; an elected Papuan council, the New Guinea
Council (Nieuw Guinea Raad)
took office on 5 April 1961. The Council decided on the name of West Papua, a national emblem, a flag
called the Morning Star or Bintang Kejora, and a national anthem; the flag was first
raised — next to the Dutch flag — on 1 December 1961. However, Indonesia threatened with an invasion, after
full mobilisation of its army, by 15 August 1962,
after receiving military help from the Soviet Union.
Under strong pressure of the United
States government (under the Kennedy
administration) the Dutch, who were prepared to resist an Indonesian attack,
attended diplomatic talks. On 1 October 1962, the Dutch handed over the
territory to a temporary UN administration (UNTEA). On 1 May 1963, Indonesia took
control. The territory was renamed West Irian and then Irian Jaya. In 1969 Indonesia, under the 1962 New York Agreement, was required to organise a plebiscite to seek the consent of the Papuans
for Indonesian rule. This so called Act of Free Choice (Pepera)
resulted, under strong threats and intimidations of the Indonesian military, in
a 100% vote for continued Indonesian rule.
There has been considerable
resistance to Indonesian integration and occupation, both through civil
disobedience (such as Morning Star flag raising ceremonies) and via the
formation of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka
(OPM, or Free Papua Movement) in 1965. Amnesty International has estimated more
than 100,000 Papuans, one-sixth of the population, have died as a result of
government-sponsored violence against West Papuans,]
while others had previously specified much higher death tolls.
From 1971, the name Papua
New Guinea was used for the
Australian territory. On 16 September 1975, Australia
granted full independence to Papua
In 2000, amid increasing
discontent and opposition to Indonesian rule, Irian
Jaya was formally renamed "The Province
of Papua" and a large
measure of "special autonomy" was granted in 2001. This law on
special autonomy, however, was never implemented. On the contrary, at the
beginning of 2003 President Megawati Sukarnoputri announced the division of the
province into three parts, while the name "Papua" for the province
would again revert to Irian. With strong public
protest by Papuans, the matter was referred to the Indonesian courts, who
declared it to be unconstitutional and in contravention of the Papua's special
autonomy agreement. By that point though, the western part had already been
administratively separated from the rest and the central and eastern parts were
almost separated. The court blocked the second separation on the grounds listed
above but the previous division into two provinces was allowed to stand as an
established fact. (King, 2004, p. 91) The western part became the province of West Irian Jaya, with Manokwari
as its capital and covering the Bird's Head Peninsula.
In 2005 a
new proposal came from Jakarta
to split the province into five provinces. This plan has not yet been
A central east-west mountain range dominates the geography of
over 1600 km
in total length. The western half of the island
of New Guinea contains the highest
mountains in Oceania, rising up to 4884 m high,
and ensuring a steady supply of rain from the equatorial atmosphere. The tree
line is around 4000 m
elevation and the tallest peaks contain permanent equatorial glaciers - which
are disappearing due to a changing climate. Various other smaller mountain
ranges occur both north and west of the central ranges. Except in high
elevations, most areas possess a warm humid climate throughout the year, with
some seasonal variation associated with the northeast monsoon season.
on the Island of New Guinea are:
Puncak Jaya, sometimes known by its former Dutch name Carstensz Pyramid, is a mist covered limestone mountain
peak on the Indonesian side of the border. At 4,884 metres
Puncak Jaya (sometimes called Mount
makes New Guinea
the world's fourth highest landmass.
Mount Wilhelm is the highest
peak on the PNG side of the border at 4,509 meters. Its
granite peak is the highest point of the Bismarck Range.
is the second highest summit in PNG it is also the highest volcanic peak in Oceania.
Another major habitat feature
is the vast southern and northern lowlands. Stretching for hundreds of
kilometers, these include lowland rainforests, extensive wetlands, savanna
grasslands, and some of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in the world.
The southern lowlands are the site of Lorentz National Park,
also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Sepik, Mamberamo, Fly, and
Digul rivers are the island's major river systems that drain in roughly
northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest directions respectively. Many of
these rivers have broad areas of meander and result in large areas of lakes and
New Guinea contains many of
the world’s ecosystem types: glacial, alpine tundra, savanna, montane and lowland rainforest, mangroves, wetlands, lake
and river ecosystems, seagrasses, and some of the
richest coral reefs on the planet.
[Second Paper] [Introduction] [Sonya Rapoport] [James Green] [Spatial References] [Pandanus tree] [Conclusion] [Bibliography]
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