Pre-European History of Papua

Despite scant records of interaction between the people of Papua and other Indonesian ethnic groups, trade and social contacts. had already begun since the early centuries after Christ. The earliest record of the island dates back to the 8th century during the period of Sriwijaya, the first kingdom whose territory. approximately covered the whole of the present-day Indonesia, with its capital in the vicinity of present-day Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province. King Sri Indrawarman sent many gifts to the emperor of China, including some birds of paradise indigenous of Papua, which was then known as Janggi.

Five centuries later, a Chinese traveler by the name of Chau Yu Kua visited the Nusantara (the old name of for Indonesian archipelago) island of Tung-ki. Experts believe that Tung-ki was the Chinese transliteration of Janggi. He noted that the people of the island had a close relationship with the people of the Molluca Islands.

The second major archipelagic kingdom in Indonesia was Majapahit of East Java. During the reign of King Hayam Wuruk (1292-1521), many lesser kings of the archipelago came to the capital to pledge allegiance and form an alliance with the mighty king, including the kings of the Mollucas whose territory included the island of Papua. In 1365, Gajah Mada, prime minister to the court of Hayam Wuruk, commissioned a book on the history of Majapahit to the court-chronicler Prapanca. In the book titled Nagarakertagama, Prapanca wrote about places in Majapahit’s eastern territories, including Papua. Evidently, by the mid 14th century Papua was an integral part of Nusantara.



Indonesian Province of Papua



The national census of 2000 recorded the population of Papua at 2,110,708. This includes members of isolated or nomadic tribes, which numbers around 19,000 people. With an area of 421,981 square kilometers, the population density of Papua is 5 peopIe per square kilometer, making Papua the least populated province, of Indonesia.

By livelihood, the traditional Papuans are divided into three categories. The first are those who process sago trees for their staple food. They also fish in downstream rivers and beaches and on a limited scale also cultivate the lands. The processing of a sago tree involves a simple and speedy method before further processed into cakes or porridge. The second are nomads who live in the upstream of rivers where they process sago tree and hunt boars and other non-herded animals. These people do not cultivate the land, but occasionally fish in the rivers. The third are people who live in big valleys in the central mountain ranges. They do not process sago trees, but cultivate the land with yams, canes and other kinds plants. They live in small villages, which usually comprises one extended family. These people of the central mountain ranges and the Jayawijaya Highlands are famous for wearing penis gourds as their form of daily clothing.

The Province of Papua accommodates the most tribes and languages than all the other Indonesian provinces. Due to the many tribes and languages, Papuan culture is best described as diverse. The varying, cultures, from communities living in the coastal areas to those living in the high mountainous areas create the. mosaic of the cultures of Papua. The cultures of communities and tribes in the coastal areas have however been greatly influenced by incoming foreign cultures by way of interaction through trade and missionaries. On the other hand, the communities of Papua living in the hinterland and mountain areas are often inaccessible, thus many still practice their traditional

Cultures and Traditions.

Although the Papuans belong to the Melanesian race, they are distinguished into about 250 sub-groups or tribes on the basis of physical features, diiferences in languages, customs, artistic expressions and other cultural aspects. Every tribe has its own stratification system within its own community. The best-known tribes in Papua are the Asmat of the South Coast and the Dani of the Baliem Valley. The Asmats are famous for their distinct and unique arts, while the Danis are renowned for being the largest tribe with of distinct rituals and traditions. Continue reading “Indonesian Province of Papua”