Magazine article Geographical

To Which Continent Does the Indonesian Province of Papua Belong?

Magazine article Geographical

To Which Continent Does the Indonesian Province of Papua Belong?

Article excerpt

To which continent does the Indonesian province of Papua belong? R Wesley, London

ANSWER: Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) is in Asia, together with the rest of the Indonesian archipelago. But Papua is only half an island, the rest of which is taken up by Papua New Guinea, which is considered to be part of Oceania.

Whereas most continental boundaries follow the edges of continental plates, in this case the divide is through an island that sits on just one: the Indo-Australian plate. That plate is separate from the Eurasian plate, on which sit many of the remaining Indonesian islands. Papua has ended up being part of Asia courtesy of other countries' colonial ambitions.

The island of New Guinea was originally claimed by the Dutch in the 17th century, but colonisation proved difficult, not least because of the hostility of the indigenous peoples. During the 19th century, the western half of the island was finally claimed by the Dutch, the southeast by the British and the northeast by the Germans. …

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