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The Bird’s Head Peninsula of New Guinea covers some 30,000 square kilometres of enormously varied landscape. Although it is home to an indigenous population of just 114,000, these people share more than twenty languages. Wider knowledge of the peninsula was recently gained through an extensive interdisciplinary research project (ISIR) involving anthropologists, archaeologists, botanists, demographers, geologists, linguists, and specialists in public administration. In analysing the findings of the project, this book provides a systematic comparison with earlier studies, addressing the geological past, the latest archaeological evidence of early human habitation (dating back at least 26,000 years), and the region’s diversity of languages and cultures. The peninsula is an important transitional area between Southeast Asia and Oceania, and this book provides valuable new insights for specialists in both the social and natural sciences into processes of state formation and globalization in the Asia Pacific zone. Jelle Miedema studied sociology and anthropology at Groningen University. Awarded his PhD at Nijmegen University, he became coordinator of the ISIR project at Leiden University. His research topics include ethnohistory, kinship, and religion. Ger Reesink studied psychology at Utrecht University and obtained his PhD in linguistics from the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on the Papuan languages of New Guinea.