Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Timor

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TIMOR, an island of the East Indian Archipelago, the easternmost and largest of the lesser Sundanese group, stretching south-west and north-east for 300 miles between 8° 40′ and 10° 40′ S. lat. and 123° 30′ and 127° E. long. It has a mean breadth of 60 miles, an area of over 11,000 square miles, and a population roughly estimated at about 500,000. Timor lies in deep water a little to the west of the hundred fathom line, which marks in this direction the proper limit of the shallow Arafura Sea, flowing between it and northern Australia. It differs considerably from the other members of the Sundanese group both in the lie of its main axis (south-west and north-east instead of west and east), and in the great pre valence of old rocks, such as schists, slates, sandstones, carboniferous limestones, and other more recent sedimentary formations, and in its correspondingly slighter volcanic character. It comes, however, within the great volcanic zone which sweeps in a vast curve from the northern extremity of Sumatra, through Java and the other Sundan ese islands, round to Amboina, Tidor, Ternate, Jilolo, and the Philippines. There appear to be at least two quiescent and other extinct cones, and the surface is everywhere extremely rugged and mountainous, with numerous irregular ridges from 4000 to 8000 feet high, forming altogether a very confused orographic system. Mount Kabalaki in the eastern district of Manufahi rises above 10,000 feet (H. O. Forbes); the culminating point appears to be Mount Alias (11,500 feet) near the south coast. Owing to the prevalent dry easterly winds from the arid plains of North Australia, Timor, like Ombay, Flores, and other neighbouring islands, has a much drier climate, with a correspondingly poorer vegetation, than Java, and has few perennial streams and no considerable rivers. Hence, apart from almost untouched and unsurveyed stores of mineral wealth, such as iron, copper, and gold, which occur apparently in considerable quantities at several points, the island is poor in natural resources. The uplands, however, yield good wheat and potatoes, while the woodlands, which nowhere form veritable forests, contain much excellent sandalwood. This and a noted breed of hardy ponies form the chief articles of export. Owing doubtless to the zone of deep water flowing between Timor and the Arafura Sea, the fauna of Timor presents, beyond a marsupial cuscus, scarcely any Australian types. The few mammals, such as a deer, a civet, a pig, a shrew, and monkeys, as well as the birds and insects, resemble ordinary Malayan forms as met with in Java and more especially in Celebes and the Moluccas. In its natural history, as well as its physical constitution and oceanic surroundings, Timor is thus entirely separated from Australia and should perhaps be grouped with Celebes, Buru, Ceram, and Jilolo as the surviving fragments of a Miocene continent intervening between Asia and Australia, but at no time connected with either.

The bulk of the population is certainly Papuan, but inter mingled in the most varied proportions with Malayan, Indonesian, and other elements; hence it presents an extraordinary diversity of physical types, as is clearly shown by the portraits figured in H. 0. Forbes's Naturalist's Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago. The natives, still mainly independent of their nominal Dutch and Portuguese rulers, are divided into a large number of more or less hostile tribes, speaking as many as forty distinct Papuan and Malayan languages or dialects. Some are extremely rude and still addicted to head -hunting, at least during war, and to other barbarous practices. In their uma-luli, or sacred (tabooed) enclosures, rites are performed resembling those of the Pacific islanders.

Politically Timor is divided between Holland and Portugal, the Dutch claiming the western section of 4500 square miles and 200,000 inhabitants, the Portuguese the eastern of nearly 6500 square miles and 300,000 inhabitants; the respective capitals, centres of government, and outports are Kupang at the western extremity and Deli on the north-east coast. But there are a large number of practically independent petty states, as many as forty-seven in the Portuguese territory alone, where they take the name of "renos," or kingdoms, under absolute "leoreis" or kinglets. The Dutch section forms with Sumba, Savu, Rotti, and the surrounding islets a residency administered by a Dutch resident stationed at Kupang, which has a population of 8000.