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Native name:
Ilha de Timor (Portuguese)
Illa Timór (Tetum)
Timor eiland (Dutch)
Pulau Timor (Indonesian)
Timor island2.png
Timor as seen from space in 1989
Top: Political division of Timor between Indonesia and East Timor
Bottom: Location of Timor in Indonesia
Indonesia location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location Southeast Asia
Coordinates 9°14′S124°56′E / 9.233°S 124.933°E / -9.233; 124.933
Area30,777 km2 (11,883 sq mi)
Area rank 44th
Highest elevation2,963 m (9,720 ft)
Highest point Ramelau
Largest settlement Dili (pop. 277,488 as of 2023)
ProvinceFlag of East Nusa Tenggara.svg  East Nusa Tenggara
Largest settlement Kupang (West Timor)(pop. 455,850 as of 2021)
Population3,311,735 (2020)
Pop. density107.6/km2 (278.7/sq mi)

Timor (Portuguese : Ilha de Timor, Tetum : Illa Timór, Indonesian : Pulau Timor) is an island at the southern end of Maritime Southeast Asia, in the north of the Timor Sea. The island is divided between the sovereign states of East Timor on the eastern part and Indonesia on the western part. The Indonesian part, known as West Timor, constitutes part of the province of East Nusa Tenggara. Within West Timor lies an exclave of East Timor called Oecusse District. The island covers an area of 30,777 square kilometres (11,883 square miles). The name is a variant of timur, Malay for "east"; it is so called because it lies at the eastern end of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Mainland Australia is less than 500 km away, separated by the Timor Sea.


Language, ethnic groups and religion

Language map of Timor Timor Sprache en.png
Language map of Timor

Anthropologists identify eleven distinct ethno-linguistic groups in Timor. The largest are the Atoni of western Timor and the Tetum of central and eastern Timor. [1] Most indigenous Timorese languages belong to the Timor–Babar branch of the Austronesian languages spoken throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Although lexical evidence is lacking, [2] the non-Austronesian languages of Timor are thought to be related to languages spoken on Halmahera and in Western New Guinea. [1] Some are so mixed that it is difficult to tell which family they descend from.

The official languages of East Timor are Tetum and Portuguese, while in West Timor it is Indonesian. Indonesian, a standardized dialect of Malay, is also widely spoken and understood in East Timor. [3]

Christianity is the dominant religion throughout the island of Timor, at about 90% of the population. However, it is unequally distributed as West Timor is 58% Protestant and 37% Catholic, and East Timor is 98% Catholic and 1% Protestant. Islam and animism make up most of the remainder at about 5% each across the island.


Timor is located north of Australia and Oceania, and is one of the easternmost Sunda Islands. Together with Sumba, Babar and associated smaller islands, Timor forms the southern outer archipelago of the Lesser Sunda Islands with the inner islands of Flores, Alor and Wetar to the north, and beyond them Sulawesi.

Timor is the principal island of the Outer Banda Arc, which is being uplifted by arc-continent collision with the Australian continent. Timor consists mostly of rocks from the Australian continental margin that are accreted to the Banda Arc. It occupies a forearc position in front of the active volcanic arc that forms the islands in the Flores region to the north. The orientation of the main axis of the island also differs from its neighbors. These features have been explained as the result of being on the northern edge of the Indo-Australian Plate as it meets the Eurasian Plate and pushes into Southeast Asia. [4] The climate includes a long dry season (April-November) with hot winds blowing over from Australia. Rivers on the island include the North and South Laclo Rivers in East Timor. The mountains, which reach up to nearly 3000m elevation are one of the most mature parts of the Banda Range, which stretches from Sumba to Seram. Mutis is the highest mountain in West Timor and Ramelau is the highest mountain in Timor Leste.

The largest towns on the island are the provincial capital of Kupang in West Timor, Indonesia and the Portuguese colonial towns of Dili the capital, and Baucau in East Timor. Poor roads make transport to inland areas difficult, especially in East Timor. [5] Sources of revenue include gas and oil in the Timor Sea, coffee growing and tourism.


Timor is an aerially exposed portion of the Banda Forearc formed by collision of Eurasian oceanic crust and continental crust of the Australian plate. This is a unique convergent margin where a thick continental margin is forced under thinner oceanic crust. The result is a large accretionary wedge of imbricated thrust sheets composed of Cretaceous and Tertiary distal material of the Australian continental margin thrust on top of Australian continental shelf deposits. Timor is well known for its structural complexity. Debate continues about the nature of deformation of continental crust. Some researchers advocate shallow thin-skinned deformation, while others favor shallow thin-skinned with some basement deformation. [6]

Timor also has potential for significant petroleum development. Onshore and offshore exploration efforts have been attempted with varying success. Timor host dozens of natural oil and gas seeps with most exploration concentrated on the north end of the Island where oil seeps are prevalent. Carbon rich shales from the island have been found with TOC up to 23%. Such shales buried deep in the subsurface could act as high-quality source rocks. Jurassic marine shoreface and turbidite sands of the Plover and Militia Formations are proven reservoirs in the North Australian Shelf. Over pressured Upper Jurassic silt and mudstones shales may also provide adequate seals for hydrocarbons. Research focusing on the structure of deformed basement rocks provides insight into possible onshore and offshore structural and stratigraphic traps for future petroleum development. [6] [7]


West Timor

West Timor is part of the East Nusa Tenggara province. It was formerly split into the City of Kupang (a kabupaten or regency-level administrative area) and four regencies (kabupaten); from west to east these are: Kupang, Timor Tengah Selatan (South Central Timor), Timor Tengah Utara (North Central Timor) and Belu. However, a fifth regency – Malaka – was in 2012 formed from the southern half of Belu Regency. Note that the administrative area has shrunk as Rote Ndao Regency (Rote and Ndoa islands to the southwest) and Sabu Raijua Regency (the Savu Islands further west) were split off in 2002 and 2009 respectively from Kupang Regency. The island accounts for 35.5% of the provincial population.

East Timor

East Timor is divided into thirteen municipalities, which in turn are subdivided into 65 administrative posts, 442 sucos (villages), and 2,225 aldeias (hamlets). [14] [15]

Flora and fauna

Timor and its offshore islands such as Atauro, a former place of exile increasingly known for its beaches and coral[ citation needed ], as well as Jaco along with Wetar and the other Barat Daya Islands to the northeast constitute the Timor and Wetar deciduous forests ecoregion. The natural vegetation was tropical dry broadleaf forests with an undergrowth of shrubs and grasses supporting a rich wildlife[ citation needed ]. However much of the original forest has been cleared for farming,[ citation needed ] especially on the coasts of Timor and on the smaller islands like Atauro. Apart from one large block in the centre of Timor only patches remain.[ citation needed ] This ecoregion is part of the Wallacea area with a mixture of plants and animals of Asian and Australasian origin; it lies in the western part of Wallacea, in which Asian species predominate.

Many trees are deciduous or partly deciduous, dropping their leaves during the dry season, there are also evergreen and thorn trees in the woodland. Typical trees of the lowland slopes include Sterculia foetida , Calophyllum teysmannii and Aleurites moluccanus .

During the Pleistocene epoch, Timor was the abode of extinct giant monitor lizards similar to the Komodo dragon. Like Flores, Sumba and Sulawesi, Timor was also once a habitat of extinct dwarf stegodonts, relatives of elephants.

Fauna of today includes a number of endemic species such as the distinctive Timor shrew and Timor rat. The northern common cuscus, a marsupial of Australasian origin occurs as well, but is thought to be introduced. [16] The island have a great number of birds, mainly of Asian origin with some of Australasian origin. There is a total of 250 species of which twenty four are endemic, due to the relative isolation of Timor, including five threatened species; the slaty cuckoo-dove, Wetar ground dove, Timor green pigeon, Timor imperial pigeon, and iris lorikeet. [17]

Saltwater crocodiles are found in the wetlands whereas reticulated pythons can be found in forests and grasslands of Timor. However, the population sizes and status are unknown.

Frog species in Timor include Duttaphrynus melanostictus , Hoplobatrachus tigerinus , Limnonectes timorensis , Litoria everetti , and Polypedates leucomystax . [18] A new species of microlyhid frog belonging to the genus Kaloula has also recently been discovered in Timor. [19]

Late Cretaceous fossils of marine vertebrates are known from East Timor deposits. These include mosasaurs such as Globidens timorensis, lamniforme sharks, coelacanths and the choristodere Champsosaurus . [20]


Portrait of a Timorese warrior in the area of Kupang in 1875, from the report of the expedition of the German ship SMS Gazelle. Timor warrior.jpg
Portrait of a Timorese warrior in the area of Kupang in 1875, from the report of the expedition of the German ship SMS Gazelle.
Boats along the Timor coast COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Boten langs de kust van Timor TMnr 10021573.jpg
Boats along the Timor coast

The earliest historical record about Timor island is the 13th-century Chinese Zhu Fan Zhi , where it is called Ti-wu and is noted for its sandalwood. Later on, in the 14th-century Javanese Nagarakretagama, Canto 14, Timur is identified as an island within Majapahit's realm. Timor was incorporated into ancient Javanese, Chinese and Indian trading networks of the 14th century as an exporter of aromatic sandalwood, slaves, honey and wax, and was settled by both the Portuguese, in the end of the 16th century, and the Dutch, based in Kupang, in the mid-17th century.

As the nearest island with a European settlement at the time, Timor was the destination of William Bligh and seamen loyal to him following the infamous Mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. It was also where survivors of the wrecked HMS Pandora, sent to arrest the Bounty mutineers, landed in 1791 after that ship sank in the Great Barrier Reef.

The island has been politically divided in two parts for centuries. The Dutch and Portuguese fought for control of the island until it was divided by treaty in 1859, but they still did not formally resolve the matter of the boundary until 1912. West Timor, was known as Dutch Timor until 1949 when it became Indonesian Timor, a part of the nation of Indonesia which was formed from the old Netherlands East Indies; while East Timor was known as Portuguese Timor, a Portuguese colony until 1975. It includes the exclave of Oecussi-Ambeno in West Timor.

Although Portugal was neutral during World War II, in December 1941, Portuguese Timor was occupied by Australian and Dutch forces, which were expecting a Japanese invasion. This Australian military intervention dragged Portuguese Timor into the Pacific War but it also slowed the Japanese expansion. When the Japanese did occupy Timor, in February 1942, a 400-strong Dutch-Australian force and large numbers of Timorese volunteers engaged them in a one-year guerrilla campaign. After the allied evacuation in February 1943 the East Timorese continued fighting the Japanese, with comparatively little collaboration with the enemy taking place. This assistance cost the civilian population dearly: Japanese forces burned many villages and seized food supplies. The Japanese occupation resulted in the deaths of 40,000–70,000 Timorese.

Following the military coup in Portugal in 1974 the Portuguese began to withdraw from Timor. The subsequent internal unrest and fear of the communist Fretilin party led to an invasion by Indonesia, who opposed the concept of an independent East Timor. In 1975, East Timor was annexed by Indonesia and became known as Timor Timur or 'Tim-Tim' for short. It was regarded by Indonesia as the country's 27th province, but this was never recognised by the United Nations (UN) or Portugal.

The people of East Timor, through Falintil the military wing of Fretilin, resisted 35,000 Indonesian troops in a prolonged guerrilla campaign, but the whole island remained under Indonesian control until a referendum held in 1999 under a UN-sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal in which its people rejected the offer of autonomy within Indonesia. The UN then temporarily governed East Timor until it became independent as Timor-Leste in 2002 under the presidency of Falintil leader Xanana Gusmão. Political strife continued, as the new nation coped with poverty. Nevertheless, the UN presence was much reduced.

A group of people on the Indonesian side of Timor have been reported active since 2001 trying to establish a Great Timor state. [21] However, there is no real evidence that the people of West Timor, most of whom are ethnically Atoni, the traditional enemy of the East Timorese, have any interest in such a union.[ citation needed ] Furthermore, the current government of East Timor recognizes the existing boundary.[ citation needed ]

Time zone



See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Timor</span> Region in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

West Timor is an area covering the western part of the island of Timor, except for the district of Oecussi-Ambeno. Administratively, West Timor is part of East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia. The capital as well as its main port is Kupang. During the colonial period, the area was named Dutch Timor and was a centre of Dutch loyalists during the Indonesian National Revolution (1945–1949). From 1949 to 1975 it was named Indonesian Timor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alor Island</span> Island in Indonesia

Alor is the largest island in the Alor Archipelago and is one of the 92 officially listed outlying islands of Indonesia. It is located at the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands that runs through southeastern Indonesia, which from the west include such islands as Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo, and Flores.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">East Nusa Tenggara</span> Province of Indonesia

East Nusa Tenggara is the southernmost province of Indonesia. It comprises the eastern portion of the Lesser Sunda Islands, facing the Indian Ocean in the south and the Flores Sea in the north. It consists of more than 500 islands, with the largest ones being Sumba, Flores, and the western part of Timor; the latter shares a land border with the separate nation of East Timor. The province is subdivided into twenty-one regencies and the regency-level city of Kupang, which is the capital and largest city.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Nusa Tenggara</span> Province of Indonesia

West Nusa Tenggara is a province of Indonesia. It comprises the western portion of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the exception of Bali which is its own province. Mataram, on Lombok, is the capital and largest city of the province. It shares maritime borders with Bali to the west and East Nusa Tenggara to the east. The 2010 census recorded the population at 4,500,212; the total rose to 4,830,118 at the 2015 Intermediate Census and 5,320,092 at the 2020 census; the official estimate as at mid 2022 was 5,473,671. The province's area is 20,153.15 km2. The two largest islands by far in the province are Lombok in the west and the larger Sumbawa island in the east.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barat Daya Islands</span> Island group in Maluku, Indonesia

The Barat Daya Islands are a group of islands in the Maluku province of Indonesia. The Indonesian phrase barat daya means 'south-west'.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kupang</span> City and capital of East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Kupang, formerly known as Koepang or Coupang, is the capital of the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara. At the 2020 Census, it had a population of 442,758; the official estimate as of mid-2022 was 468,913. It is the largest city and port on the island of Timor, and is a part of the Timor Leste–Indonesia–Australia Growth Triangle free trade zone. Geographically, Kupang is the southernmost city in Indonesia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alor Archipelago</span> Archipelago at eastern Lesser Sunda Islands

The Alor Archipelago is located at the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wetar</span> Island in Indonesia

Wetar is a tropical island which belongs to the Indonesian province of Maluku and is the largest island of the Maluku Barat Daya Islands Regency of the Maluku Islands. It lies east of the Lesser Sunda Islands, which include nearby Alor and Timor, but it is politically part of the Maluku Islands. To the south, across the Wetar Strait, lies the island of Timor; at its closest it is 50 km away. To the west, across the Ombai Strait, lies the island of Alor. To the southwest is the very small island of Liran, which is also part of West Wetar District and, further southwest, the small East Timorese island of Atauro. To the north is the Banda Sea and to the east lie Romang and Damar Islands, while to the southeast lie the other principal islands of the Barat Daya Islands. Including Liran and other small offshore islands, Wetar has an area of 3940 km2, and had a population of 7,916 at the 2010 Census and 8,622 at the 2020 Census; the official estimate as at mid 2022 was 8,660. Administratively, Wetar is divided into four of the districts (kecamatan) of the Maluku Barat Daya Regency.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Belu Regency</span> Regency in Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia

Belu Regency is a regency in East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. Situated on the north of Timor island, it adjoins the separate nation of East Timor to the east. Established on 20 December 1958, Belu Regency has its seat (capital) in the large town of Atambua.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">East Lombok Regency</span> Regency in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

East Lombok Regency is a regency of the Indonesian Province of West Nusa Tenggara. It is located on the island of Lombok, of which it comprises the eastern third ; the administrative capital is the town of Selong. The Regency covers an area of 1,605.55 km2 and had a population of 1,105,582 at the 2010 Census and 1,325,240 at the 2020 Census; the official estimate as at mid 2022 was 1,366,434.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">East Flores Regency</span> Regency in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

East Flores Regency is a regency in East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. Established in 1958, the regency has its seat (capital) in Larantuka on Flores Island. It covers a land area of 1,812.85 km2, and it had a population of 232,605 as of the 2010 census and 276,896 at the 2020 Census; the official estimate as of mid-2022 was 288,897. The regency encompasses the eastern tip of the island of Flores, together with all of the adjacent islands of Adonara and Solor to the east of Flores, with some much smaller offshore islands. On 4 October 1999, the island of Lembata at the eastern end of the Solor Archipelago was separated from the East Flores Regency to create its own Regency.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Manggarai Regency</span> Regency in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Manggarai Regency is a regency in East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia, situated on the island of Flores. Established in 1958 the regency was reduced in size and population by the separation of West Manggarai Regency in 2003 and of East Manggarai Regency in 2007. The area of the residual Manggarai Regency is 1,344.03 km2 and its population was 292,037 at the 2010 census and 312,855 at the 2020 census; the official estimate as at mid 2022 was 317,646. The capital of the regency is the town of Ruteng.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kupang Regency</span> Regency in Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia

Kupang Regency is a regency in East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. It occupies the far western end of Timor Island, together with the small offshore island of Semau. Other islands to the southwest and west which were formerly part of Kupang Regency have been separated administratively - the Rote Islands Group on 10 April 2002, and the Savu Islands on 29 October 2008. The capital of Kupang Regency is at Oelamasi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">North Central Timor Regency</span> Regency of Indonesia

North Central Timor Regency is a regency in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia. It covers an area of 2,669.70 km2, and had a population of 229,803 at the 2010 Census and 259,829 at the 2020 Census; the official estimate as at mid 2022 was 268,067. Its regency seat is located at the town of Kefamenanu, which had a population of 49,095 in mid 2022. The regency borders Timor Leste's Oecusse enclave, one of few Indonesian regions that have a land border with other countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sabu Raijua Regency</span> Regency in Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia

Sabu Raijua Regency is one of the regencies in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. It comprises the three Savu Islands, lying between Sumba and Rote Island in the Savu Sea, with a land area of 459.58 km2. The regency was established by Indonesia's Minister of Home Affairs, Mardiyanto, on 29 October 2008, when it was partitioned from Kupang Regency. The population was 72,960 at the 2010 census, and 89,327 at the 2020 Census; the official estimate as at mid 2022 was 92,792.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southwest Maluku Regency</span> Regency in Maluku, Indonesia

Southwest Maluku Regency is a regency of Maluku Province, Indonesia. Geographically it forms the most eastern portion of the Lesser Sunda Islands, although it has never been administratively included with them, and politically has always comprised a part of the Maluku Province. It comprises a number of islands and island groups in the south of the province, including Lirang Island, Wetar Island, Kisar Island, Romang Island, the Letti Islands, the Damer Islands, Mdona Hyera and the Babar Islands. The total land area is 8,633.15 km2, and the population was 70,714 at the 2010 Census and 81,928 at the 2020 Census; the official estimate as at mid 2022 was 82,560.


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