The Papuans are the original inhabitants of the islands of the Indian and Pacific oceans, but, driven out or extirpated from the coasts by the Malayo-Polynesian races, they are generally in possession of only the interior and inaccessible portions. The name Papua is derived from the Malay papwvah, crisp-haired, a descriptive term applied to the people. The Indian archipelago is considered the primitive home of the Papuans. Though the Malays have intermixed but little with the Papuan race, it is necessary to distinguish between pure Papuans and mixed Papuans. In the former class are counted the inhabitants of Papua, of the Key, Arroo, Mysol, Salawaty, and Waigioo islands, as well as the Aetas or negritos of the Philippines. (See Negritos.) It is still doubtful whether also the inhabitants,of Borneo, Celebes, and Gilolo belong to the pure division of the race, but most ethnologists agree in considering as such the Semangs on the peninsula of Malacca, as well as the Andaman and Nicobar islanders. To the class of mixed Papuans really belong all the tribes of Oceania east of the aboriginal home of the Papuans. Consequently Wallace is inclined to treat all the Polynesian races as mixed Papuans, yet this designation should he applied to them only where there has been a nearly complete typical change.
As such are reckoned the Alfuros on the northern peninsula of Gilolo, the aboriginal population of Ceram, Booro, Timor, the islands west of Timor as far as Flores, and the Sandalwood islands as far as Timorlaut. The principal seat of the mixed Papuans is Melanesia, and especially the Feejee islands, where the straight-haired Malay has heen totally absorbed by the crisp-haired Papuan. Wallace describes the typical Papuan as of a deep sooty brown or black, and having crisp hair, growing in tufts, attaining such a length as to permit the making of a sort of peruke. The face has a crisp beard, and even the arms, legs, and chest are more or less covered with such hair. The stature equals or exceeds that of the average European. The legs are long and thin, and the hands and feet are large. The nose is bent, and the wide nostrils are somewhat concealed by the prolonged tip. The mouth is large, and the lips are thick and puffed up. The Papuan is impulsive and demonstrative in language and -action. He is intellectually superior to the Malay, and his inferior position in civilization' must be ascribed to a lack of contact with cultured races.
A very wide difference seems to exist in the state of society in different parts of Papua. The inhabitants of the S. and W. coasts, having been for ages in communication with the people of the Indian archipelago, more especially with those of the Moluccas, live in comparatively comfortable dwellings, and are decently clothed; they build large rowing and sailing boats, and have a knowledge of iron; they cultivate some ground, and have two domestic animals, the hog and the dog. Toward the north the tribes become gradually more barbarous, and in some districts wear little or no clothing, though a covering of shells or leaves'for the loins is not uncommon. They are very elaborate in their coiffures, and some apply a sort of caustic which turns the hair red or flaxen. Though tattooing with the needle is seldom practised, they produce little scars on the body which they burn black or red with a hot coal. Nose, ears, neck, and arms are adorned with rings, shells, bones, and similar appendages. Their villages, commonly on the banks of rivers, resemble the recently discovered lake dwellings of central Europe. The huts are built on poles, and are generally 5 ft. high, 6 ft. broad, and about 100 ft. long, and covered by a steep roof about 20 ft. high.
The floor is laid with bamboo canes, but so widely apart that the river is seen flowing underneath. The interior is generally divided by a corridor into halves, and these again into various apartments. In several villages they have tracts of cultivated land planted with tobacco, palms, etc. Their arms consist of a bow and arrow, a lance, and a peculiar kind of club, 4 ft. long, very thin and narrow at one end, and broad and many-cornered at the other. They use a blow-gun made of a bamboo reed of considerable length, with which they blow dust into the air as a signal. Every man ha3 as many wives as he can buy and maintain; but it is said that the negritos live in monogamy, and that the women may refuse their suitors. After the dead have been buried two years their bones are unearthed and put into a grotto or cave, and until this has been done no widow is allowed to marry again. Of their religious conceptions but little is known. Their musical instruments are of the rudest kind, and the height of their art is to play very loudly on them. - The languages spoken by the Papuans are not sufficiently known to admit of treating them for comparative purposes, or to form a hypothesis as to their connection with other families of speech.
The dialects spoken in Papua seem to possess a certain degree of relationship to each other, but to what degree they are related to the negrito idioms cannot be determined. In the districts of Minahasa and Go-rontalo in Celebes, and on the coasts of Tomini bay, no fewer than 23 dialects have been investigated by Eiedel, and on the whole island there are at least 100 dialects. The variety of the dialects in Papua is still greater, for, with the exception of the S, W. coast, no political organization has been formed on the island. Every village has its own dialect, and the terms for the commonest objects are entirely different. Dr. A. B. Meyer's treatise Ueber die Mafoor'sche und einige andere Papua-Sprachen auf Neu-Guinea, read in 1874 before the Vienna academy of sciences, is the first attempt at a grammar of a Papuan dialect. Previous to this the only material furnished was a few short vocabularies of some dialects, like those contained in Ottow-Crookewit's Nieuw- Guinea ethnographisch en natuurlcundig onderzocht en beschreven (Amsterdam, 1862), which good authority pronounces untrustworthy, and the 117 words given in A. E. Wallace's "Malay Archipelago " (London, 1869), comparing Papuan and Malayo-Polynesian dialects.
The vocabularies added to his treatise by Dr. Meyer are so far the largest given. The Mafoor language is spoken by Papuans originally inhabiting the island of Mafoor, but now occupying the island of Manasvari, usually called Mansinam after the chief town, on the island of Rohn or Rulin, and in Papua near the bay of Dorey. It is very rich, always having several terms for one and the same thing. In words denoting abstractions it is necessarily poor. There is no definite article. The nouns are mostly stems; but few are derived or compound. Gender is confined to the sex of organic beings. The plural number is formed by adding to the noun the personal pronoun of the third person plural. The genitive is formed by prefixing ro, and the dative by be. Adjectives follow their nouns, and are themselves followed by weer for the comparative, and by hahu for the superlative degree. The first ten cardinal numbers are: osseer, suru, Mor,fiak, rim, onem,fiek, waar, sio, and sam-fur. The personal pronouns are: aja, j, j', I; awe, wa, w' au, thou; de, d', i, he; inko, ho, F, we; imgu, rngu, mg, you; si, s', they. There are also dual forms: nu, n', we two; mu, m', you two; su, s', they two. Possessive, demonstrative, and interrogative pronouns are also used.
Verbs are always used in connection with a personal pronoun affixed, but do not admit of inflection. Tense and mood are indicated by special words, and only the present, past, and future are distinguished. There are also various adverbs of place, time, affirmation, negation, and doubt, as well as a large number of prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. - See Friedrich Muller, Allgemeine Ethnographie (Vienna, 1873); Peschel, Allgemeine Volkerhunde (2d ed., Leipsic, 1875); and the works cited above.