AHC: make New Guinea the most populous island in the world

Zachariah

Banned
The challenge, with any POD since the establishment of the first sedentary human agricultural settlements there (i.r.o. 7000 BCE in the Wahgi Valley, more than 1000 years before the establishment of comparable agricultural settlements on Jomon-era Honshu), is to come up with a plausible alternate timeline which results in the island of New Guinea (which would be known by another name ITTL, of course) becoming the most populous island in the world by the present day. For this challenge, the island has to have a minimum population of at least 100M, and a population of over 150M for bonus points. Up for it?
 
I agreed with your Ireland assessment, but this is asb. Britain as one of the most industrial islands on earth has not even reached 100 million. Honshu has around 100 million and it has the largest city on earth and thousands of years of internal growth.

I would deem this asb
 

Zachariah

Banned
I agreed with your Ireland assessment, but this is asb. Britain as one of the most industrial islands on earth has not even reached 100 million. Honshu has around 100 million and it has the largest city on earth and thousands of years of internal growth.

I would deem this asb
But why? Ecologically and geographically, is it really so much different from Java, OTL's most populous island in the world, with over 140M people? And it's got more than 6 times the land area to boot. Shouldn't it be easier for New Guinea to be the most populous island in the world than it is for Java to be?
 
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Zachariah

Banned
If it was just most populous it would be easy.
Why shouldn't it be able to support a population of 100M or more though? I mean, sure, it wouldn't be easy easy, but personally, I don't think it'd be all that hard either. After all, that'd only equate to a population density of 127.3 people per square kilometer- for context, that'd be roughly half the population density of Mindanao, and only slightly more than the current population density of Sumatra. Why shouldn't New Guinea be capable of supporting that sort of population?
 

Zachariah

Banned
That's the thing though- do you think that those cultivated areas were always cultivated areas? Of course not- they were all either alpine, grassland, broadleaf evergreen forest or broadleaf deciduous forest before they were cleared out to support larger populations. Sumatra's a net producer and exporter of food, with roughly the same population density as our target population density for New Guinea in this AHC- so a similar fraction of the land of New Guinea ITTL would have to be cutivated. But there's still plenty of land in Sumatra which isn't cultivated, which indicates that, in absolute terms, New Guinea could indeed sustain a similar population density or higher without even having to become a net importer of food.
 

Zachariah

Banned
Reviving one of my old threads, rather than posting the same alternate history challenge all over again. Anyone?
 
If one or more Papuan cultures develop agriculture on a mass level I could see this happening. You'd also want to keep these cultures in contact with Indonesia, China and any other trading power in the east so that the Papuan get resistance to Eurasian diseases.
 
New Guinea is mountainous, split into hundreds of isolated valleys. That makes it lousy for intensive agriculture. It makes it even worse for empire building or creation of large states which might be a prerequisite for the intensive agriculture and high population.
 
But why? Ecologically and geographically, is it really so much different from Java, OTL's most populous island in the world, with over 140M people? And it's got more than 6 times the land area to boot. Shouldn't it be easier for New Guinea to be the most populous island in the world than it is for Java to be?
If it is actually not so much different from Java, why did it have so few people up to the modern era?
That's the thing though- do you think that those cultivated areas were always cultivated areas? Of course not- they were all either alpine, grassland, broadleaf evergreen forest or broadleaf deciduous forest before they were cleared out to support larger populations. Sumatra's a net producer and exporter of food, with roughly the same population density as our target population density for New Guinea in this AHC- so a similar fraction of the land of New Guinea ITTL would have to be cutivated. But there's still plenty of land in Sumatra which isn't cultivated, which indicates that, in absolute terms, New Guinea could indeed sustain a similar population density or higher without even having to become a net importer of food.
If all islands in the area could have been Java, they would have been, Java clearly stands out and I don't think the historical circumstances explain even half of the demographic situation.
 
Didn't the Javanese adopt more productive farming techniques than the rest of Indonesia?
And why exactly does this carry to this day? Apparently nothing in the last centuries made the rest of the Indonesian isles even approach the levels of population density of Java, outside the totally coincidentally close isles of Madura and Bali.
 
And why exactly does this carry to this day? Apparently nothing in the last centuries made the rest of the Indonesian isles even approach the levels of population density of Java, outside the totally coincidentally close isles of Madura and Bali.
Population begets more population? Plus, the Dutch established the capital of their East Indies colonies on Java.
 
I agreed with your Ireland assessment, but this is asb. Britain as one of the most industrial islands on earth has not even reached 100 million. Honshu has around 100 million and it has the largest city on earth and thousands of years of internal growth.

I would deem this asb
This is ridiculous. New Guinea is double the size of the whole of Japan. It can easily be the most populous island today. Moreover, one can also point out to drastic growths in population. See the United States, which grew 30 times its population in just 242 years.

The growth of New Guinea's population can be very easy in fact. Just have New Guineans establish more commercial tides with India, Australia and Polynesia, introduce crops earlier and probably engage in military expansionism or colonialism. This can easily be done in the 9,000 year time span given by the OP.
 
New Guinea is mountainous, split into hundreds of isolated valleys. That makes it lousy for intensive agriculture. It makes it even worse for empire building or creation of large states which might be a prerequisite for the intensive agriculture and high population.
More like thousands of valleys. Papua New Guineau contains something like a quarter of the languages on earth it has so many isolated valleys
 
Heck, the Philippines grew from a population of 2 million people at most in the late 16th century (in fact, Spaniards only counted 500,000 people though scholars have now revised this number, see Linda A. Newson's "Conquest and Pestilence in the Philippines" for a survey of Philippine demography) to now close to 100 million in a mere 500 years. Arguments from incredulity should not be taken seriously.
 
New Guinea is mountainous, split into hundreds of isolated valleys. That makes it lousy for intensive agriculture. It makes it even worse for empire building or creation of large states which might be a prerequisite for the intensive agriculture and high population.
One wonders where were these geographical obstacles when Scandinavian Germanics - living in the iciest region of Europe separated also into isolated territories and cut from the rest of the continent by Europe's largest mountain range - from the Goths to the Vikings rampaged throughout Central and Western Europe and carved the territories of the Roman Empire to form their own empires and kingdoms as far as Sicily and Jerusalem and also settling Iceland and southern Greenland. Of course, it's true Scandinavia itself isn't all that populated with only about 30 million people living there, but the point is that we must not exaggerate geographical barriers and obstacles for empire creation.

To also put another example, the islands of Philippines, Indonesia and Japan suffer from many of the same problems you listed about New Guinea, yet they are each populated by over 90 million people, Indonesia and Japan being the first and second most populated island countries in the world. I think that some are too influenced by New Guinea's low population and relative poverty today and conflate present New Guinea with past New Guinea, which is like conflating present Macedon and Greece with past Macedon and Greece. One wouldn't know from seeing two of the poorest countries in Europe that they once created one of the biggest empires of antiquity stretching all the way to northern India and including pharaonic Egypt.
 
VOLCANO

Java and Japan is super fertile because of presence of volcano.

and New Guinea is part of Australia, old and not fertile continent.

and MOUNTAIN matters, there are reasons why Sumatra is less populated than Java. New Guinea mountainous terrain will reduce available farming land.
 

Vuu

Banned
1. Need a beast of burden/riding animal - the convoluted geography with the lack of this resulted in the ludicrous linguistic mess there (protip: if you want to easily quantify the advancedness of an area, just look at how many native languages there are. More is worse)
2. Needs fertile soil - there are volcanos that fertilize, so it is taken care of

None of these tropical islands were ever so populated until a certain point, relatively recently. The biggest problem is why the hell would anyone live there - Java got so populated due to the vicinity of trade routes. Only with some major Australian civilization that would make boats go near New Guinea you can do that. Then there is the fact that the southwest coast is basically a giant swamp.

To be the most populated requires quite a bit of external luck, but could it be much more powerful and populated? With some animal to avoid the tricky hill geography from making things difficult, yes they can
 
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