Nestled amongst the Lesser Sunda Islands is one of the world’s youngest countries: the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, the first nation state to be born in the 21st century. It is also one of mankind’s many cradles: the first settlers to Australia are thought to have likely come from Timor across the Timor Sea more than 50,000 years ago.
At around 15,000 square kilometers and with just over one million people, contemporary Timor-Leste is the smallest nation in the Coral Triangle. It is a land of extremes and contrasts. Dramatic mountain ranges jut up from deep cobalt seas. Silvery beaches, seemingly untouched since the dawn of time, give way to shaded woods glistening emerald in the tropical sun.
With a coastline of over 700 km and claim on an marine Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles, Timor-Leste has an abundance of marine fishing grounds. The earliest evidence for humanity’s dependence on the sea comes from Eastern Timor, too. Not long ago, in the Jerimalai Cave near the easternmost tip of the island, researchers found 42,000-year-old tuna, shark, and turtle bones as well as the world’s oldest fishing hook, suggesting that the island’s earliest inhabitants had high-level maritime skills.