PRE-COLONIAL PERIOD

The first inhabitants of Timor were Australopithecine hunter-gatherers who settled on the island about 14,000 years ago. To this first ethnic substratum was added in the second millennium B.C., the Austronesian tribes migrated from the Asian mainland. Coinciding with the dawn of the Christian Era, the different tribes joined each other until they formed a kind of primitive autonomous political communities, often hostile to each other.

These communities gradually evolved, increasing their territories and inhabitants, equipping themselves with organization, infrastructure, and institutions, until they gave rise to the different Kingdoms that existed in Timor in later centuries, such as that of Kupang, governed by Rajas (Kings) or Liurais (princes).

At the end of the 13th century, the Islamic influence began to reach Indonesia due to the strong development of the maritime trade of Sumatra and Borneo with the Sultanates of Hindustan, particularly those of Delhi, Bahmani, and Bidar.

THE ARRIVAL OF EUROPEANS IN TIMOR

From the fifteenth century, the era of geographical discoveries and inter-oceanic voyages began in Europe. The formation of new modern states, with the centralization of royal power and the development of trade, demand new scenarios of political and economic expansion. Technical progress in the construction of ships and the dissemination of navigation instruments hitherto unknown in the old continent will also contribute decisively to all this.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the west coast of Africa in search of a route to India, starting from the reign of Henry the Navigator (1433 to 1460).

It would be Manuel I, who would reign between 1495 and 1521, who would reach India. On July 8, 1497, four ships captained by Vasco de Gama weighed anchor from Lisbon bound for India, arriving on May 20, 1498, at Calicut, on the Indian coast of Malabar. The route was thus established.

The passage of the Indian Ocean was soon exploited by the Portuguese. Between 1509 and 1515, Goa and Diu, in India, and Malacca, on the island of Sumatra. In this way, for the first time, a European power was established in the territory of what is now Indonesia. The turn would come to Timor in 1511, the year in which the arrival of the Portuguese is reported, who built a trading post in Pante Macassar, on the northeastern coast of the island.

It is also a remarkable historical fact that Spain was the second European power to arrive in Timor. The famous expedition of Ferdinand Magellan, authorized by Carlos I through the Capitulations of Valladolid on March 22, 1519, the first voyage in history that circumnavigated the globe, made a stopover in Timor.

On January 25, 1522. date, after having touched in the Philippines, Magellan had been killed in a skirmish with the natives, and the command of the fleet had fallen to Juan Sebastián de Elcano. The one from Guetarea thus became the first Spanish sailor to arrive in Timor. Juan Sebastián Elcano was a Castilian navigator of Basque origin best known for having completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth in the ship Victoria on the Magellan expedition to the Spice Islands.

 

THE ARRIVAL OF EUROPEANS TO KUPANG

However, the first Europeans to settle in the western part of Timor, where Kupang is located, were not the Portuguese but the Dutch. This was nothing but a consequence of the political situation in Europe.

The succession crisis in Portugal after the death of Sebastián I ended with the Iberian unification of 1580. As a result, Felipe II of Spain girdled the Portuguese Crown, annexing those of the neighboring country to his dominions. This situation led to the war that Spain had maintained since 1568 to quell the revolt of the Dutch provinces led by William of Orange, to extend to the former Portuguese possessions, now Spanish, in the Indian Ocean.

In 1613, when Philip William of Orange-Nassau was Prince of Orange, a Dutch force landed on the island of Solor, North Timor, and stormed the fort that garrisoned it. They then embarked and sailed through the Flores Sea to the southwestern coast of Timor and dropped anchor in the port of Kupang.