The Bird's Head Peninsula of Irian Jaya has long been an area neglected by New Guinea Studies. Only in the late seventies, interest began to focus more intensively on this scientifically important border area between Austronesian and Papuan languages and cultures. In the early nineties, this led to the creation in The Netherlands of the Irian Jaya Studies programme ISIR, which organizes and coordinates multi-disciplinary research on the Bird's Head Peninsula. Within this framework, study of the peninsula has reached a peak, with research being conducted in the area by scientists from different disciplines:
anthropology, archaeology, (ethno)botany, demography, development administration, geology and linguistics. The diverse perspectives of these disciplines are subject to constant internal debate. Through ISIR and other research initiatives, there is a growing body of data on and insights into the various disciplines concerned with this fascinating area, with each discipline developing its own specific perspectives on the Bird's Head. These perspectives were presented during the First International Conference
Perspectives on the Bird's Head of Irian Jaya, Indonesia, organized by ISIR in cooperation with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences LIPI (Jakarta) and the International Institute for Asian Studies ILAS (Leiden) and held at Leiden University, 13-17 October 1997. Researchers were informed on current perspectives in many disciplines to facilitate integration of findings into wider, interdisciplinary frameworks and to stimulate international debate within and between disciplines. As a result of the Conference, the forty-two contributions in these Proceedings present a wealth of recent developments from various disciplines in New Guinea Studies.