Abelam - Orientation

Identification. The Abelam live in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea and are divided into several subgroups; the most prominent is the Wosera, who are so named after the area they inhabit. This is the southernmost group of the Abelam. The other groups are named for geographic direction: northern, eastern, etc. The whole region is called Maprik, named after the Australian administrative post established in 1937 in the heart of Abelam territory.

Location. From the Sepik floodplains in the south the Abelam extend to the foothills of the Prince Alexander Mountains (coastal range) in the north. The Plains Arapesh living there call their neighbors in the south Abelam. The Abelam live in two ecological zones, the hills (up to about 600 to 700 meters above sea level) and the relict alluvial plains. These zones are characterized by different landforms, altitudes, annual rainfall, and soil types. In the north, the foothills are covered with thick secondary vegetation; virgin forest has almost completely disappeared due to shifting cultivation and to the high population density that was also responsible in former days for many fights and wars over land.

Demography. The Abelam number over 40,000. Parts of the Abelam territory range, with 70 persons per square kilometer, are among the most densely populated areas in Papua New Guinea.

linguistic Affiliation. Linguistically, Abelam forms, Together with the Iatmul, Sawos, Boiken, and Manambu, the Ndu Family of the Sepik Subphylum, which is classified as part of the Middle Sepik Stock, Sepik-Ramu Phylum. All of these language groups are located within the Sepik Basin, Except for the Boiken who have spread over the coastal range to the north coast.

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