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Collective name for the islands scattered throughout most of the Pacific Ocean.
The term, in its widest sense, embraces the entire insular region between Asia
and the Americas. A more common definition excludes the Ryukyu, Kuril, and
Aleutian islands and the Japan archipelago. The most popular usage delimits
Oceania further by eliminating Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Philippines, because
the peoples and cultures of those islands are more closely related historically to
the Asian mainland. Oceania then, in its most restricted meaning, includes more
than 10,000 islands, with a total land area (excluding Australia, but including Papua
New Guinea and New Zealand) of approximately 317,000 square miles (821,000
Oceania has traditionally been divided into four parts: Australasia (Australia and
New Zealand), Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. As recently as 33,000 years
ago no human beings lived in the region, except in Australasia. Although disagreeing
on details, scientists generally support a theory that calls for a Southeast Asian
origin of island peoples. By 1990 about 9,400,000 islanders lived in Oceania
(excluding Australia), and many indigenous cultures were revolutionized by intensive
contact with non-Oceanic groups who had intruded from various parts of the Western
world. Pop. (1990 est.) including Australia, 26,500,000.
In the numismatic world Oceania is the name applied to the Gilbert and Solomon
islands, New Britain and Papua New Guinea, - the British denominations.
Information source: Encyclopaedia Britannica and Standard Catalogue of World
Paper Money, 9th Ed. Vol. 2. General Issues 1368-1960.
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