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Papua New Guinea Main Page

 

Papua New Guinea History

The eastern half of the island of New Guinea - second largest in the world - was divided between Germany (north) and the UK (south) in 1885. The latter area was transferred to Australia in 1902, which occupied the northern portion during World War I and continued to administer the combined areas until independence in 1975. A nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville ended in 1997 after claiming some 20,000 lives.

Human remains have been found which have been dated to about 50,000 years ago. These ancient inhabitants probably had their origins in Southeast Asia, themselves originating in Africa 50,000 to 70,000 years ago. New Guinea was one of the first landmasses after Africa and Eurasia to be populated by modern humans, with the first migration at approximately the same time as that of Australia.

Agriculture was independently developed in the New Guinea highlands around 7000 BC, making it one of the few areas of original plant domestication in the world. A major migration of Austronesian speaking peoples came to coastal regions roughly 2,500 years ago, and this is correlated with the introduction of pottery, pigs, and certain fishing techniques. More recently, some 300 years ago, the sweet potato entered New Guinea having been introduced to the Moluccas from South America by the locally dominant colonial power, Portugal. The far higher crop yields from sweet potato gardens radically transformed traditional agriculture; sweet potato largely supplanted the previous staple, taro, and gave rise to a significant increase in population in the highlands.

Although now almost entirely eradicated, in the past headhunting and cannibalism occurred in many parts of what is now Papua New Guinea. By the early 1950s, through administration and mission pressures, open cannibalism in Papua New Guinea had almost entirely ceased.

Little was known in the West about the island until the nineteenth century, although traders from Southeast Asia had been visiting New Guinea as long as 5,000 years ago collecting bird of paradise plumes, and Spanish and Portuguese explorers had encountered it as early as the sixteenth century (1526 and 1527 Dom Jorge de Meneses). The country's dual name results from its complex administrative history before Independence. The word papua is derived from pepuah, a Malay word describing the frizzy Melanesian hair, and "New Guinea" (Nueva Guinea) was the name coined by the Spanish explorer Yigo Ortiz de Retez, who in 1545 noted the resemblance of the people to those he had earlier seen along the Guinea coast of Africa. The northern half of the country came into German hands in 1884 as German New Guinea.

During World War I, it was occupied by Australia, which had begun administering British New Guinea, the southern part, as the re-named Papua in 1904. After World War I, Australia was given a mandate to administer the former German New Guinea by the League of Nations. Papua, by contrast, was deemed to be an External Territory of the Australian Commonwealth, though as a matter of law it remained a British possession, an issue which had significance for the country's post-Independence legal system after 1975. This difference in legal status meant that Papua and New Guinea had entirely separate administrations, both controlled by Australia.

The New Guinea campaign (19421945) was one of the major military campaigns of World War II. Approximately 216,000 Japanese, Australian and American soldiers, sailors and airmen died during the New Guinea Campaign. The two territories were combined into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea after World War II, which later was simply referred to as "Papua New Guinea". However, certain statutes continued to have application only in one of the two territories, a matter considerably complicated today by the adjustment of the former boundary among contiguous provinces with respect to road access and language groups, so that such statutes apply on one side only of a boundary which no longer exists.

The Administration of Papua became open to United Nations oversight. Peaceful independence from Australia occurred on September 16, 1975, and close ties remain (Australia remains the largest bilateral aid donor to Papua New Guinea). Papua New Guinea was admitted to membership in the United Nations on 10 October 1975.

A secessionist revolt in 1975-76 on Bougainville Island resulted in an eleventh-hour modification of the draft Constitution of Papua New Guinea to allow for Bougainville and the other eighteen districts of pre-Independence Papua New Guinea to have quasi-federal status as provinces. The revolt recurred and claimed 20,000 lives from 1988 until it was resolved in 1997. Following the revolt, Autonomous Bougainville elected Joseph Kabui as president, but he was succeeded by deputy John Tabinaman. Tabinaman remained leader until a new popular election occurred in December 2008, with James Tanis emerging as the winner.

Anti-Chinese rioting, involving tens of thousands of people,broke out in May 2009. The initial spark for this was a fight between Chinese and Papua New Guinean workers at a nickel factory being built by a Chinese company, but underlying the protests was a resentment against the number of small businesses being run by Chinese.

 

Info from Wikipedia


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