TOP-50 interesting facts about Papua New Guinea and Papuans
The Kingdom of Papua New Guinea is an island country in the Southern Hemisphere on the border of the Pacific and Indian Oceans that shares many common features with its neighbours. But at the same time it is a unique country with its own customs, history and culture. In our article, we have collected 50 fascinating facts about this country and its inhabitants, which will help to form a first impression and interestingly plan your holiday in New Guinea.
50 most amazing facts about Papuans and New Guinea
So, let’s begin our journey through the history, traditions and sights of this amazing country.
1. The first people came to New Guinea 50,000 years ago, when sea levels were lower and the island was one with Australia.
2. About 8,000 years ago, locals had already begun to cultivate the land and develop agriculture.
3. Europeans discovered the island in 1526. It was done by the Portuguese navigator George de Menezes. At that time, the Papuans were still in the Stone Age.
4. Until the middle of the XX century, the territory of New Guinea changed hands several times. First the British ruled here, then Australians, Germans and Australians again.
5. During World War II, Papua was invaded by the Japanese, but was knocked out by a combined army of Americans, Australians and New Zealanders.
6. On 16 September 1975, Papua declared independence but remained a member of the British Commonwealth.
7. At the end of the 20th century, there was a real war on the island of Bougainville. Local rebels fought for independence from Papua New Guinea. Then more than 20,000 people were killed.
8. Modern Papua is a constitutional monarchy, the formal head of which remains the English king. In fact, power is in the hands of the Governor-General.
9. The country is home to nearly 10 million people, twice the population of a developed country in the region, such as New Zealand.
10. The indigenous people of the island of New Guinea are Papuans. But the country is also inhabited by Melanesians, the aborigines of the islands of Oceania, which are part of the kingdom.
11 English colonisation has left its mark on life in the country. Thus, most of the population is now Protestant and only a fourth is Catholic.
12. Papua was and still is an agrarian country. More than 86 per cent of the population still live in villages and are engaged in agriculture and hunting.
13. Despite the fact that education is free, the literacy rate remains the lowest in Oceania. Only 64 per cent of the adult population can read and write. School attendance is free and children are 12 years old.
14. In recent years, the island has been rapidly developing industry. There are rich deposits of gold, copper and oil.
15. There is a high crime rate in the country. In almost all cities there are so-called raskol-gangs, resembling mafia structures by their organisation.
16. Papua takes witchcraft very seriously. The so-called Witchcraft Law is in force here. It says that an enchanted person cannot be held responsible for the consequences of his actions.
17. The capital of the country is the city of Port Moresby. It got its name in honour of an English sailor who founded a settlement in a convenient harbour. Now more than 300 thousand people live in the capital.
18. Nowadays, the country is actively developing tourist infrastructure. About 30 per cent of GDP is given to the country by the service sector. The number of tourists coming to the country is constantly growing and is already approaching 200 thousand per year.
19. There are no classical architectural sights in Papua New Guinea. Tourists are attracted here by natural attractions, of which there are many. But in the capital there is an amazing place that is always visited by tourists. This is a village on the water, whose houses are built on stilts.
20. In addition to Mount Wilhelm, the Giluwe Volcano is also an important natural attraction. It is the second-highest peak in the country and is located in the centre of the island. Tourists are attracted by the formidable view of the volcanic cone and the beautiful nature.
21. One of the most hyped and popular attractions is considered to be the Kokoda Trail. It is a 96-kilometre trail laid in very difficult terrain with a height difference from 300 to 2490 metres. Even experienced trekkers take about 4 days to complete it.
22. The largest botanical garden of New Guinea is located in the city of Lae, it occupies an area of more than 56 hectares. More than 2000 species of exotic plants, unusual animals and even crocodiles live here.
23. An unusual attraction of the island are its fjords – long and narrow bays located in the north. They are surrounded by green-covered hills and high mountains, and some are accessed by convenient hiking trails.
Papuan character and customs
24. The word «Papuan» translates from Malay as «curly-haired man». This name was given to the natives of the island by Portuguese sailors.
25. The most shocking custom of the Papuans was cannibalism. It is believed to be a thing of the past, but there are still cases of ritual dismemberment and eating of human beings.
26. In the past, the Papuans were renowned as skilful warriors. In this they are similar to the famous Maori, the aborigines of New Zealand. But even now, every man in the tribe is obliged to be good with traditional weapons – spear and bow.
27. Papuans honour ancestral customs, many of which are connected with their pagan beliefs. For example, it is still customary to mummify chiefs. There are known mummies that are more than 300 years old.
28. Modern inhabitants of New Guinea wear ordinary European clothes, but in tribes lost in the jungle men still wear koteki – a special cover from a calabash, covering their dignity.
29. In the past, local women used to cut off the phalanges of their fingers when one of their relatives died. Now this custom has disappeared, but many elderly women walk without fingers.
30. The main wealth of the family is considered to be a pig. These animals are used as a means of payment, brides are redeemed with them, and women often feed piglets with their own breasts.
31. Patriarchy reigns in the local tribes. Men are considered to be the prey and hunters, but women have to do all the housework, even very heavy ones.
32. Polygamy is widespread in the country. A man can have two or three wives, each of which gives birth to 5–6 children. So Papuan families are very numerous.
33. Away from cities, the aborigines continue to live in a communal tribal system. All property of the tribe is common, all works are carried out together, important decisions are made by the tribal council.
34. The life of the tribe is regulated by the chief. This is not only the most respected person and a great hunter, but also a witch doctor and healer, a specialist in witchcraft rites.
35. Each tribe speaks its own language, which makes communication with other natives problematic. New Guinea has the largest number of languages in the world, over 800.
36. Misunderstandings are often the cause of local feuds, but the main cause of conflicts is stealing. A stolen pig is paid for in blood.
37. Warlike customs are reflected in the traditional dances of the Papuans. Now this action is largely designed for tourists, there is even an annual dance festival, where different tribes present their crowning numbers.
38. The dance attire of the Papuan has nothing to do with ordinary clothing. It is a colourful costume with feathers, masks, skirts. Special honour is given to the military dance, performed to the rhythmic beat of drums.
39. In many tribes there is a special ritual reminiscent of morning exercise. Two men perform energetic dance pas, and women echo them, holding bows and arrows.
40. Modern Papuans are not as scary as in the past. They are characterised by good-naturedness and hospitality, like to be photographed and often seem too naive.
Nature of New Guinea
41. The island of New Guinea is the second largest island in the world, second only to Greenland, but Papua occupies only the eastern part of it. In addition to New Guinea, the kingdom includes the Bismarck Archipelago, the Admiralty Islands, and part of the Solomon Islands.
42. New Guinea lies just south of the equator in a humid tropical climate zone. There is little difference in winter and summer temperatures, and the high humidity favours the growth of dense vegetation.
43. Much of the island is covered with high mountains. The highest of them, Mount Wilhelm, rises to 4,509 metres above sea level. The mountains stretch across the island from west to east.
44. New Guinea is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire and has many active volcanoes. The strongest earthquakes are often associated with their activity.
45. The symbol of Papua is the bird of paradise. These brightly coloured birds are found nowhere else in the world except New Guinea and its surrounding islands.
46. Another feathered symbol of the country is the casuar, a huge flightless bird that can reach a height of 180 centimetres. Casuars are considered very dangerous and aggressive, they have long and sharp claws.
47. Due to the fact that for a long time the island was connected by a land bridge with Australia, here you can find marsupial animals – wallaby, marten, wolf and lion.
48. Another wonder of the island is butterflies. There are 735 species of butterflies of various sizes and colours. There is no other place in the world with such an abundance of scales.
49. The whole island is densely covered with tropical vegetation. Mangroves grow along the shores, jungle and numerous plantations of sugar cane and sago palms. In the mountains grows coniferous araucaria.
50. The south-western lowland coast is almost entirely covered with swamps. These are some of the largest swamps on the planet.
Friends, if you know any more interesting facts about Papuans and Papua New Guinea, please share them in the comments. This country is full of amazing stories, culture and traditions, and many people would be happy to learn something new. We will be very grateful to you!