A Short History of Papua New Guinea
New Guinea, the second largest island in the world*, is situated approximately 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Australia. The Independent State of Papua New Guinea (aka Papua New Guinea or PNG) comprises the eastern half of the island. (The western half is the Indonesian state of Irian Jaya.) PNG has an area of 178,703 square miles (462,860 square kilometers) about the size of California with a population of 6.3 million people (2007).
Archeological evidence suggests the island was inhabited approximately 50,000 years ago by Asian settlers. The first recorded contact with Europeans didn't come until Portuguese explorer Jorge de Meneses "discovered" it in 1527. De Meneses dubbed the island Ilhas do Papuas "The Island of the Fuzzy Hairs." Later, Spanish explorer Inigo Ortiz de Retes named it New Guinea, because he thought the people similar to those of Guinea in Africa.