Papua New Guinea (PNG) was first settled between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. PNG’s harsh geography consisting of mountains, jungles, and numerous river valleys, kept many of the arriving groups isolated, giving rise to PNG’s incredible ethnic and linguistic diversity. Agriculture was independently developed by some of these groups. Around 500 B.C., Austronesian voyagers settled along the coast. Spanish and Portuguese explorers periodically visited the island starting in the 1500s but none made it into the country’s interior. American and British whaling ships frequented the islands off the coast of New Guinea in the mid-1800s. In 1884, Germany declared a protectorate - and eventually a colony - over the northern part of what would become PNG and named it German New Guinea; days later the UK followed suit on the southern part and nearby islands and called it Papua. Most of their focus was on the coastal regions, leaving the highlands largely unexplored.

Geographic coordinates
6 00 S, 147 00 E
Areatotal: 462,840 sq. km
452,860 sq km
9,980 sq km
country comparison to the world:
Area - comparative
slightly larger than California
Area comparison mapLand boundaries
total: 824 km
Border countriesIndonesia 824 km
5,152 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Exclusive fishing zone200 nm
tropical; northwest monsoon (December to March), southeast monsoon (May to October); slight seasonal temperature variation
mostly mountains with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills
highest point: Mount Wilhelm 4,509 m
lowest point
Pacific Ocean 0 m
Mean elevation
667 m
Natural resources
gold, copper, silver, natural gas, timber, oil, fisheries
Irrigated land
0 sq. km (2012)
7,399,757 (July 2021 est.)
country comparison to the world
noun: Papua New Guinean(s)
Ethnic groups
Melanesian, Papuan, Negrito, Micronesian, Polynesian
LanguagesTok Pidgin (official), English (official), Hiri Motu (official), some 839 indigenous languages spoken (about 12% of the world's total); many languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers

Land use


Age structure