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In the nineteenth century, Germany ruled the northern half of the country for some decades, beginning in 1884, as a colony named German New Guinea.
In 1914 after the outbreak of World War I, Australian forces landed and captured German New Guinea in a small military campaign and occupied it throughout the war.
The nation is an observer state in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN since 1976, and has already filed its application for full membership status.
Archaeological evidence indicates that humans first arrived in Papua New Guinea around 42,000 to 45,000 years ago.
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It is known to have numerous groups of uncontacted peoples, and researchers believe there are many undiscovered species of plants and animals in the interior. Local and national governments are discussing the potential of resuming mining operations at the Panguna mine in Bougainville Province, which has been closed since the civil war in the 1980s–1990s.
The name is one of several toponyms sharing similar etymologies, ultimately meaning "land of the blacks" or similar meanings, in reference to the dark skin of the inhabitants.
It also became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations in its own right.