Papua New Guinea

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Papua New Guinea a country about whose foods and foodways little had been written until recently, is the subject of one admirable book by May (1984). He observes that there is evidence of human settlements about 50,000 years ago, and also that some 9,000 years ago people in the highlands had established gardens, thus becoming some of the earliest known agriculturists. By 4000 bc, under the influence of successive migrations of people from S. Asia, agriculture had largely replaced hunting and gathering as a means of sustenance. Besides the indigenous food crops (sago, sugar cane, some sorts of banana and yam, breadfruit, etc.), there were introduced species which the immigrants brought: taro, more kinds of banana and yam, and perhaps coconut. The pig and perhaps fowl also came with them, but the sweet potato, now the staple crop in most of the highlands, was a later arrival.