It largely supplanted the previous staple, taro, and gave rise to a significant increase in population in the highlands.
A horrific video has emerged showing four young women accused of witchcraft being tortured in a village in Papua New Guinea.
By the early 1950s, through administration and mission pressures, open cannibalism had almost entirely ceased.
Europeans to sight Papua New Guinea first were probably Portuguese and Spanish navigators sailing in the South Pacific in the early 16th century.
Then hundreds of bystanders watched while Kepari Leniata, the 20-year-old mother of a young baby, was accused of sanguma (witchcraft), then stripped naked by several assailants, bound, tortured with a hot iron rod that fused her genitals, doused in gasoline, and set alight on a pile of car tires.
Spectators stood by as she writhed, screamed, and burned. A similar scene had occurred two years ago, also in Mount Hagen, when an unidentified woman—as young as 16—was tied to the stake and burned. Belief in sorcery is still widespread in Papua New Guinea, where 80 percent of the seven million-plus population live in remote areas with little education, surviving on what they grow.