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The area now called Galicia was first inhabited by humans during the Middle Paleolithic period, and it takes its name from the Gallaeci, the Celtic people living north of the Douro River during the last millennium BC, in a region largely coincidental with that of the Iron Age local Castro culture.

In the 13th century, with the written emergence of the Galician language, Galiza became the most usual written form of the name of the country, being replaced during the 15th and 16th centuries by the current form, Galicia.This coincides with the spelling of the Castilian Spanish name.The interior of Galicia is characterized by a hilly landscape; mountain ranges rise to 2,000 m (6,600 ft) in the east and south.The coastal areas are mostly an alternate series of rías and cliffs.Located in the North-West of the Iberian Peninsula, it comprises the provinces of A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra, being bordered by Portugal to the south, the Spanish autonomous communities of Castile and León and Asturias to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Cantabrian Sea to the north.

It had a population of 2,718,525 in 2016 including its offshore islands and islets, among them Cíes Islands, Ons, Sálvora, Cortegada, and—the largest and most populated—A Illa de Arousa.There are smaller populations around the interior cities of Lugo and Ourense.The political capital is Santiago de Compostela, in the province of A Coruña.The Governor also presided the Real Audiencia do Reino de Galicia, a royal tribunal and government body.From the 16th century, the representation and voice of the kingdom was held by an assembly of deputies and representatives of the cities of the kingdom, the Cortes or Junta of the Kingdom of Galicia.The historical denomination Galiza became popular again during the end of the 19th and the first three-quarters of the 20th century, and is still used with some frequency today.