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Far East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Early South-East Asia

South-East Asia is one of the five broad regions of Asia as a whole, including Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and Siberia (less often known as North Asia). The rarely used label of 'West Asia' refers to the Near East. That region aside, it would appear to be South Asia which witnessed the earliest presence outside of Africa of anatomically modern humans in the form of Homo sapiens - between about 70,000-60,000 BC.

FeatureThe region appears to have provided a west-to-east conduit for early migrating groups as they left Africa and the Near East. Small tribes either remained in what is now India or continued to progress along the coastline to reach South-East Asia and Oceania (and especially Australia). Other groups headed north to enter East Asia roughly around 60,000 BC (see the Hominid Chronology feature link for more).

South-East Asia incorporates all of the territory to the south of East Asia. It consists of two dissimilar sections which involve a continental projection (all of which is usually referred to as mainland South-East Asia), and a string of archipelagos to the south and east of the mainland (known as insular South-East Asia).

Modern countries included in this are Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and the small city-state of Singapore on the mainland, with the long peninsular nation of Malaysia acting as a bridge to connect to the insular nations of Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines. China and Tibet provide the regional border with South Asia and East Asia, while Oceania provides an eastern border.

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa and the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see link, right).

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability, and Transmission, Benjamin W Roberts & Marc Vander Linden (Eds), from Palaeo-Anthropology and Palaeolithic archaeology in the people's republic of China, Wu Rukang & John W Olsen (Left Coast Press, 2009), from Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha, from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), from The Macmillan Dictionary of Archaeology, Ruth D Whitehouse (Macmillan, 1983), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and East Asia Palaeolithic (Claire Smith, Ed, Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology, 2014), and Stone Age Asia (Encyclopaedia Britannica).)


King list Palaeolithic SE Asia
(c.60,000 - 12,000 BC)

The early history of modern human infiltration into and habitation of South-East Asia remains vague, although various southwards migrations are largely responsible.

King list Oceania Cultures
(c.60,000 BC)

The Palaeolithic in Oceania marks the arrival of modern humans in the region, although it can also be extended to cover the existence of older human types.

King list Son Vi Culture
(c.20,000 - 12,000 BC)

The Son Vi emerged during the later stage of Palaeolithic South-East Asia, during its last eight thousand years before it gave way to the Mesolithic.

King list Hoabinhian Culture
(c.12,000 - 10,000 BC)

Finds for this culture show improvements over finds for the preceding culture, including stone axes and other tools which were created using animal bones.

King list Bac Son Culture
(c.10,000 - 8000 BC)

This culture was more of a progression than a replacement, with the early stages of wet-rice farming in the region leaving archaeological traces.

King list Mai Pha Culture
(c.8000 - 600 BC)

This culture was found only in Vietnam's Lang Son region, but it is classed as being an important phase in the formation of the northern Vietnamese identity.

King list Quynh Van Culture
(c.8000 - 6000 BC)

People here went from occupation in caves and on shell mounds to sedentary settlement, located in riverine situations with access to good alluvial farmland.

King list Toalean Culture
(c.6000 BC - AD 500)

The hunter-gatherers of the regionally-unique Toalean culture inhabited southern areas of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi during the middle and late Holocene.

King list Da But Culture
(c.5000 - 2000 BC)

The Da But is considered to be unique due to its divergence from an inland Hoabinhian-type subsistence strategy in favour of a new, complex coastal strategy.

King list Phung-nguyen Culture
(c.2000 - 1400 BC)

This culture was centred on the Vinh Phu province of Vietnam, in a change which seems to have occurred towards the end of the long practice of cave-dwelling.

King list Dong Dau Culture
(c.1500 - 1000 BC)

The Dong Dau is often classified as a late phase of the Phung-nguyen (and Van Lang kingdom), with parallel markings appearing on pottery and bronze castings.

King list Go Mun Culture
(c.1200 - 600 BC)

This culture provides Vietnam's third phase of the Bronze Age, with it being a continuation of the overlapping Phung-nguyen and Dong Dau.

King list Dong Son Culture
(c.1200 - 1 BC)

Dong Son culture is associated with the Vietnamese Van Lang kingdom and its mythical ruling Hung dynasty of the third-to-first millennia BC.

King list Sa Huỳnh Culture
(c.1000 BC - AD 200)

Sa Huỳnh sites have generally been found to be rich in locally-worked iron artefacts which are typified by finds of axes, swords, spearheads, knives, and sickles.

King list Dong Nai Culture
(c.500 - 1 BC)

The Dong Nai Iron Age culture is classified as a proto-Óc Eo archaeological phase, being located in the lower basin of the River Dong Nai.

King list Óc Eo Culture
(c.AD 1 - 630)

This Iron Age archaeological culture is tied closely to the little-known kingdom of Funan in Vietnam and Cambodia which bordered the Cham states.

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