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Southeast Asia and Oceania

Around 100 BCE in what is now southern Burma, urbanization began. Beginning around CE 200 a kingdom or kingdoms arose that the Chinese called Funan (today southern Cambodia). These were kingdoms influenced by India, where Hinduism and Buddhism coexisted peacefully.

Then around the year 300, Samoans ventured across 2000 miles (3200 km) of ocean to the Marquesas Islands, on twin-hulled sailing craft sixty feet in length. In such boats the Polynesians migrated from the Marquesas to the Society Islands, including Tahiti, and to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) farther east. The Hawaiian Islands are believed to have been first settled sometime between the years 300 and 800. New Zealand is considered one of the last lands settled by humans, Polynesians estimated to have arrived there between the years 1250 and 1400.

People arriving on isolated uninhabited islands such as the Hawaiian Islands were free of armies arriving and threatening their societies, such as the Hebrews and other peoples of West Asia had to suffer. They moved into areas with an abundance of natural resources and foods to acquire, but the Polynesians spoiled their advantage by warring among themselves. Hawaiians would war against each other. So too would the Maori who moved to what today is New Zealand. And the people of Easter Island would divide into two opposing camps and decimated each other in a bloody civil war. They too had their gods, and they danced and sang, but like other ancient peoples they too had impulses to violence greater than their impulse to reason together and compromise.


The Making of Southeast Asia, by G Coedès, translated by H M Wright, 1983

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