Humans reached Southeast Asia around around 50,000 years ago. This includes people who arrived on the continent of by way of the islands of Southeast Asia, including New Guinea. An estimation drawn from recent DNA studies.
Sea levels were lower then, and the continent's coastline extended farther northwest, toward the island of Timor, than it does today, with Australian and New Guinea forming a single landmass.
Archeological findings indicate that the 40,000 years ago people were living by the Swan River, in Southwestern Australia, where the city of Perth is today. And by 30,000 years ago, people had reached Tasmania, then connected to the continent.
People on the continent of Australia were to be called "Aborigines" by Europeans. They were hunter-gatherers, living mobile lives in limited groupings. The Europeans found the Aborigines divided into 250 individual nations with around the same number of languages. The number of Aborigines when the Europeans arrived has been estimated as possibly 750,000.
Apart from those who migrated into Australia are the Austronesian peoples, described by scholars as Taiwanese Aborigines, ethnicities that still live in East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei, Madagascar, Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, New Zealand and the Hawaiian Islands. They are also found in Vietnam, Cambodia and the island of Hainan. These are people who have been linked culturally, including linguistically, with southeastern China and Taiwan. Some western scholars theorize that pre-Austronesian speaking peoples migrated from continental Asia to Taiwan between 10,000 and 6000 BCE and that from them the Austronesians emerged around 6000 BCE. There were, at any rate, a variety of population dispersals through the islands of Southeast Asia by around 8,000 BCE including migrations from the Philippine Islands northward to Taiwan.
Western scholars describe a a large-scale Austronesian expansion beginning between 5000 and 2500 BCE in response to population growth. These first settlers may have landed in northern Luzon, where they intermingled with the Australo-Melanesian population that had lived there for 23,000 or so years. It is theorized that over the next thousand years, a chain of migrations of Austronesians with chickens, dogs and pigs went eastward, with the seafaring made easier by predictable monsoon and trade winds. Around the year 1800, dark-skinned migrants in magnificent little boats reached islands of Micronesia, some 1500 miles south of Japan and west of the Philippines. By around 1300 BCE, people from Micronesia had sailed southeast into Melanesia, including the Solomon and Fiji islands. From around 1200 BCE, brown-skinned people began migrating into Polynesia – to the Tonga and Samoan islands. These people were a mix of black and Asian, and perhaps the proto-white that made up the Ainu of Japan. They were animists like other pre-civilized peoples. And by 1200 BCE they and the Micronesians and Melanesians had pottery, breadfruit, the coconut, sugar cane and taro, all originally from Asia.
Man's conquest of the Pacific: the prehistory of Southeast Asia and Oceania, Peter S Bellwood, 1979
The Polynesians: Prehistory of an Island People, Peter S Bellwood, 1978
Vaka Moana: Voyages of the Ancestors, edited by K R Howe, 2006
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