Humans reached Southeast Asia around 50,000 years ago, moving eastward from the Indian sub-continent. Sea levels were lower then, and Australia's coastline extended farther northwest than it does today, toward the island of Timor, with Australian and New Guinea forming a single landmass.
Archeological findings indicate that 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 Australian continent.
Another people were the Austronesians, described by scholars as Taiwanese aborigines. These were a diversity of people that across centuries moved into Malaysia, East Timor, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Madagascar, Micronesia, and Polynesia. They would also be found in the Pattani region of Thailand, and the Cham areas of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Hainan, China.
Western scholars describe 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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