This is one of my favorite object, the origin of civilization. I invested many hours to observe books, had some discussion with the expert, and tried hard to compile all of the materials, connecting the dots. While as a scientific aphorism, extraordinary claim need extraordinary evidence, so be it.
The story of our species civilization lies on our own mitochondrial DNA, language branch, architecture technique, stones, and off course, in the text of ancient religion. But, the most important things for this kind of object is not the object itself, it’s the modelling and compounding path of knowledge, on every generation.
This kind of object needs several discipline of subject : evolutionary biology, archaeology, anthropology, economy, monetary, military, geology, math, linguistic, and engineering. The trans discipline dialogue between expert isn’t an easy to create, trust me. But we are in the middle of a great path, toward a new world order of civilization, and that’s the biggest motivation to keep us open, stay sane within hard time of collecting the separated puzzle. Special thanks to Prof. Dr. Mudito Samsunarto ( senior researcher, BPPT) and Ir. Hartono ( geologist) for the intense discussion.
I took this content from the deleted page of Tempo Magazine, and I hope this article will open for further discussion :
The Cradle of Civilizations
Tempo interviewed Oppenheimer and has also written about the explorers who are searching for the ruins of a city at the bottom of the Java Sea, to try to prove Oppenheimer’s thesis. This edition of Tempo explores the research findings of Professor Sangkot Marzuki of the Eijkman Institute and his fellow Asian geneticists who are attempting to map the genetic dispersal of Asian man. It is interesting that Professor Sangkot’s theory ‘Out of Sundaland’ could well provide support for Oppenheimer’s hypothesis.
The Origins of Southeast Asia
The ancestors of the oldest humans have been traced back to the regions of Africa 170,000 years ago. However, Southeast Asia where Indonesia is located has become important in all this because it became the first place that African man migrated to (outside of Africa) and from there he migrated on towards the continent of Asia.
From the Sunda Continental Shelf
A number of myths similar to the story of Noah’s great flood and archeological finds provide evidence that there is a connection between the regions of Austronesia and various areas of the world. Oppenheimer believes that the flood myths were spread by storytellers of the Malay race (rumpun) when the area was swept by floods at the end of the Ice Age which separated Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan from the Asian mainland.
The oldest Homo sapiens (modern man) can be traced back to fossils in Africa around 170,000 years ago.
The story of the great flood can also be found in Lithuania whereas Austronesian genetic traces are to be found in a part of the inhabitants of Finland and other north European areas.
The Middle East
Civilizations in the Middle East have known the stories of the great flood for thousands of centuries starting with the story of Noah till the Gilgamesh in Sumeria. The motifs in the stories are no different to the ones in Southeast Asia or Polynesia.
This ancient land not only had a similar story to the great flood story of Southeast Asia but Austronesia and Sumeria also have similar earthenware. There have also been finds of similar statues with tattoos. The art of tattooing is specifically Austronesian.
People crossed the Red Sea leaving Africa around 90,000 years ago. All non-Africans are their descendants. They then migrated eastwards following the coastline of Asia until they reached China.
At one time Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan were still one with the great landmass now referred to as the Sunda Continental Shelf. Stephen Oppenheimer is of the opinion that it was in this area that the Austronesian people (now known as the Southeast Asians) were already inhabiting the area since 50,000 years ago.
The Austronesian language originates from this island. This is what produced the ‘Out of Taiwan’ theory which holds that the Austronesian people are the descendants of the Taiwanese. A number of archeological discoveries such as earthenware remains indicate that the period of ‘Out of Taiwan’ which is opposed by Oppenheimer still holds.
The Ami tribe is one of the indigenous tribes of Taiwan who have the same characteristics in their legends as those of Tibet-Burma and the Austro-Asiatic ones of East India. The myths tell of a great flood that did not last long, how there were people who saved themselves with a wooden chest, how they landed on a mountain and the incest that then occurred among the people who were saved.
Genetic mapping has shown that the inhabitants of Asia originate from Southeast Asia and not the reverse, namely that the people of Southeast Asia originally come from Taiwan.
Here grains of rice were found from the eras between 7000 and 5000 BC on the Malay Peninsula. This time period is several years older than the arrival of the Austronesian people from Taiwan who were thought to have brought farming technologies to Southeast Asia.
The roof of the building was quite unusual. The Toraja traditional or adat house is called a tongkonan and is one of the most easily recognized traditional pieces of architecture in Indonesia. The material used to build such houses is a wood locally known as uru wood which has the reputation of being as long-lasting as teak. Such houses always face north. Their roofs are always curved.
Despite living in the mountains, the Torajans’ beautifully curved roofs it seems are connected to stories of the sea or water. The shapes of the houses with their curved roofs remind one of ships.
“The shape of the roofs are built to resemble those used by Puang Buralangi when she sailed to Toraja, thousands of years ago,” explained C.F. Palimbong, Head of the North Toraja Adat Community Alliance, to Tempo not long ago. In Torajan mythology Puan Buralangi was the first person created by God.
God created Buralangi in the northern part of the sky and then brought her into the world in a region called Pongko before bringing her to Toraja where she later had many children. Pongko was located in the northern regions. This is the reason why the tongkonan always face north. No one is quite sure where Pongko is really located. “As I understand it Pongko is China,” says Palimbong.
The story of the creation of Buralangi also includes the tale of a gigantic flood which flooded the whole area. “It was also because of this occurrence that Puang Buralangi needed a boat to reach Torajaland,” he says. The boat then became ingrained into the communal memory through the shapes of the roofs on their houses.
ANOTHER version of the flood myth in Torajaland with only a slight variation in the details was explained by Stephen Oppenheimer a few weeks ago at a discussion held at LIPI, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences in Jakarta. At the time he was explaining his theory which emerges in his 800-page book, Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia (the English edition was published in 1998 and an Indonesian translation came out a month ago). It is an interesting book to discuss. Its contents are rather sensational, nevertheless they are absorbing because they deal with a mysterious past. “A specific characteristic of Indonesian and Southeast Asian mythology is the large amount of stories dealing with a great flood,” says the geneticist from Oxford University.
It is the stories of the flood that form the basis of Oppenheimer’s theory that many of the oldest civilizations in the world originate from the regions of Indonesia, especially the area of the Sunda Continental Shelf which sank and formed what are now the seabeds of the Java Sea and the South China Sea. Other evidence that Oppenheimer uses to support his theory is genetic mapping.
The Sunda Continental Shelf also referred to as Sundaland is a large landmass encompassing Indonesia and neighboring areas. Before they were separated by sea during an ice age occurring around 6000 BC, Sumatra, Java and Borneo were still part of the Asian mainland. At the time it also connected Borneo to South China.
Oppenheimer believes that before the Sunda Continental Shelf sunk, its inhabitants already possessed the technology for agriculture, fishing and to produce earthenware. This agricultural knowledge can be said to be the oldest in the world. “There were no other societies [in the world at that time] which possessed those sort of agricultural capabilities,” says Oppenheimer.
When the Sunda Continental Shelf was suddenly submerged in water, its inhabitants were forced to flee. They then brought their agricultural technology as well as other skills to the whole world. In their migrations west, the influence of these immigrants from Indonesia and surrounding areas spread as far as Europe. Meanwhile, in their eastern migrations their knowledge spread as far as the continent of America via the Bering Straits which thousands of years ago could still be crossed on foot.
According to Oppenheimer, the ancient civilization of Sumeria of 5000 BC was also influenced by the civilization of people who spoke Austronesian—a family of languages from Southeast Asia which includes the Indonesian language. According to historians Sumeria is said to have had a well-developed legal system and to have mastered advanced military techniques because there were continual wars between the cities. In Sumeria, the wheel, one of the most influential technologies ever discovered, had already been invented; and writing had also already been invented in the form of hieroglyphics.
Nevertheless, Oppenheimer sees several Sumerian discoveries exhibiting similarities with Austronesian traditions or technologies. Earthenware cooking utensils found in Ur, one of Sumeria’s oldest cities, exhibit several similarities with the earthenware utensils of the Austroneisan speaking groups of Southeast Asia, as for example in the use of red paint. Tattooed statues were also discovered there. The art of tattooing is specifically Austronesian. In Central Sepik in Papua New Guinea several local tribes to this day, as observed by Oppenheimer, when he was for many years a doctor treating malaria patients in Papua New Guinea, still practice tattooing.
It was not only technology that was spread by the inhabitants of Southeast Asia thousands of years ago, to all the corners of the world, but also the myth about the great flood. Gilgamesh, the Sumerian version of the great flood which bears similarities with Noah’s great flood story, according to Oppenheimer originates from the story of how the Sunda Continental Shelf in the regions of the Indonesian archipelago, submerged long ago.
UNTIL about two centuries ago, the story of Noah was the only great flood legend which was known worldwide as having been catastrophic. Knowledge about the existence of another great flood myth very similar to that of Noah’s only came to light when the stone tablets bearing hieroglyphics which are a type of book of the ancient Sumerian kingdom, were discovered in Iraq by Hormuzd Rassam in 1853. The tablets were first translated by the British archeologist George Smith at the beginning of 1870.
The tablets told the story of Gilgamesh, a king of Sumeria. In the story Gilgamesh meets Utnapishtim in an eastern country and who then says that he was saved from the great flood that swallowed up his country, because he was able to escape in a large boat. In that boat he brought all the seeds that can be planted. After several days he released a bird to see if land was already near. Sometime later in 1929, another British archeologist, Sir Leonard Woolley, came to the conclusion that the story of the great flood of Utnapishtim and that of Noah are one and the same.
Apparently, Utnapishtim’s story is not the only story of a great flood very similar to that of Noah’s. Several other such stories began to be identified. In Wales there is the legend of Lake Llion which overflowed its banks and flooded the whole of the region except for the areas of Dwyfan and Dwyfach. The people escaped on a boat without masts and later returned to live on the isle of Pridain in Britain. On the ship were brought a pair of each variety of living creatures.
In Lithuania there is a legend that the highest god, Pramzimas, became disgusted with the evil behavior of man causing him to finally send Wandu and Wejas. At the end of 20 days only very few people had managed to survive because the god was too enthusiastic in sending floodwaters over the earth.
In Southeast Asia and the regions where people speak Austronesian languages such as among the Pacific islands, stories of floods similar to those of Noah and that in Sumeria, according to Oppenheimer are very frequent. “Most of these legends are told by minority groups that live on small islands,” says Oppenheimer. It seems that on small islands such as these there is always a fear of flooding at the back of peoples’ minds. Stories of floods are considered ‘contextual’ causing the myths to be preserved and passed on from generation to generation for thousands of years.
In Tahiti for example, there is the legend of a flood with waters reaching as high as a mountain for a period of 10 days. This is clearly no tsunami (these are known in the area) because it lasted for 10 days. The Ami who are a native tribe of Taiwan have myths with the same characteristics as those of Tibet-Burma and of the Austro-Asiatic peoples in East India. They all have legends of brief great floods, of how people saved themselves with wooden boxes, landed on mountains and the incest committed later by those who survived.
Besides the flood theme, other myths from the area with similar themes are the creation myths and the myths of Abel and Cain. Oppenheimer does not regard such similarities as mere coincidence. He believes that they originate from one region and that region according to him is most likely Southeast Asia. “The great flood myth definitely has its roots in the islands of Southeast Asia—from the Indonesian archipelago which lost a great part of its landmass as a result of such a flood (after the end of the last ice age),” writes Oppenheimer in his book.
He is even more convinced of the correctness of his theory regarding the one-source origins of similar myths in correlation with genetic footprints. Take for example the Finnish myth of Kalevale. In Finland as well as in a number of other northern European regions such as Estonia, there have been found similar genetic footprints to those of Southeast Asia.
IN the map of the Journey of Mankind which is displayed on an internet site, Oppenheimer explains the theory that most scientists in the world agree with regarding man’s dispersal since his birth in Africa around 170,000 years ago. That is the dispersal of modern man or Homo sapiens.
About 90,000-85,000 years ago, a group of people left Africa and headed east, by way of the Red Sea. For 10,000 years they continued moving, following the coastline of Asia until they reached the shores of China.
After the eruption of Mount Toba—the largest volcanic eruption known to man and which resulted in the creation of Lake Toba—around 74,000 years ago the people inhabiting Southeast Asia began migrating towards Papua and Australia and a part of them even returned westward to India. The region of Southeast Asia was then inhabited by people who are the forefathers of Austronesians. It is they who experienced the great flood and who according to Oppenheimer formed the wave of people returning who eventually influenced faraway countries all the way till Europe.
This theory is in conflict with the theory that contends that the spread of the Austronesians was from Taiwan. The theory that holds Taiwan as the place of origin of the Austronesians is called the ‘Out of Taiwan’ theory and was created using a language approach as its basis. The Malay language group can be traced as far as the indigenous tribes of Taiwan (the Chinese only came to Taiwan in the 17th century).
According to the theory put forward by Peter Belwood at the end of the 1970s, people from Taiwan entered Indonesian lands and the regions around them only as recently as 3500 to 4000 BC. This is a far later period than that proposed in Oppenheimer’s theory which provides that Austronesians could well have already been in the area about 50,000 years ago and that they developed their agricultural technology then.
Archeologists like Harry Truman Simanjuntak, a professor at the University of Indonesia, continue to accept Belwood’s theory. “Both archeological as well as linguistic finds do not really support Oppenheimer’s theory,” he says. He refers to a number of earthenware finds one of which is more than 4,000 years old.
Harry in fact strengthens Belwood’s hypothesis with a theory that the dispersal route from Taiwan not only went by the Philippines-Borneo but also followed along the coast of Indochina then crossed over to Sumatra and Java. This theory is based on the differences in style of earthenware products in Indochina-Sumatra-Central Java compared to other regions.
Nevertheless, Oppenheimer is not to be swayed. “Languages can spread although the people speaking it might not spread,” he says. So it is quite possible that the Austronesian language spread from Taiwan, but the inhabitants remained the same.
Added to which he put forward the discoveries of a Thai archeologist who was able to show that civilization in Southeast Asia is far older than 4,000 years. The archeologist, the late Surin Pookajorn, discovered grains of rice from 7000-5000 BC on the Malay Peninsula. The time period is earlier than that of the coming of the first Austronesian people from Taiwan.
Oppenheimer also refers to the fact that in several tribes of Nusa Tenggara rice-growing technology did not appear until several dozen years ago. Whereas rice growing, as well as the technology of growing other plants such as sugarcane, has always been considered to be one of the characteristics of Austronesian civilization. “The inhabitants of Indonesia have been here far longer compared to the people from the ‘Out of Taiwan’ period.”
From a genetic perspective, Oppenheimer’s theories are supported by geneticists. The research of nearly 100 geneticists specializing in Asian genetics including Professor Sangkot Marzuki who heads the Eijkman Institute in Jakarta, have already mapped the genetics of Asia Man. The result? “Southeast Asia is the place of origin from which modern man spread out to the rest of the world, after Africa,” says Sangkot.
It is true that Oppenheimer’s theory is not as dramatic as that of the late Arysio Nunes do Santos, a Brazilian professor in nuclear physics, who wrote that the lands of Atlantis, as described by Plato, are indeed the lands of the Sunda Continental Shelf. As Harry Simanjuntak says, Oppenheimer’s theory makes sense, even though Harry himself does not agree with them.
Nur Khoiri, Rudy Prasetyo, Muhammad Husain (Toraja)
Only 17,000 Years Old
1.6 million years ago
Pithecanthropus erectus lived in Sangiran.
Modern man (Homo sapiens) was ‘born’ in Africa.
Homo sapiens crossed the Red Sea. All non-Africans are their descendants.
Homo sapiens moved along the coastline of Asia until they reached China at the border of the Pacific.
People moved to Papua and Australia using boats.
The regions of Europe begin to become warm again. People already start to migrate to Europe.
The earliest remains of Homo erectus soloensis ever to be found. Its fossils were discovered at Ngandong, near Solo. This means that he existed side by side with modern man (Homo sapiens). According to Oppenheimer, it was around this time that the ancestors of Indonesians started to inhabit the regions of Southeast Asia.
From Asia they migrated to America by crossing the Bering Straits.
The Ice Age comes to an end.
The Sunda Continental Shelf becomes submerged causing Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan which originally were part of the landmass of Asia, to become islands on their own.
According to Oppenheimer’s theory, the end of the Ice Age caused Austronesians including the ancestors of Indonesians to spread out into the world bringing their technologies with them.
The Sumerian civilization is already formed. Metal tools made of bronze are starting to be used. According to Oppenheimer’s beliefs the ancestors of Indonesians influenced this ancient Sumerian culture.
The Austronesian people cross the Pacific.
The Egyptian kingdom is established.
A Chinese kingdom under the government of the Xia Dynasty is established.
Paper related with Sundaland- Austronesian Diaspora