During what geologists call the Pleistocene epoch (approximately 1,800,000–8000 B.C.), Malaysia and its offshore islands are joined by a continental shelf (known as the Sunda Shelf) to the Indochinese peninsula and the islands of Indonesia. During these hundreds of thousands of years, as the earth's sea level alternately rises and lowers, Malaysia's coastal lands are intermittently covered or exposed. Although hominids of the Homo erectus species apparently made their way across the Sunda Shelf to the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, no fossils of this early species are known in Malaysia. (There have been a few finds of stone tools at Koto Tampan in peninsular Malaysia that some scholars date to as far back as 73,000 B.C., but most date this site closer to 30,000 B.C.) It is not until about 38,000 B.C. that the first hominid remains appear in Malaysia, and by then they are of the species Homo sapiens. Although the origins of these first Malaysians are uncertain, they are almost certainly Australoids (AustraloMelanesians), ancestors of the several mixed-Mongoloid peoples who live to this day throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific. In Malaysia these people are known as the orang asli (indigenous people); to anthropologists the most populous group are known as the Negritos (formerly called the Semang); they are generally characterized by their dark coloring, small stature, and tightly curled hair. By about 6000 B.C. the sea level has essentially receded for the last time, leaving the land forms of Malaysia and most of the rest of Southeast Asia much as they are to this day. Starting about 2000–1500 B.C. a major change begins to occur with the arrival of two groups of Mongoloid peoples in the Malay Peninsula. The first group are most likely from southern China and/or Thailand; they will remain largely in the interior as agriculturists. The second group are from islands to the east and north (possibly Borneo and the Philippines); linguistically these new Malaysians are considered Austronesians, relatives of the people who, starting about 3000 B.C., moved out from Taiwan to settle throughout much of the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, many of the Pacific islands, and Madagascar. As various Mongoloid peoples make their way into Malaysia, becoming more numerous and possibly more active, the Australoids are in general being isolated or pushed to the interior of the region; gradually, however, there
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Publication information: Book title: Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture. Contributors: John S. Bowman - Editor. Publisher: Columbia University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 465.