Malaysia's prehistory began with the earliest known human habitation about 40,000 years ago, and extends through the protohistoric period to the founding of the Melaka Sultanate in 1400 CE, the date commonly referred to as the beginning of the country's historic era. Because of Malaysia's political geography—the Malay Peninsula, which forms the southeastern tip of the Asian mainland, and Sabah and Sarawak, which are part of the island of Borneo, are 530 kilometres apart—its prehistory and protohistory developed along separate paths.
The first half of the volume introduces the reader to Malaysia's prehistory, tracing the debate on the dating and origins of Malaysia's earliest inhabitants; it examines the technological and artistic evidence for these and for various phases and varieties of settlement patterns, economies and belief systems. The second half of the book reconstructs Malaysia's protohistoric period from about the end of the first century CE to the beginning of the 15th century, revealing how archaelogicial finds and textual sources, primarily the narratives of foreign travellers, have helped archaeologists to locate the remnants of early kingdoms and port sites, and to speculate on the location of others.
Although Malaysia's hot, wet climate has affected the number of surviving architectural remnants and artefacts, archaeological excavations have nevertheless yielded an abundance of fascinating remains which will provide readers with a new understanding of Malaysia's early history, much of it was not published outside academic journals. The book is illustrated with over 400 photographs, and a wealth of historic documents, specially commissioned artwork, diagrams and maps.
Visit the The Encyclopedia of Malaysia website.
Dato' Dr Nik Hassan Suhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
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