Starting with ancient Malaysia, we are talking about a time period between 35,000 BC to 100 BC. The oldest known evidence of human habitation is a skull from the Niah Caves in Sarawak or East Malaysia dating from 35,000 BC. On the peninsula itself, Stone Age tools and implements from about 10,000 BC have been found. Some archaeologists suggest that they were left there by the Negrito aborigines – one of the earliest groups to inhabit the peninsula. The tribe still exists in Malaysia today.
We also know that about 2,500 BC, another group migrated to the peninsula all the way from China. They are called the Proto-Malays and they were seafarers and farmers. Their eventual advancement into the peninsula forced the Negritos into the hills and jungles. With waves of migration, another group was soon created, the Deutero-Malays. This group was a combination of many peoples- Indians, Chinese, Siamese, Arabs, and Proto-Malays. They mastered the use of iron. In combination with the peoples of Indonesia, the Deutero-Malays formed the racial basis for the group many today call, the Malay.
Early writings from India describe a place called Suvarnabhumi, otherwise known as the Land of Gold. This far away, unknown land was described as a mystical, wealthy, opulent kingdom. This mysterious land was what drew the first Indians to the Peninsula. Coming from the Bay of Bengal with the reliable winds of the southwest monsoon, they 안전놀이터 landed in Kedah up north sometime around 100 BC. If it was indeed the mystical land they sought, no one will ever know, but whatever they found in Malaysia at the time certainly guaranteed a steady stream of Indian traders arriving in search of gold, aromatic wood, spices and much more.
History soon tells of the Hindu Kingdoms that lasted from 100 BC to 1400 AD. Besides trading goods, the Indians also brought a pervasive and strong culture with them. Ancient religions like Hinduism and Buddhism swept through the land. Local kings who sent emissaries to the subcontinent became impressed by the efficiency of the Hindu courts and began to refer to themselves as “rajahs.” It became the integration of the best Indian ruling traditions, which historians refer to as “Indianised kingdoms.” There is still remaining evidence in Lembah Bujang up north, where you can find Malaysia’s most extensive archeological site- the sprawling ruins of an ancient Hindu kingdom dating back to 300 AD. Over 50 tomb temples dot the site, and hundreds of relics are on display in the nearby Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum. Much of Malay, and local culture retain aspects of Indian culture, and this can be seen in the use of Sanskrit in the national language, through similar wedding ceremonies, the use of henna, dances, performances and much more.
In the 7th century, came an important kingdom- the Srivijaya Empire, which was lauded with the title of having the best trading port in the region. We know this through the records of Chinese, Indian, and Arab traders. Other ports were quick to emulate it, hoping to achieve the same success. During the 13th century, as other ports emerged, Srivijaya’s influence declined. The lack of a strong central power, coupled with the nuisance of pirates, increased the need for a secure, well-equipped port in the region. Fate would take care of this. This port would soon be none other than Malacca.
The Malay Annals say, that a fleeing Palembang prince named Parameswara founded Malacca, down south, in 1400. Palembang is in the south of the Indonesian province of Sumatra, just across the straits. One day, while the prince was scouting for a new area to build his new kingdom, he saw a tiny mouse deer wrestling with a big dog while he was resting under the Melaka tree. Guess what? The tiny mouse deer won. Taking this as a good omen, he decided to establish a kingdom called Malacca, named after the tree that he was resting on. He built and improved facilities for trade, and within 50 years; it became the most influential port in all of Southeast Asia. At any given time, ships from dozens of kingdoms great and small could be seen anchored at the harbor. Imagine, hundreds of traders all trading and seeking their fortune in this new world with their spices, jewels, silks and much more.
Along with these traders came the religion of Islam, and Malacca’s rulers now referred to themselves as “Sultans.” The sultans were the heads of a highly organized municipal government. A multilingual harbor captain met each incoming ship, and his staff would see to all the vessel’s needs. Besides that, there were also guarded storehouses where goods could be stored until traders arrived, or for safekeeping until they left. Most importantly, Malacca was attractive to traders because it was able to control what had been the bane of trade in the Straits – the pirates. And how did they do this? Well, by building alliances with outlying tribes and ports. They managed to establish a regional “navy” that policed local waters and escorted friendly vessels.