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Neolithic Age



Out of the mists of the distant past indistinct images have been located upon the radar-screen of time. Tile work of prehistorians and philologists has made it possible for its to penetrate into the life of prehistoric man. In this way we are able to chart the course taken by important cultural movements even though the limits of time and place frequently remain vague and blurred. Stones which have been discovered bearing traces of working by human hands have enabled the prehistorian to investigate these cultural movements and to define them more precisely, at least within certain limits. No doubt further individual studies will confirm scientifically much that at present is merely conjecture. Comparative philology has also yielded valuable results.

The cultural movement which was of greatest importance to Indonesia emanated from Yunnan in South China. Various groups and tribes emigrated to Indonesia from this region, where the upper courses of the great rivers Hwang-lio, Yangtze-kiatig, Mekong, Salween, Irrawady and Brahmaputra are not far distant front each other. These emigrants first proceeded from Yunnan to Further India, and then moved southwards into the Malayan peninsula. From this southeastern tip of tile Asian continent they embarked upon their great, enterprise: in slender vessels with curved bow and stern - they sailed out into tile unknown towards tile islands of Indonesia.
This migration must have proceeded very gradually, probably over the course of some thousand years, since large groups will hardly have been able to leave at the same moment. In view of this long duration, cultural influences will probably also have made themselves felt at various stages of the process. The prehistorian R. von Heine-Geldern puts this movement at between 2500 and l500 B.C.
Despite their different development in other respects, these migrants were in the normal Neolithic stage civilization. The material objects characteristic of this period are chiefly ground and polished stone axes, which are to be found in various shapes. Typical of this culture is the rectangular axe, so called because of its long rectangular cross section.

R. von Heine-Geldern considers that the centre from which the rectangular axe culture spread was Yunnan. Axes of this kind have been found no, only in this region but also throughout Further India, as well as in the Mallyan peninsula. They constitute, so to speak, the sign-posts on the path taken by the Indonesians towards the south. The fact that these types of axe have also been found further to the west indicates that a similar cultural movement took place in the direction of India. But since this is of no significance. or at least no direct significance, so far as Indonesia is considered, the problems which this raises will not be considered here.

In the Indonesian Archipelago rectangular axes have been found in central and southern Sumatra, Java, Bali and the other Lesser Sundas, Borneo, Celebes and the Moluccas. Particularly amongst the finds in southern Sumatra, Java and Bali, one comes across specimens of fine expert workmanship and exquisite shape. They are amongst the most magnificent artifacts ever found. It is beyond all doubt that Neolithic man lived in permanent settlements. There must have been special reasons for the migration from Yunnan to the Indonesian islands, but these can only be guessed at, not ascertained with


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