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The Atlantis That Could Have Been

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Could we eventually uncover a lost civilization like the fabled Atlantis on the sunken portions of the southeast asian peninsula? And if so, what might it have been like in its heyday?

Approximately 25,125 BC- 13,875 BC: By around 25,125 BC the lowlands of the greater southeast asian peninsula had arisen from the sea, exposed by declining sea levels of the Ice Age.

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BACK to the Timeline: Perspectives 50,999 BC-10,001 BC: Atlantis introduction/contents Perspectives on the past

The premise: The cradle of human civilization may well have been the prehistoric lowlands of the Southeast Asian peninsula, rather than the Middle East. But since those lowlands catastrophically 'sank' beneath the seas thousands of years ago (actually drowned by rising sea levels), humanity has remained unaware of their possible significance up through the early 21st century.

Unaware except, that is, for a so-called myth perpetuated by a respected Greek philosopher named Plato, before 347 BC. Plato spoke of an advanced civilization named Atlantis, which sank below the seas perhaps around 9,000 BC. It may well be he wasn't so far off after all.

In the early 21st century the pieces of the puzzle are gradually coming together. Prehistoric human migration patterns made for population densities capable of building civilizations in southeast asia possibly many thousands of years before such occurred in the Mideast. The people of the region were very similar to 20th century humans in their physical and intellectual potentials-- and displayed agricultural practices which wouldn't be seen elsewhere in the world until many millennia later. We also now know that it is indeed possible for catastrophes to wipe out entire civilizations, perhaps leaving little to no evidence behind of their passing. Pompeii. Herculaneum. Port Royal. Two were entire cities buried alive via volcanic eruptions in 79 AD. One was a pirate haven which sank into the sea without warning in 1,692 AD, taking its inhabitants with it. All three events are well proven and documented. The vast real estate forming the Bering land bridge during the last glacial maximum is also known to have disappeared beneath the seas at roughly the same time Plato places the sinking of Atlantis (9,000 BC). The land bridge was at minimum 700 miles wide at its driest moment-- so we're talking a significant sunken land mass here. And the land bridge was one of the smaller tracts to sink beneath the seas at roughly this time, worldwide.

In the 21st century we too now face the threat of rising seas, due to global warming. The Pacific islands of "Tebua Tarawa" and "Abanuea" of the island atoll nation of Kiribati drowned in 1999 AD, with many more to follow...

But for now let us focus on the past rather than the future. In particular, what are the specifics of global sea level changes, timing, and exposed land masses during the last 100,000 years? Or...

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

...Critical questions and answers for several issues relevant to the submergence of a prehistoric civilization during the last 100,000 years:

Q: Global sea levels would have been at their lowest during the last global glacial maximum. Just when was that?

A: The short answer may be as early as 23,000 BC or as late as 19,000 BC. A couple of adjustments have had to be made to the technique of radio carbon dating during the late 20th century, in order to calibrate it for greater accuracy. One adjustment was made utilizing tree ring counts-- but this measure could only help calibrate carbon dating back to 10,000 years in the past. A second correction to increase carbon dating accuracy beyond 10,000 years came from sea coral. Around 1990 the new calibration placed the last global glacial maximum at around 19,000 BC, where previous estimates had placed it at 16,000 BC.

Still later, possibly more accurate estimates came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation in 1998, to place the global maximum at 23,000 BC.

It seems however that circa 1999/2000 many journalistic and even some scientific sources continued to use the older, likely obsolete estimates of the glacial maximum, of around 18,000 BC to 16,000 BC. It appears the prime reasons are their reliance on outdated references, the relatively recent adjustments to the dates, and the general obscurity of the topic itself. Therefore I am here assuming the maximum to have occurred around 23,000 BC- 19,000 BC, unless some new evidence to the contrary comes to light.

Keeping in mind many journalists' and even some scientists' possible continued reliance on outdated estimates for the maximum, I will often compensate for this likely error in my own speculations.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

Q: What are the depths undersea of some land masses drowned after the last Ice Age as of approximately 1999/2000 AD?

A: The best average depths I can offer at this time for certain select land masses near 2000 AD, from shallowest to deepest, are:

The bottom of the English Channel, 86 feet

Beringia, the land bridge once connecting Asia to Alaska, 170.5 feet (98.2% deeper than the English Channel)

The sunken lowlands of the greater southeast asian peninsula, 237 feet (39% deeper than Beringia)

Beringia, the English channel, and the greater southeast asian peninsula all appear to have been less than 500 feet/152.5 meters undersea as of 1989.

Note from the above (and other sources described in this work) the likely order (and timing) of these land masses' rise and then resubmergence under the seas:

Order of most recent rising; the bottom of the English Channel (perhaps 118,000 BC-- near the starting point of the last Ice Age itself), Beringia (31,000 BC), the sunken lowlands of the greater southeast asian peninsula (26,500 BC to 23,750 BC)

For convenience sake, I'll average the rise and fall dates of the lowlands to 25,125 BC and 13,875 BC respectively.

Order of most recent resubmergence; the sunken lowlands of the greater southeast asian peninsula (15,250 BC to 12,500 BC), Beringia (8,500 BC to 7,500 BC), the English Channel (8,000 BC or later-- near the ending point of the last Ice Age itself)

Thus, the dry nature of the English Channel would appear to be the bellweather for much of the most significant prehistoric real estate on Earth, in terms of possible lost human civilizations and/or prehistoric migrations.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

Q: How much did sea levels fall by the last maximum? Rise after? And when?

A: The short answer for both is at least 325 feet, in total. The fall happened between 35,000 BC and 23,000/19,000 BC, while the rise occurred between 15,000 BC and 3,000 BC.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

Q: How long were land masses like the lowlands of the greater southeast asian peninsula and the Beringia land bridge dry land both before and after the global maximum? Note that we may derive some information from the timing of human or animal migrations across Beringia too.

A: The short answer is at minimum thousands of years. So all would have had sufficient time to be well colonized and inhabited by plants, animals, and people, prior to resubmergence. Keep in mind these masses may differ in their relative heights from one another, thereby making one rise earlier and submerge later than another-- at least by a few decades or centuries anyway. My own best guesses as of 3-29-2000 are the following:

The bottom of the English Channel may have remained dry or at most marshy throughout much of the last Ice Age (perhaps from 94,000 BC to 8,000 BC).

Beringia was dry somewhere between 31,000 BC and 8,500 BC-7,500 BC, or 23,000 years. Since Beringia is apparently the second highest land mass of all in altitude of those described here, it would have been dryer more often and for longer than the lowlands of southeast asia, but less so compared to the English Channel.

The sunken lowlands of the greater southeast asian peninsula may have been dry somewhere between 14,000 and 8,500 years-- or from 26,500 BC to 12,500 BC, or 23,750 BC to 15,250 BC.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

Q: What about even earlier glacial maximums? What would have been the timing of dry land existence in these regions (the greater SE Asia peninsula and Beringia) in the corresponding maximum PRIOR to the last? Note that we may derive some information from the timing of human or animal migrations across Beringia too.

A: The short answer is Beringia may have been dry between 80,500 BC and 38,000 BC, or for roughly 42,000 years (for supporting citations see below). Speculation regarding the lowlands of the southeast asian peninsula for this period are much more difficult-- but there appears to be a chance they were dry for anywhere from a few thousand to over 30,000 years around this time; perhaps at best something like 75,000 BC to 44,000 BC. Could an advanced civilization have arisen and disappeared during this truly primordial time in human affairs? Well, anything's possible, but it seems highly unlikely, given the evidence so far available. The later period encompassing 25,125 BC to 13,875 BC is much more fertile ground for this.

END of Q & A regarding issues relevant to the submergence of a prehistoric civilization during the last 100,000 years.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

Supporting facts for the possibility of a lost civilization on the southeast asian peninsula, circa 23,000 BC

What information do we have that supports a possible thriving and advanced civilization in this area, during this period? What events might have marked their development? What technologies? Could their fate offer lessons to us regarding our own future?

Well, the information is scant-- since a western bias (possibly including a pro Judeo-Christian slant) in research has for centuries focused archaeological efforts in the Middle-East and Europe, at the expense of many other promising sites. Too, we have only recently begun to realize that much of human prehistory must now (2000 AD) lie buried in the ocean floor due to the rising seas of 15,000 BC- 3,000 BC; so only extensive submarine efforts may enlighten us as to our true past prior to around 4000 BC. Another obstacle has been our inadequate technology for such submarine explorations. This too has only recently begun to be rectified.

As for what events and technologies may have been a part of any such lost civilization (as well as lessons possibly applicable to our own present and future), let us indulge in our own educated speculation...

The Earth boasts considerably more dry land in 23,000 BC than it will circa 2000 AD, as the Ice Age has lowered the oceans in order to produce the great ice sheets.

Southeast Asia is much larger circa 23,000 BC than it will be in 2000 AD, with a single continuous land mass encompassing Java, Indonesia, Borneo, and India, Vietnam, China, and Korea, all boasting vastly swollen coastlines compared to 2000 AD.

The most inviting spots climate-wise of this time seem to include Middle Africa, the swollen mass of Southeast Asia, and Australia, all straddling the equator of a planet deep in the thros of an Ice Age. All these places offer large amounts of grass and dry woodland and forests, with perhaps around 30-50% rain forest and 20% or so desert or tundra.

The present window of abundant and lush lowlands on the southeast asian peninsula will come to a close by around 13,875 BC as sea levels begin rising and taking back what once was sea bed. Thus, these lands will enjoy only something like 11,000 years of development as dry land before they are submerged again.

It is also true that these lowlands of a greater southeast asian peninsula are very vulnerable to tsunamis (tidal waves) stemming from such things as earthquakes about the Pacific Rim, asteroid or comet impacts in the Pacific, Hawaiian landslips, and various volcanic eruptions in the Pacific region. Fortunately, Hawaiian landslips seem to take place only once every 100,000 years [Landslide By Jonathan Knight, From New Scientist, 7 August 1999 ], and cosmic impacts of consequence here perhaps only once every 600,000 years, on average. So the 11,000 year window for civilization on the southeast asian peninsula appears likely to have remained unbroken by those sources of havoc. Volcanic eruptions however are more frequent and troublesome for this region-- and the glacial weight which subdues such eruptions elsewhere is absent in the vicinity of the peninsula of this time. And devastating tropical storms and hurricanes would be more frequent still.

What of the possibilities regarding other regions of newly dry land about the world during this time?

Of course, this expansion of the southeast asian peninsula is not the only such swollen region in the world of 23,000 BC-16,000 BC: other locations of expanded land area include:

The Bering land bridge between Asia and North America, along with various expanses of many coastlines lining the Arctic, including Asia's own.

Australia and New Guinea form a single land mass now, along with vastly swollen coastlines.

Vast dry plains exist where the 20th century's Yellow Sea and East China Sea will be known.

The southern coastlines of India are significantly expanded.

The North Sea and English Channel are dry; the English Isles and Europe exist in one continuous land mass.

The eastern coastlines of the Americas are considerably expanded now; especially in the southern part of South America. There has been some increase on the western coasts as well, but these are miniscule compared to most other newly dry regions described here.

However, the migration patterns and population densities of humanity up to this point make many of these locations moot. Thus, not all of them enjoy a high probability of hosting a critical mass of humanity, and therefore the potential for development of an advanced civilization.

Those regions of the above most likely to emerge with a critical mass of human populations around this time are the southern coasts of India, and southern and eastern Asia-- including the expanded southeast asian peninsula.

The fresh new lands of Greater Australia and South America bear some interest here, but they suffer from the obstacle of considerable barriers to migrations, which would keep their population numbers way down at this early date. People can reach many of the other locations by crossing no water barriers worse than a river; but getting to Australia or South America require ocean crossings-- with South America requiring a whopper in this regard.

The evidence of climate and plant growth of the time indicates that Beringia is a pretty inhospitable place, offering little food for animals or people-- so it looks unlikely that many people did much more than use it to cross over to North America. So no civilization exists to get lost on Beringia.

The dry North Sea and English Channel seem to offer similar circumstances to Beringia-- a good place to cross over, but you wouldn't want to live there. Of course, for that matter, there is little reason to cross to the English Isles either at this point; they are similar to 20th century Alaska in many ways.

All this leaves us with the southern coasts of India, and the south and east coasts of Asia. With the southeastern peninsula smack in the middle of the Indian coasts and the combined regions of the dry Yellow Sea and East China Sea.

At this time in human prehistory, population densities and easy migration paths favor these Asian regions-- even to the point that there could easily have been three separate centers of civilization distributed among them. Specifically, the centers of gravity for three such states ultimately fated to drown undersea could have been in the vicinities of coastal India, the now (23,000 BC) dry sea bottoms of the combined Yellow and East China Seas (bordered to the north by Korea, and separated/sheltered from the Pacific by a small shallow sea and a mountainous archipelago which someday will form the southern extremes of the Japanese isles), and the lowlands of the southeast asian peninsula-- with the peninsula lowlands perhaps being the most favored of all, due to location, climate, and other matters. (Note however that the extreme eastern regions of the Yellow and East China Sea bottoms would have offered a fabulous location for sea commerce ports, as well as better protection from Pacific tsunamis than most anywhere else in the region.)

But a critical mass of population is essential for the development of a full-blown civilization-- especially an advanced one. Did the world of 23,000 BC offer enough people to make this feasible? Could Earth have supported even one such civilization at this time-- let alone more?

From 148,000 BC to 48,000 BC world population hovered around 11,000 to 40,000. By 8,000 BC world population may have been something under 10 million.

Using interpolation to get total world population numbers for 23,000 BC, we get a maximum of around 6,265,000.

Assuming the fraction of these living in Antarctica and the Americas at the time is negligible, this leaves over six million to be spread over Eurasia and Africa.

In population density maps of the world for One AD (the earliest available from the site cited below), by far the greatest density appears to be along the eastern coast of China. The second greatest density is along the southern coasts of asia, such as India. Lesser spots of significant human population are few and far between, with a tiny amount on the west coast of Africa.

Thus, it appears the bulk of this six million plus people in 23,000 BC (numbering five million perhaps?) likely live either on the east coast of China, or spread across the south coast of Asia, according to these maps. Note that the inviting tropical southeast asian peninsula exists smack in the middle of these migration destinations, yet by One AD appears curiously underpopulated considering its locale and climate. Could it be that the rising seas which inundated vast tracts of the peninsula between 15,000 BC and 3,000 BC-- plus the increasing reach and intensity of storms in the area which accompanies such sea level rises-- frightened off a substantial population after thousands of years of steadily encroaching submergence and destruction? Eventually, succeeding generations would come to expect that the invading sea would never stop coming, and perhaps head for the mainland where safer and more permanent settlements might be established. As if these incentives for exodus were not enough, the region is also afflicted with some of the most active volcanoes on Earth, as well as frequent earthquakes. Add in a possibly memorable, even terrifying war or two on the peninsula in its heyday, and you couldn't come up with a better excuse for multiple generations to flee the region when it became feasible for them to do so.

So here we will assume a total south and east asia population in 23,000 BC of around five million.

So how might this population have been distributed in 23,000 BC? By One AD the east coast of China seems to possess the lion's share of the people, with coastal India running a distant second. The odd population gap of the southeast peninsula in One AD is striking, being as how the region lies between the Indian and Chinese coasts. Note that the center of gravity of world population seems heavily weighted towards the east at One AD. Let's assume this trend was long term, and therefore population was weighted in much the same way in 23,000 BC too.

This might result in only two sizeable cultural hubs in terms of population densities around 23,000 BC, rather than three: the lowlands of the southeast asian peninsula, and the east China Sea bottoms.

If this is so, what might the population breakdown be between these two regions? Well, since the peninsula is closer to the source of all the migrations (Africa), as well as perhaps offers a more hospitable climate and greater abundance of food than the east China Sea lands, it seems plausible that the peninsula enjoys roughly the same population share as east China Sea-- if not more.

But we'll be conservative here to respect the seeming long term trend that human migrations of this era race across Asia to smack into the barrier of the Pacific in east China, and give east China the edge population-wise-- or 60% of the five million estimated total for both these regions.

This leaves some two million for the southeast asian peninsula.

Would a two million population spread over the vastness of the swollen southeast asian peninsula circa 23,000 BC or so offer the critical mass in numbers required to support an ancient Greek-like period of advancement in human thought and action? Well, what was the population of ancient Greece itself? This turns out to be a surprisingly difficult question to answer. As the number and densities involved may be important to our speculations here, let us tackle the matter in the only way we can-- indirectly (for that's the nature of the evidence).

Note that the most important period of ancient Greece is thought to have been from 1000 BC to 146 BC. The population estimate of 3.5 million for Greece and Macedonia combined is for 306 AD-395 AD-- or as much as 541 years later.

Thus, 3.5 million might be taken as a maximum or ceiling value for the possible population of ancient Greece.

Another source estimates the population of the Greek city-state Megara 500 BC-400 BC to have been 40,000, at maximum. Megara is believed to have been among the smallest city-states of the time.

As there may have been some 700 separate city-states in Greece circa 550 BC, 700 multiplied by 40,000 would seem to offer something of a minimal population floor for ancient Greece, wouldn't it? Logically, anyway. But instead it gives us the number of 28 million-- clearly outrageous according to a multitude of historical sources. The error may stem from the different sources using different definitions for city-states. Or perhaps Megara was not so small relative to other city-states as the article cited suggests. Or maybe Megara did not reach the 40,000 number believed. At any rate we cannot create a floor population estimate from such conflicting data. So we'll try a different tack.

About 400 AD some estimates place global population at roughly 200 million.

Around One AD world population is thought to have been between 200 and 300 million.

Some 500 years earlier (500 BC) it is thought to have been maybe 100 million.

So global population may have doubled or tripled between 500 BC and One AD. And then remained largely flat from One AD to 400 AD. Here I will assume the population of ancient Greece follows a similar trend. This leaves us with a population for ancient Greece/Macedonia around 500 BC of somewhere between 1.2 million and 3.5 million.

If ancient Greece possessed no more than 1.2-3.5 million people during its most productive period, then a number of 2 million for the swollen southeast asian peninsula circa 23,000 BC would seem to offer a reasonable chance of the peninsula's peoples duplicating the pace and quality of innovation exhibited by ancient Greece.

Using the population densities of modern Greece as a guide (see above), the largest ancient Grecian city-state may have been three times as populous as the second largest. And there may have been as many as 700 different city-states overall (citations above). Assuming a total population of 2.4 million for ancient Greece in its heyday, with some 600 city-states averaging 3000 plus each, would allow for some 400,000 to be divvyed up among a handful of larger states. Say there was one preeminent state of 60,000-- some three times larger than any individual second tier state. This leaves 340,000.

Let's assume just one second tier state of 20,000. This leaves 320,000, to be divided up among some 32 third tier states averaging 10,000 people each.

Something like this could also represent the population distribution on the swollen southeast asian peninsula of 23,000 BC.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

The Possible People and Technology of 22,425 BC

Just how technologically sophisticated, prosperous, and flexible could a people be in this place and time? Due to the Great Global Erasure which takes place between 15,000 BC and 3,000 BC (as well as the perpetual tendency of later folks to salvage/disassemble/melt down and re-use the materials shaped by previous peoples, thereby wiping out evidence in that manner) we in the 20th/21st centuries have little to go on in this matter. But the meager scraps left behind after the lengthy deluge and ongoing salvage work do provide us with at least a minimum technology foundation for possible 'high-end' civilizations of this period:

#1: People in general have possessed spoken language pretty much globally for at least 75,000 years by now, and perhaps for many hundreds of thousands of years. They've possessed some access to fire for nearly one and a half million years (though the secret of fire-starting may still elude them, forcing them to maintain perpetual fires in community hubs or else seek a flame from neighbors or others; such perpetual fires often burn for years or decades between extinguishings). One element helping make fire more practical is that lamps have been available for almost 50,000 years now (perhaps longer).

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

#2: Much of the humanity of this time are 'modern' humans, and have been spreading throughout the world (perhaps displacing older types of human ancestors) for tens of thousands of years by now. These 'modern' humans are so-called because they are basically as intelligent and behave much the same as the humans of the 20th century would under similar conditions.

The humanity of this period may have possessed brains roughly the same size as 20th century man's for close to 800,000 years by this point.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

#3: Food seems to be plentiful during this time-- at least in some locations around the world. This could help make for a population boom before, during, and after this time, at least in the more fortunate locales about the globe. Abundant and easily accessible food would also allow people more time to experiment, innovate, play-- and make war.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

#4: Besides the possible cornucopia of natural food sources perhaps available by now to some (if not all) of the world's population, there's also signs of agriculture and husbandry efforts underway in at least one spot near one edge of the swollen southeast asian peninsula (the Solomon Islands), going back at least as far as 3,000 years before now, and perhaps even 100,000 years in other places (if you count the earliest efforts with breeding wolves and horses for various purposes, including as contingency food supplies).

Dogs and horses have been domesticated for quite some time in various regions. Both are used at least as contingency food sources. Both are also used as pack animals and to pull sleds of various sorts. Horses are sometimes ridden (though the practice may be unusual), dogs are hunting and combat companions and perimeter guards for camps. Pet monkeys (sometimes highly trained) also may exist.

Of course, the type of agriculture practiced in 22,425 BC may differ significantly from that of 1999 AD: for instance, it can be far more opportunistic, casual, and cost-effective than the methods 20th century folks will be accustomed to. Why? Because there's far fewer people on Earth now, and vastly greater regions of vegetation, and more wildlife of all sorts, as compared to 1999 AD. There's even much more land area on the planet to host such wildlife too, than 1999 AD-- since ocean levels are so low. So throughout many regions of the world basic sustenance may be met as easily as 20th century folk imagine the idyllic life on a sea island, picking wild coconuts and bananas and pineapples for food. Especially here, in the greater southeast asia peninsula.

Keep in mind too that virtually all the grains humanity will subsist upon in 1999 AD also exist in 22,425 BC-- only in wilder form, and usually naturally rather than artificially cultivated. People of this time seem to often reap these wild grains (even making sickle tools to do so) for both short term and long term use. Sowing may be much more rare, as people tend to let nature produce the grains for them. And plowing too is likely rare over most of the world.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

#5: It's possible that the people of 22,425 BC possess quite sophisticated clothing, body art, and personal accessories, as well as jewelry, fishing and hunting nets, ropes, cords, and string by this time-- and perhaps have for at least a couple thousand years already. Musical instruments such as flutes have existed for at least 25,000 years by now. Man-made housing has existed for more than 375,000 years. Food and drink containers have been in use for at least around 80,000 years, perhaps almost half a million. True pottery has been in use for at least around 10,000 years already in Asia.

Worldwide many people may spend much of their lives in extended family groups of under 25 people or so, leading hunter-gatherer lifestyles, and perhaps meeting once or twice annually with other groups for various reasons.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

#6: Humanity during this period (and perhaps for hundreds of thousands of years before relating to some items) displays skills of producing and deftly wielding projectile weaponry such as javelins and related gear, as well as knives, and bows and arrows (likely all stone-based or tipped) (note that simple bows have been in use in some spots for at least 7,000 years by now). People have been hunting big game and constructing animal traps for more than 20,000 years by this time (as well as shown more planning and forethought in their travels than before, which suggests at least memorization of terrain, if not a crude mapping of same; keep in mind humanity has been creating rock etchings and paintings for at least tens of thousands of years by now, in some locations).

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

#7: Prototypical market economies and related trade sprang up more than 10,000 years ago in some spots around the world.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

#8: People of the period may enjoy significant amounts of trade and information exchange with others over vast distances-- perhaps even across the oceans to include virtually every continent on Earth (lowered sea levels have made it possible in some places to reach remote continents walking across land bridges, such as between Asia and North America, as well as via island hopping and seasonal sea ice crossings; but seaworthy craft are and have been available for maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of years, as well).

Keep in mind all the above defines the minimum technologies and capacities the most advanced peoples of this time could easily possess; considerably more could be at their disposal, but due to many factors evidence for such will be virtually impossible to find by the 18th through 21st centuries. What factors could erase many signs of advanced technology use during this period, over the next tens of thousands of years? Things like the global deluge (rising sea levels) of 15,000 BC to 3,000 BC, increased earthquakes and volcanism after the end of the Ice Age, and intensive salvage, disassembly, and reshaping of many remains by generations that follow, among others.

There's also the greater rarity of artifacts to begin with due to the vast differences in population between now and the late 20th century (less than one one thousandth as many people inhabit the world today compared to 2,000 AD). Add atop all this the chaos and destruction due to tens of thousands of years of wars, raging tropical storms, tsunamis, and plain old aging and decay, and mounting damage from both plant and animal life (roots can break rocks, bricks, and tiles; animals can chew wood and leather), and the most likely results would seem no evidence left behind whatsoever. So immense amounts of information concerning the lives of these people will remain unknown to 20th/21st century humanity more than twenty thousand years later.

Indeed, not much more than rocks can survive tens of thousands of years of such wear and tear-- which is one reason why scientists say perhaps only 5% of the artifacts created by prehistoric peoples have survived to be found in modern times (the 20th/21st centuries).

"Perishable" relics, or "soft technology" such as plant fiber-based articles of clothing, rope, etc., could tell us much more about prehistoric and ancient peoples than mere shaped stones can. But soft technology is almost always too fragile to last long except under extraordinary conditions.

What few items of soft technology have been found in the Americas seem to indicate fiber-based items accompanied stone accessories in virtually all migrations of peoples into the Americas-- including the earliest. What is more, ancient peoples likely used far more such stuff in their daily life than the stone-based artifacts upon which we base most of our knowledge about such peoples today. It seems likely the first sea crossings from Asia to Australia also included a high percentage of fiber-based technology.

In fact, in those cases where apparently comprehensive samples of all likely artifacts are available (sites dating back through 8,000 BC) the proportion of plant fiber-based technologies used to stone-based appears to be around 20 to one; or 95% of everything ancient peoples used in daily life was fiber-based, rather than stone.

It seems reasonable to project these ratios back still further into prehistory, well beyond the threshold date of 8,000 BC from which fiber-based items will tend to disintegrate into dust by 2,000 AD.


Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

#9: Lastly, how conducive to rapid evolution/innovation among its inhabitants could the environment of the peninsula lowlands have been during this time? In order to produce the extraordinary social and technological development I'm suggesting here, the beginnings of the culture might have to be much like ancient Greece in many respects. Then, the lowlands would have to undergo their own highly compressed/accelerated version of the actual world history recorded for, oh, say 13,000 BC - 1,945 AD; or near 15,000 years of development squeezed into 8,600 or less. Let us examine these elements one at a time...

So what will the historic ancient Greek society which will rise to fame much later on be like?

Ancient Greece consisted of many small city-states. The rough terrain of Greece helped limit how much one state could dominate another. The nearby sea and naturally good harbors encouraged outward looking maritime exploration and trade for many of the states, while the poorly growing soil and near useless rivers (for purposes of shipping or travel) of the country's interior discouraged much activity there. The Greek's chronically inadequate food production capacities too encouraged them to develop trade with other peoples. All this offered up a wealth of extroverted, sea-based opportunity while also encouraging independence of thought and action. The citizens within each city-state tended to share the same bloodlines, religion, and language. Early on most of the city-states were ruled by an Oligarchy, or small group of rich and powerful elite. Eventually some city-states became democratic, with all citizens allowed to vote to choose their leaders.

Some states like Sparta were very war-like societies, while others such as Athens tended to be peaceful and welcome new ideas.

The Greeks believed in living life to the fullest in the present, rather than pinning hopes on some sort of afterlife, which most believed would be little fun for anyone. Indeed, some Greek tales of heroism involve saving someone from the afterlife. The Greeks did believe in striving to perform great deeds and thereby be immortalized in people's memories. Both great intellectuals and warriors were revered.

Greeks were very individualistic, and treasured diversity. They also recognized the same things which might lead one to greatness could also lead one into despair.

Science in ancient Greece was dominated by logic, mathematics, practicality, and relevance to daily life.

The Greeks created the Olympic games in order to offer many different states the opportunity to come together for friendly competition, and perhaps more.

Slaves were ubiquitous in ancient Greece. Wealthy Greek houses could boast ten to twenty slaves. Slaves pretty much performed all the more difficult, dangerous, or otherwise unwanted jobs necessary to support the citizenry. Thus, differentiating between a slave and a poor but free citizen of Greece could be difficult. The population of slaves may have outnumbered the free citizens of the nation. Slavery was entered by birth, or as a prisoner of war, or if a person was abandoned as a baby and taken in by others. Children could be sold into slavery (it was usually females who were sold). Being kidnapped for sale into slavery was also a frequent occurrence.

There were different classes of slaves in ancient Greece. Servants of a household were supervised by the lady of the house and often enjoyed positions almost equivalent to being a family member.

Clerks of the government treasury may have held the next best positions as slaves. Slave policemen, the third (most ancient Greek police officers were slaves).

Convicted criminals and other undesirables (as well as the merely unlucky) would be put to work as slaves in the mines or onboard ships, where life tended to be short and brutal for them.

The prices of slaves in ancient Greece ranged from as little as $9 to as much as $180 (to use modern cash equivalents), depending on the desirability of the slave overall (health, looks, attitude, and age). Slave prices often became depressed when large stocks of war prisoners were brought into the market.

But what of Greek technological developments? Well, by near the end of Greece's most exalted period in history, they were apparently building a small number of complex geared machines-- mechanical computers-- designed for purposes of sea navigation, among other things. Other engineering feats included innovations in the areas of ballistics and solar power for war. In regards to matters like mathematics and physics, they realized the basic principles behind mechanics (the lever, screw, and differential gearing), and hydrostatics, as well as came near to inventing calculus, among others. Oh, and by the way, they also created the framework for modern democratic governments too while they were at it, which nearly 2000 years later would still be going strong, as well as perhaps revolutionized the clarity and scope of human expression in spoken language.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

Ancient Greek-like developments on the southeast asian peninsula

[Caution: Speculation ahead]

So let us put into place a parallel society to the ancient Greeks on the lowlands of the south east asian peninsula, circa 22,425 BC.

First of all, the lowlands of the peninsula offer vastly more land area than the ancient Greek homeland will thousands of years later. While the lowlands do not offer the same rugged terrain as Greece to separate, differentiate, and protect one city-state from another, they do offer far more 'elbow room' between cities, and multiply the time and distance required to reach neighboring city-states by many times that true for ancient Greece. Thus, military maneuvers against other city-states must take place on time and distance scales more akin to all of Europe rather than the small Grecian peninsula of the Athenians. Note that in the case of Europe only a few times in history will one of the native states manage to conquer and subjugate all the rest-- even after immense technological gains like internal combustion engines and aircraft become available. In ancient times the Roman Empire will be one notable exception to the rule.

The lowlands geography also does not force the inhabitants to seek out external food sources due to poor soil and growing conditions. Food is for the most part plentiful among the lowland societies, except in bad growing seasons or spots of especially dense population perhaps.

The lowlands city-states keep their independence primarily by way of robust trade and innovation which makes them both valuable as allies and trade partners to others, and formidable enemies in war. Though the considerable geographical distances involved on the peninsula do offer some protection from hostilities, the city-states also utilize social and economic competition, trade and legal agreements with their neighbors, and a high state of military readiness to maintain their freedom and diversity.

Like the Greeks will later, the citizens within each lowlands city-state tend to share the same bloodlines, religious beliefs, and language, which makes every city-state much like one large extended family. Also like the Greeks, most of the lowland city-states in 22,425 BC will find themselves ruled by an oligarchy, or small group of rich and powerful elite. In a further parallel with the Greeks, eventually some city-states became democratic, with all citizens allowed to vote in the selection of their leaders.

Another similarity to be shared with the Greeks is the high differentiation and sometimes specialization of individual city-states. Some focus more on war and physical sports than others; some on intellectual pursuits. Still others more upon commercial opportunity. But few neglect the basic characteristics required to maintain viability and independence on the peninsula-- for the penalty is subjugation, with many citizens taken into slavery.

The conquest of one's home state is not the only way one might enter into slavery in the lowlands. Others include being taken prisoner in any type of war-related action, or kidnapped, or sold or abandoned by one's parents at an immature age. Being born to enslaved parents also will put you into slavery, under most circumstances.

The lowlands city-states share with the later Greeks a great dependence upon slaves. The welfare of lowlands slaves spans much the same gamut as Greek slaves, from household servants often being nearly equivalent to family, to the lowest consigned to the worst labors available, often as criminal punishment of some sort. In the great mid-range of servitude lowlands slaves serve as administrative clerks in business and government, law enforcement officers, market laborers, and agricultural workers.

Many lowlands slaves enjoy at least the opportunity to better their lot-- sometimes even gain their freedom-- provided they publicly proclaim their willingness to meet certain standing challenges and then succeed at them. For example, message running slaves are a special class in themselves, often able to gain their freedom after only two or three years of service, if they perform well.

Some lowlands slaves enjoy educational opportunities comparable to citizens. Slaves can be teachers or trainers of either citizens or other slaves. They can even rise to be high level government advisors in some instances. Often when a slave is judged to have performed some especially valuable service for the state, they are granted their freedom in a public ceremony. Sometimes such freedom is accompanied by a considerable financial reward as well, to help them get started in their new life. Most frequently these ceremonies are held for old trustworthy slaves who are being replaced due to age, but occasionally younger slaves qualify too.

Once every six years of ownership a master is required to perform some witnessed service for their slave(s). This service may either be to do something in public at the slave's bidding which the master at some time in the past has ordered of the slave (it can be humiliating but not dangerous), or, alternatively, the master may bestow a significant gift upon the slave instead, such as a temporary slave of their own, or something equally desirable. Another option is to set the slave free, but this one is not usually exercised. Note that it is in the slave's best interest not to exploit this perk to excess-- as the shoe will be back on the other foot momentarily.

The poorest free state citizens often serve as supervisors or managers of slave gangs in the employment of government, business, or wealthy citizens. In payment for this service the poor citizen will be allowed at least one (often two) slave(s) of their own to do the drudge work at home, or serve the citizen's own small business interests. The best slave supervisors/managers (those who get the most work from their slaves for the smallest cost, while also keeping the slaves relatively content) can often move up the ladder to ultimately become a middle-class citizen or better.

At times the slave population of a given city-state might peak at roughly two-thirds the total population, but more typically it makes up around half. This large ratio of slaves to free citizens is one reason why lowlands slaves enjoy a relatively high number of opportunities to better their lot, as well as other perks, compared to slaves of later millennia and other nations. The opportunities and perks act as safety-valves on unrest, and sources of hope to further blunt desperation, frustration, and betrayal. On the flip-side, the penalties for runaway, rebellious, or disloyal slaves can be severe.

Most all the city-states possess direct or indirect access to the sea via coastline or inland waterways. This is both like and unlike the subsequent Greek situation, where many city-states had harbor access to the sea, but the inland waterways were typically useless to anything but the smallest boats.

In another like/unlike comparison, some lowland city-states on the coast enjoy close proximity to various islands, similar to the situation of the ancient Greeks, while many others do not. This combination of Greek-like and un-Greek-like elements makes for an intriguing dichotomy of character and ambitions among the lowlands city-states, with some being naturally extroverted and eagerly seeking outside trade and contacts, while others instead seek more opportunities and associations within the peninsula itself.

Those city-states nearest the mainland junction tend to enjoy the best and worst of both worlds, the lowlands and the mainland. In times of war with the mainland, they often suffer the most as battlegrounds, but in times of peace they profit the most from trade with and raiding of the mainland. More removed lowland city-states have to pay taxes or fees of various kinds to them for the privilege of traveling and shipping over their territory. Other lowland states often have to help pay the expenses of guarding the borders towards the mainland as well-- or else risk they themselves becoming the border states after the next war.

For these reasons and others the mainland junction peoples maintain few permanent settlements, preferring a nomadic life instead. Keep in mind the regular wars over their territory make it expensive to construct permanent housing there, as it tends to be destroyed in battles, or else require much expense to defend during such times. Plus, there are the more primitive highlanders to deal with as well (as little of the mainland junction exists as lowlands) Thus, the more civilized peoples of the junction are nomadic, resembling in some ways various nomadic Arab tribes which will inhabit the Middle-East in millennia to come.

These nomadic junction peoples exploit their circumstances to the utmost, becoming perhaps the most adroit traders on land among all the peninsula folk. But they leave precious little of permanent constructions behind them in the highlands of their domain, living as they do in tents and improvised shelters during most of their time there. However, many do own or have access to more permanent dwellings in or near the city-states of the lowlands. Groups of these nomads tend to migrate seasonally between the highlands and lowlands, in a staggered fashion-- thereby never leaving their homeland territories wholly unprotected from highland and mainland barbarians, or their own peninsula cousins. To retain their lucrative way of life the nomads must act as constant sentinels against invasions from the mainland, as well as large incursions of highland primitives into the lowlands. They are expected to provide a first line of defense in association with troops from the lowlands stationed to help them, and notify lowland authorities immediately if more help is required.

The nomads of the mainland junction rarely instigate significant wars with their fellow peninsula states; an unwritten truce which is largely reciprocated by the other nations of the peninsula. Thus, the mainland junction nomads enjoy an unusual status in some regards to this and other matters, compared to other lowland-affiliated citizenry.

The constant threat of attack from the mainland or other quarters, in combination with the wariness towards fellow lowland states, and the necessity to maintain a high state of competitiveness in many matters, eventually brought about a surprising system of competition-cooperation between most of the city-states of the peninsula. For instance, every state would tend to all the wounded or ill found on their own territory after a battle, friend and foe alike, and return significantly injured/ill enemy soldiers to their home country at the earliest opportunity. By contrast, captured warriors not found to be significantly injured or sick would be enslaved (and all highland or mainland prisoners would be enslaved). No side would knowingly interfere in the care of sick or injured soldiers. For example, a troop of soldiers might pass through an enemy hospital camp on their way to battle, but not harass or threaten anyone in the camp at all along the way.

Teachers, tradesmen, physicians, women, children, slaves, and pack animals enjoy safe passage through areas of conflict (though the normal taxes or fees of peacetime passage could still be demanded, and from time to time mistakes did occur-- but there were stiff punishments for knowingly harming these entities).

Another unusual aspect of cooperation/competition between the city-states is multi-modal war. That is, distinctly different classes of overt conflict.

All-out war is a classification 20th century humanity would recognize. But this level of war among the lowlands state is most often declared against external threats rather than neighboring lowland states. For instance, all-out war is typically used only against the mainland.

The methods and consequences of all out war are of course much like what 20th century humanity would expect: the single rule that there are no rules, and winner take all.

Sport-war by contrast is almost like a Greek Olympics competition involving good fractions of entire armies wielding non-lethal weapons or even bare hands, in a test largely of stamina, strategy, and luck on the part of the opposing teams. The prizes of sport-war are pay offs from related gambling pools, bragging rights, and sometimes a special trophy of some sort, very similar to sporting events involving far smaller teams in the 20th century. Sport-war is engaged in frequently and easily, as it's fun and usually not much more dangerous than skiing or football will be for 20th century USAmericans (i.e. isolated fatalities, occasional broken limbs, lots of sprains, bruises and cuts). It's also good exercise and practice for the troops involved, in maneuvers and hand-to-hand combat.

A more serious form of sport-war is trade-war, where some trade argument which cannot be settled in any other way is resolved as a result of the two city-states pitting perhaps half their respective armies against one another in a larger, grander version of the Sport-war, once suitable prizes have been established by the negotiation teams.

Freedom and citizenship offers many privileges; but serving in military actions is one of the costs for those privileges. All men of normal physical capacities are required to serve as soldiers between the ages of 14 and 21 in most of the city-states. There are ways families can avoid their sons' recruitments, but those too are potentially costly in one way or another.

Southeast Asia 25,125 BC-13,875 BC Contents

A sustained pace of technological and social development at minimum twice that of recorded history

Supporting the possibilities of an ancient Greek-like scenario around 22,425 BC on the southeast asian peninsula via known scientific facts might not be that difficult, given that a great deal of human technology worldwide between 22,425 BC and 1000 BC- 200 BC (the time of ancient Greece) won't change very much (citations for this are offered in this document). But the compressed/accelerated history to follow may be a different story. 15,000 years squeezed into 8,600 or less? Such an acceleration might not only push human evolution and adaptation beyond the breaking point, but human endurance of change as well.

However-- note at minimum we're primarily talking something like only double the speed of development proven possible by actual history-- and for only a relatively small portion of the globe, at that. History has already shown us proof that some regions of the world develop much faster than others, given certain conditions-- so at least short term, local spurts of progress several times as fast as the average or recorded long term pace are not unusual.

But sustaining such a faster pace consistently over some 8,600 years-- that might demand some special circumstances indeed. In recorded history the most advanced civilizations typically sustained only a half-dozen centuries or less of steady improvement or development of one form or another, before collapsing or essentially being transformed into a different state entirely. And often as not much of the technologies and knowledge developed before such transitions were lost or forgotten in the aftermath. So this does not bode well for our speculations...unless the lowlands managed to maintain sufficient diversity and independence amongst all its states over most of the 8600 years so that whenever one state collapsed another nearby was able to pick up the pieces, insuring an almost unbroken continuity of technological development overall.

Indeed, respected science fiction author and computer science professor Vernor Vinge in his novel A Deepness in the Sky, 1999, Tor Fiction, speculates that a similar distribution of independent and diverse civilized worlds within a galaxy, capable of rebuilding any one of their number in the aftermath of a local collapse, may be the only way local recoveries from periodic catastrophic failures and backslides in technology and civilization may be accomplished on a long term basis. For the ever present element of natural entropy, along with plain mistakes made at ever higher levels of technological complexity, may combine to make periodic collapse of complex systems inevitable. This may be true of biological systems in general, as well, if the periodic mass extinctions indicated by fossils are not all due to external forces like cosmic impacts.

Such a long term differentiation and independence among the lowland states of the peninsula does appear possible. And might certainly be required for the peninsula to perhaps outdo the world in general in average speed of innovation between 22,425 BC and 13,875 BC.

Another seeming requirement for all this is that most of the states of the lowlands usually manage to maintain a rough equivalence with the others in terms of technological prowess throughout the span. This implies a robust competition in technological innovation, as well as strong commercial trade between states.

So a sophisticated and highly flexible market economy would be required. Which strongly implies free trade, capitalism, and at least some elements of democracy, as well as dictatorships (a mix of economic systems at least in some ways similar to that of the late 20th/early 21st centuries Earth).

But still more might be required. The peninsula would likely benefit enormously from regular injections of new elements of technology and ideas, plants and animals, and people too from mainland Asia. In this way the lowlands could receive occasional boosts and refreshments from the enormous size and diversity of the mainland's resources, in addition to their own internal processes. This too seems a plausible possibility for the peninsula states.

Then there's the motherlode of technological innovation: war. Free-wheeling trade is one thing; frantic war efforts are another. If the city-states of the lowlands found themselves under near continuous threat from many directions, with periodic major assaults occuring at least several times in every generation, this too would help spur progress in many matters at an accelerated pace.

If both the military and commercial concerns also encouraged and sponsored a wide range and high number of regular sporting and academic competitions, those too would increase the pace of innovation, as well as add welcome spice to daily life on the peninsula.

Widespread, high quality education would be essential to sustaining a high pace of technological and social development over the long term.

Lastly, there's luck and the king of all disruptive technologies. Imagine a civilization more or less accidentally discovering something more revolutionary and widely applicable to daily life than even microprocessor chips. Accidental scientific discoveries are not only possible, but likely, according to the actual history of the world between 1 AD and 2000 AD. But often as not such discoveries among documented history were ignored or forgotten by the discoverers because the finds were not related to experimental goals, or at an uninspired glance appeared worthless to those present at the time. Penicillin, the first modern anti-biotic, capable of saving millions of lives from disease, was definitely an accidental discovery the second time it was found-- and the first time some years before it was ignored by authorities ["Frenchman Found Penicillin Before Fleming -Author", Reuters at dailynews.yahoo.com; News Science Headlines, July 17 1999]. The principles of the steam engine were discovered but then ignored for 1600 years [Milestones in Technology, February 26, 1999, knoxnews.com]. The basics of direct current electrical systems also may have been realized around One AD, but then forgotten again for 1800 years ["Ancient Electricity?", pages 20-21, Feats and Wisdom of the Ancients, Library of Curious and Unusual Facts, Time-Life Books, 1990, and Inventions; Science and Technology, page 174, The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1996, World Almanac Books].

How many potentially wonderful technologies have been happened upon by accident and then discarded, perhaps never to be seen again? We cannot know. But we do know such accidental discoveries do happen from time and time, and when they are not thrown away or ignored, they may often change the world.

What if one or more of the city-states of the lowlands happened upon such a chance discovery? One even more important and easily exploited than the 20th century microchip? And rather than ignore it, they capitalized on it?

Just a single lucky discovery of this kind could be enough to easily double or triple (or more) the pace of later development in the civilization.

At least, until their luck ran out.

And now, on with the possibilities (in speculative story form)...

WAIT! There's more! CLICK HERE for an authoritative but speculative account of the lost civilization of the peninsula (PAGE TWO)

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All text above not explicitly authored by others copyright © 1993-2008 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.