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History of Southeast Asiahistory of Southeast Asia from prehistoric times to the contemporary period. Knowledge of the early prehistory of Southeast Asia has undergone exceptionally rapid change as a result of archaeological discoveries made since the s, although the interpretation of these findings has remained the subject of extensive debate. Nevertheless, it seems clear that the region has been inhabited from the earliest times.
The countries of Southeast Asia have played a part in every great historical movement of the last two millennia. They have borne witness to the great era of empire building; the golden age of sea trade and its dark side, colonialism ; the subsequent tides of religion first Hinduism, then Buddhism, Islam and Christianity ; the ugly, bloody realities of Cold War politics; and now, in the 21st century, the spectre of global terrorism and the rise of the megacity. At the dawn of the last millennium, trading ships were sailing between India in the west and China in the east, across the Bay of Bengal and through the Straits of Malacca.
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Warfare in premodern Southeast Asia, roughly that fought up until the end of the 19th century, was shaped by the environment across the region. Maritime trade connections brought the introduction and circulation of external models of warfare that would help to frame the way warfare in the region was depicted in some of the indigenous literature and art including the influence of the Indian epics on shadow puppet theater. Firearms played a more direct role in determining the development of warfare in the region over the course of the early modern period.
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The earliest Homo sapiens presence in Mainland Southeast Asia can be traced back to 50, years ago and to at least 40, years ago in Maritime Southeast Asia. As early as 10, years ago, Hoabinhian settlers had developed a tradition and culture of distinct artefact and tool production. During the NeolithicAustroasiatic peoples populated Indochina via land routes and sea-borne Austronesian immigrants preferably settled in insular Southeast Asia.
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Muslims can be found in all mainland countries, but the most significant populations are in southern Thailand and western Burma Arakan. The Cham people of central Vietnam and Cambodia are also Muslim. Islam is the state religion in Malaysia and Brunei.