Whether you believe in the Sundaland theory, or enjoy reading Atlantis theory type books, or just curious on what this may be about, I think this book may be quite interesting based on the reviews. It is a book by Stephen Oppenheimer titled Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia
I haven't read or bought this myself, just came upon it via Asia Finest tbh. I grew up in a family reading Zecharia Sitchin books so I'm fairly open to reading these types of books. I have no bias nor preconceived notion on such books, I just enjoy reading theories that may not be standard. Of course, it may be unfair to compare books such as Sitchin with this, but any book that proposes what this book proposes, is sure to spark an interest in Austronesian culture.LANGUAGE:
This book completely changes the established and conventional view of prehistory by relocating the Lost Eden—the world's first civilisation—to Southeast Asia. At the end of the Ice Age, Southeast Asia formed a continent twice the size of India, which included Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Borneo. In Eden in the East, Stephen Oppenheimer puts forward the astonishing argument that here in southeast Asia—rather than in Mesopotamia where it is usually placed—was the lost civilization that fertilized the Great cultures of the Middle East 6,000 years ago. He produces evidence from ethnography, archaeology, oceanography, creation stories, myths, linguistics, and DNA analysis to argue that this founding civilization was destroyed by a catastrophic flood, caused by a rapid rise in the sea level at the end of the last ice age.Editorial Review:
In an exhaustively researched and creatively argued reassessment of mankind's origins, British physician Oppenheimer, an expert in tropical pediatrics, contends that the now-submerged area of Southeast Asia was the cradle of ancient civilization. From time to time, scholars from various disciplines have argued for the existence of a vastly old ``founder civilization.'' Among the most famous was Charles Hapgood, who based his theory of a lost seafaring civilization on his analysis of the famous 16th-century ``Piri Re'is'' maps of the Antarctic land mass. In this tradition, Oppenheimer blends evidence from geology, genetics, linguistics, archaeology, and anthropology to argue persuasively that such a civilization existed on a submerged land mass in Southeast Asia, which geologists call the Sunda shelf. Pointing to geological evidence for the submersion of the shelf by abrupt rises in the sea level about 8,000 years ago, Oppenheimer contends that the coastal cultures of Southeast Asia were drowned by a great flood, reflected in flood mythologies scattered from the ancient Middle East (such as the biblical story of Noah) to Australia and the Americas. According to the author, tantalizing archaeological evidence exists of settlements under a ``silt curtain'' left by the sea floods in drowned coastal regions from Southeast Asia to the Middle East, while linguistic markers indicate that languages spread from Southeast Asia to Australia and the Pacific. The shared flood story is one striking example of similar Eurasian myths according to the author; the ancient Middle East and Asia share other myth typologies, conspicuously including creation and Cain and Abel myths, which point to common origins in a progenitor culture. Absorbing, meticulously researched, limpidly written, and authoritative: should be regarded as a groundbreaking study of the remote past of Southeast Asia, and of civilization itself. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The central theme of "Eden in the East" is derived from the fact that island southeast Asia, or more correctly the now mostly submerged Sunda shelf, was actually an extensive subcontinent, comparable in size to India, during the last Ice Age. Oppenheimer summarizes one current understanding of how the Ice Age ended--that is, not slowly, but in three quite dramatic and rapid melts that resulted in severe flooding and perhaps even substantial seismic activity and tsunamis. Thus, the Sunda subcontinent was subjected to a series of horrendous cataclysms, the last one occurring circa 8000-7000 B.C. After this introduction to the climatic facts of the case, the first half of the book is devoted to an examination of genetic and linguistic evidence, or rather to Oppenheimer's own re-examination of this evidence, with the conclusion that Ice Age Sundaland harbored a thriving neolithic culture that dispersed throughout the Pacific and into most of Eurasia subsequent to its flooding, and thus that much of Western civilization can be expected to be derived, or at least influenced, by this antediluvian culture. The second half of the book is entirely concerned with a comparative analysis of several myths that exist in recognizable forms throughout most of the world, including Noah's flood, creation myths, Cain and Abel, and the dying god who is resurrected. Again, Oppenheimer argues that the evidence indicates an origin for each of these basic myths in neolithic southeast Asia.
I am not really qualified to argue with Oppenheimer's analyses; then again, the author is himself a pediatrician with no apparent formal training in linguistics, genetics, or anthropology. Be that as it may, I found his ideas highly intriguing, and a reading of this book reveals him to be completely unlike most of the recent spate of speculative (and very silly) pseudoarchaeologists, concerned as they are with finding Atlantis or some other vision of a long-lost but highly advanced ancient civilization. Unlike the "work" of Rand Flem-Ath or Graham Hancock, what is presented here at least seems reasonable and worthy of intelligent debate. Not the least of the reasons for this is the fact that Oppenheimer is arguing for the existence of an influential neolithic culture, not an enlightened antediluvian civilization. Much of what he argues could still be wrong, and probably is, but at least something interesting might come of the discussion.
The drawbacks of this book are mostly editorial: Oppenheimer is not a gifted writer, and the prose is sometimes tortured enough to give pause. Additionally, the book as a whole, especially the second half dealing with comparative mythology, is entirely too long. I found myself nearly nodding off during the recitations of various "dying-and-rising-tree-god" myths from around the islands of southeast Asia. Beyond this, little attention seems to be paid to the provenance of the many myths recounted in this book; one wonders if the "warring brothers" (Cain and Abel) or Adam and Eve stories in southeast Asia could not have been introduced by Christian missionaries, despite Oppenheimer's protestations. Overall, though, this is a book worth reading, or at least skimming.
The beginning of human civilization as you learned it in school goes like this:
Human beings (homo sapiens) have been around for some 100,000 years, give or take. Until about six or seven thousand years ago, after the end of the most recent ice age, humans were a bunch of wandering hunter-gatherers. They made some great cave paintings, but other than that and a few gnawed bones, they made nothing and left nothing behind. Then, when the ice age ended, they spontaneously dropped their fur cloaks, stopped hunting woolly mammoths and invented agriculture, the wheel, cuneiform, beer, and everything else that makes up civilization.
The problem with this picture, of course, is that the ice age didn't cover the entire earth with ice -- just some of the parts we live on now. And because there was so much more ice, there was less water, and sea levels were some 100-odd meters lower than at present.
So all the best land, the fertile, coastal land, during the ice age -- the era immediately preceeding the first great civilizations of the near easy -- is now underwater.
In _Eden in the East_, Oppenheimer focuses on the great Sunda Shelf in southeast Asia, which in the last ice age was a continent-sized land mass (now sometimes called "Sundaland"). His thesis is that the great civilizations of the near east did not spring whole cloth from the soil, but were founded, or informed, or guided, by refugees from the east, refugees fleeing the great destruction of their homeland with the submergence of the Sunda Shelf.
He argues for his thesis on the basis of genetic, linguistic and mythological studies, all appearing to show a diffusion of culture and people from some prehistoric Sundaland home. The arguments are varied and interesting, maybe even compelling. Certainly they are worth reading.
But they are also very difficult to read. This is a dense book, almost five hundred pages in the edition I have and written in a fairly dry, scholarly tone. So read it, but be warned.
If you're interested in the argument that human prehistory is to be sought in the lands that sank beneath the waves at the end of the last ice age, check out Graham Hancock's book _Underworld_ (already published here in the UK and coming to America soon). Hancock does not focus exclusively on Sundaland, but his arguments and evidences are complementary to those adduced by Oppenheimer. Hancock is less scholarly and more chronological in his approach; _Underworld_ is all first person and very readable.
I loved this book! It clearly and concisely cites evidence for the origin of civilization in the now flooded lowlands of Southeast Asia under the South China Sea. The types of evidence considered are: geological evidence of great floods, linguistic and genetic evidence of dispersion, and mythological evidence of floods and dispersion. I thoroughly enjoyed the sections on geological, linguistic and genetic evidence. The mythological section was long, complicated and labored; and there was almost no summary and conclusion. Hence my four-star rating. This is the only book I know of on the subject and I highly recommend it.
The book badly needed additional chapters reinterpreting world history in light of the evidence that civilization began in Southeast Asia, and spread outward along equatorial sealanes driven by the monsoons. I would have enjoyed a chapter closely comparing Plato's discription of Atlantis with the archeological and other evidence of early SE Asian civilization. Perhaps Doctor Oppenheimer could write a follow on volume to cover these points.
It seems the book is not a very easy one to read, many make references to Graham Hancock's Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization