Mar 1, 2011


Cambodia before Angkor…

  • Mar 1, 2011
  • Share
  • For most people, the ancient city of Angkor is synonymous with Cambodia, but the Angkorean Empire dates only from 802 AD, when King Jayavarman II moved upstream from the Mekong Valley to found a new capital on higher ground near the north-western tip of the Great Lake, the Tonlé Sap.

    The country, however, was inhabited long before that. Stone Age remains indicate human presence in what we now call Cambodia for tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of years. We cannot say if these people were the distant ancestors of the present-day Khmers, but it does seem that the Khmer Mon people settled in the area between Burma and the South China Sea some time before the third millennium BC, after migrating from the north.

    For most of this gulf of unrecorded time, the inhabitants were hunter-gatherers, nomads who roamed the forests and marshlands in search of game and vegetable foods. It is likely also that others practiced swidden, or slash-and-burn farming, much as the Khmer Loeu tribes or hill peoples still do today, cutting and burning clearings in the forest and growing crops for a year or so before moving on when the soil is exhausted.

    There is archaeological evidence to show that some of these nomads began a more settled, agriculturally based existence around3000BC, particularly east of the Mekong near the present-day settlements of Chup and Snuol. At some stage during this process, rudimentary state societies must have replaced the ‘primitive communism’ of these people’s ancestors, which if like the simple societies of the hill peoples today, was based around a collective, non-state way of life.

    The early sedentary people used copper and bronze tools from at least 1500 BC. One thousand years later, these people or others like them lived in fortified settlements, using iron tools, in sophisticated social systems made possible by the creation of a social surplus product based on efficient agriculture and animal husbandry. It is highly unlikely that there was any single unified state during this period; probably there were numerous petty principalities, ruled over by local chieftains, or pons.

    It might be tempting to impose the idea of ‘Cambodia’ on to the distant past, but all the evidence indicates that there was no unitary Cambodian state until after the foundation of Angkor at the beginning of the ninth century AD. Moreover, there is no hard evidence to prove that these early inhabitants were Khmers at all-it is not until the seventh century AD that stone inscriptions in the Khmer language began to occur.

    It is entirely possible that the inhabitants of the early settlements were ancestors of the modern Chams, or of some other people who might have died out or been pushed out by later settlers. After all, by way of comparison, until the fifth century AD, with the onset of the Dark Ages and the Saxon invasions, the inhabitants of what is today England were RomanisedCelts, the ancestors not of the modern English but of the Welsh and the Cornish.

    0 Responses to “Cambodia before Angkor…”

    Post a Comment

    Leave your comment here if you have any comment or want to share your idea.... I really appreciate all your comments.

    back to top