Cambodia Ancient History

There is evidence from archaeological digs that people who practised Neolithic civilisation lived in what is now Cambodia during the first and second millennia B.C. in some portions of the territory that is now known as Cambodia. By the first century A.D., the indigenous people had formed communities that were generally structured and stable. In terms of culture and technological expertise, these societies were light years ahead of the primitive stage. The most technologically accomplished communities were found near the shore, as well as in the valley and delta areas of the lower Mekong River. There, they irrigated their rice fields and raised domesticated animals.

Scholars are of the opinion that these people may have been of Austro-Asian ancestry and were connected to the progenitors of the communities that now reside in the insular regions of Southeast Asia and many of the islands that are found in the Pacific Ocean. They were skilled navigators and worked with a variety of metals, including iron and bronze among others. People of Mon and Khmer descent who came at a later time undoubtedly intermarried with those already in the area. Before the beginning of the first century A.D., it’s possible that the Khmer people who currently live in Cambodia travelled from southern China to the Indochinese Peninsula. It is thought that they arrived in their current location before their Vietnamese, Thai, and Laotian neighbours did.

The Cambodia Kingdom of Funan during its early Indianization

Around the same time that the ancient peoples of Western Europe were assimilating the classical culture and institutions of the Mediterranean, the peoples of mainland and island Southeast Asia were reacting to the stimulus of a civilization that had emerged in northern India over the course of the previous millennium. This civilization was known as the Indus Valley Civilization (ITC). As a direct result of their conquest and assimilation into the Roman Empire, the people of Britain, Gaul, and Iberia were immediately exposed to the effects of the Mediterranean. Because there was no period of direct Indian rule in Southeast Asia and because the land and sea barriers that separated the region from the Indian subcontinent are significant, the process of Indianization in that region occurred at a much slower pace than it did in Europe. In comparison, the Romanization of Europe was a much faster process. Despite this, aspects of Indian culture such as religion, political ideology, literature, mythology, and aesthetic themes eventually got ingrained in the civilizations of Southeast Asian countries. Although the caste system was never implemented, Indianization was a driving force behind the development of highly ordered and centralised governments.

Funan, the earliest of the Indianized states, is generally considered by Cambodians to have been the first Khmer kingdom in the area. This belief is based on the fact that Funan was the first of the Indianized states. In the first century A.D., Funan was established in a region that is now known as the delta area on the lower reaches of the Mekong River. It is likely that the capital, Vyadhapura, was situated in the area that is now occupied by the town of Phumi Banam in the province of Prey Veng. The Chinese account of a mission that travelled to Funan in the third century A.D. is the source of the oldest historical reference to Funan. The ancient Khmer term bnam was translated into Chinese, and that’s where the name Funan comes from (meaning mountain). However, nobody really knows what the natives of Funanes called themselves.

During this early time in Funan’s history, the population was most likely concentrated in the settlements located along the Mekong River and the Tonle Sab River below the Tonle Sap. Both of these rivers empty into the Tonle Sap. The rivers and the tributaries that flowed into the delta were the primary thoroughfares for transportation and communication. The region was well suited for the growth of an economy centred on fishing and rice farming because of its natural resources. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the economy of Funanes was dependent on rice surpluses that were created by an enormous inland irrigation system. Additionally, maritime commerce was a significant factor in the growth of Funan, playing an incredibly vital role. Roman as well as Persian, Indian, and Greek antiquities may be found at the ruins of Oc Eo, which is located in what is now a portion of Vietnam. Oc Eo is considered to have been the principal port of the kingdom.

By the fifth century A.D., the state had established its authority over the region around the lower Mekong River as well as the territories close to the Tonle Sap. In addition, it demanded tribute from lesser nations located in what is now the northern section of the Malay Peninsula, southern Thailand, southern Laos, and southern Cambodia.

Increasing interaction with the subcontinent, which occurred as a result of the journeys of merchants, diplomats, and scholarly Brahmans, was a driving force behind Indianization (Hindus of the highest caste traditionally assigned to the priesthood). The process was sped up by the arrival of Indian immigrants, who are said to have arrived during the fourth and fifth century. By the fifth century, the culture of the ruling class had been completely Indianized. Both the rituals of the court and the organisation of the political institutions were patterned by Indian practises. Sanskrit was one of the most frequently spoken languages at the time, the Manu scriptures, which are considered to be the foundation of Indian law, were implemented, and an alphabet that was derived from Indian writing systems was developed.

In the fifth century A.D., Funan was at the height of its power. The stability of Funan was eroded beginning in the early sixth century by civil conflicts and dynastic instability, which made it a relatively accessible target for invasions by hostile neighbours. At the close of the seventh century, Funan had been reduced to the status of a vassal state by a neighbouring kingdom in the north called Chenla.

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