Sample Culture and Ethnic Studies Essay Paper on Southeast Asia: The Neolithic and Metal Ages

Southeast Asia: The Neolithic and Metal Ages


Asia is a huge continent filled with rich and diverse cultures. Through the years, the Asian continent has undergone a lot of changes, which have come with achievements both in the political and the economic sense. In the Southeast Asian countries of the Chinese, Indian, and Islamic cultures, the development has been more pronounced. These achievements have contributed to the history of the Asian continent.  The purpose of this written examination is to analyze and discuss the accomplishments of the Southeast Asian people including the Chinese, Indian, and Islamic and to present their influences in Southeast Asia. The discussion will be founded on the textbook, “Asian Cultural Traditions” by Heinz as a secondary research source (Heinz 1999: 185-204). The

Situating the Neolithic and Metal ages

The Neolithic period was characterized by a shift from the hunting and gathering lifestyle of the Paleolithic age to a more sedentary lifestyle characterized by crop farming and food storage. The Neolithic and metal ages are categorized as part of the four stages of culture. The first stage is described as the age of hunters. This referred to as the first Stone Age. The second stage is defined as the age of pasturage, which is also described as the Paleolithic or the second Stone Age. The third age, which is the age of agriculture, is also called the Neolithic age while the fourth, which is the age of commerce, is described as the metal age. The Neolithic and the metal ages were crucial times in any given culture across the world, and also formed the distinction between countries that were considered revolutionary and those that would remain slow in development until latter years (Heinz, 1999). Men learnt to utilize the environmental resources availed to them to accomplish tasks that were otherwise daunting or unimaginable.

The Major Cultures of Neolithic and Metal Age South East Asia

During the Neolithic and the metal age Southeast Asian times, the two major cultures that defined the community behaviors and activities were the Hoabinhian and the Dongsonian cultures. The Hoabinhian culture has been defined as more of an industry or techno-complex than an independent culture per se. The culture was defined by its focus on implements made from bronze flakes through somewhat crude workmanship, which resulted in poor appearances. It was unlike the Dongsonian culture which appeared during later metal age. The Dongsonian culture was characterized by rich bronze art works, through which they made bronze elements, buildings and even cemeteries (Heinz, 1999). With difficulties in explaining the origins of the local Dongsonian culture, it has been argued that the pre-historic cultures of Vietnam during the stone and bronze ages were autochthonous. Through these periods however, there were various cultural and economic achievements in Southeast Asia.

During both the Dongsonian and the Hoabinhian cultures, there were cultural changes in Southeast Asia that reflected significant achievements. An example is the culture of matriarchy, which was common in Southeast Asia, relative to other communities at the same time. The Mongoloid North (which is currently North China), was a largely patriarchal society as were other communities across the world (Heinz, 1999). Considering that the Southeast Asia was among the societies that practiced matriarchy at a time when masculinity was at the center of all cultures, it was worth noting. Heinz however, left this matriarchal culture out of his work hence this can be considered a limitation of the book.

Economically, the Southeast Asian communities did well agriculturally during both the Neolithic and the metal ages, as they were able to move to planting their own foods and no longer needed to gather wild foods. The Neolithic period was also when the communities stopped being nomadic. The communities engaged in the planting of different crops such as wheat, barley, millet, rye, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Rice planting was particularly concentrated in the Vietnam region of Southeast Asia (among the Lac Viet people), where wet farming was practiced as the communities lived near streams. The communities also raised livestock such as goats, cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs. Similarly, the Hoabinhian people and the Dongsonians engaged in gathering as a key economic activity. The people of Southeast Asia also engaged in hunting and fishing though not as the primary economic activities. In the prehistoric period between 2500 and 150 BC, the Southeast Asian communities were able to engage in technology supported food cultivation, which helped them realized higher productivity and sufficient food production (Heinz, 1999).

In the metal age, the communities engaged in more commercially driven activities, expanding the range of economic activities in the community to include practice such as pottery, which fueled population growth and expansion (Heinz, 1999). They also engaged in leather works, basketry and the use of bone tools for different purposes. With stability in a single location, they were able to build homes, make furniture and clothing and even initiate trading with others. In the metal age, the Southeast Asian community developed propensity towards trade in items such as Spondylus sea shells, expanding their markets to the Balkans and to Central Europe. Through the metal age, the communities developed metal daggers, awls, spatulas, chisels and axes, with which they traded expansively (Heinz, 1999). Laos and Thailand connected with India and China as the Southeast Asians smelted iron to make tools and towns.


The Neolithic and the metal ages in Southeast Asia resulted in significant changes in the cultural and economic practices of the community. The range of achievements accomplished over these two periods is a sufficient description of what a prolific culture constitutes and a peek into how different cultures evolved over time.


Heinz, C. B. (1999). Asian Cultural Traditions. Waveland Press.