Prehistoric peoples of Indonesia

Because of the migration of people from mainland Asia to Indonesia, the Indonesian Archipelago was already inhabited by several ethnic groups in pre-historic times.

Melanesian people/Papua Melanesoids who belonged to Negroid Race had the following characteristics: dark skin, strong build, curly hair, wide mouth, and pointed nose. The descendants of this ethnic group are still present, such as Sakai/Siak people in Riau and Papua Melanesoid people who inhabit Papua Island and Melanesia island.

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Old Malay/Proto Malay people who belonged to Malayan Mangoloid Race had the following characteristics: brown skin, straight hair, slim and tall build, medium mouth, and nose. The descendants of this ethnic group include Toraja people (South Sulawesi), Sasak people (Lombok), Dayak people (Central Kalimantan), Nias people (west coast of Sumatera), Batak people (North Sumatera), and Kubu people (South Sumatera).

Young Malay/Deutro Malay people who also belonged to Malayan Mongoloid Race had the same characteristics as Old Malay people. These people developed to form ethnic groups of Javanese, Balinese, Bugis, and Makasar people in Sulawesi and some other ethnic groups.

The diagram below shows pre-historic ethnic groups in Indonesia :

pre-historic ethnic groups in Indonesia

Summary from pre-historic time article

  1. Pre-historic time began when men first appeared on earth in the beginning of Quaternary period or Diluvium (Pleistocene approximately 3 million years BC.
  2. Division of pre-historic time archeologically :
    a. Stone Age
  • Paleolithic
  • Mesolithic
  • Neolithic
    b. Metal Age
    c. Bronze + Iron Age

Read more please visit the article: Periodization of Prehistoric Time Based on Archeological Heritages

  1. Geological division of Pre-Hitoric Time
    a. Archaean / oldest age
    b. Palecozoic / primary age or early life age
    c. Mesozoic / secondary age or middle life age
    d. Neozoic / new life age
  • Tertiary / third age
  • Quaternary / fourth age : Diluvium and Alluvium

Read more please visit the article: Geological Periodization of Prehistoric Time

  1. People’s life in pre-historic time is divided into three periods, namely :
    a. Hunting and food collecting period
    b. Cropping period
    c. Craftsmanship period

Read more please visit the article: Periodization of Prehistory Time based on Peoples Life Characteristics

  1. Kinds of ancient men in Indonesia
    a. Meganthropus
    b. Pithecanthropus/Homo Erectus
    c. Homo Sapiens

Read more please visit the article: Prehistoric people in Indonesia

  1. Kinds of pre-historic ethnic groups in Indonesia
    a. Papua Melanosoid (distribution : Riau, East Indonesia island, Papua).
    b. Proto Malay / Old Malay (distribution : Kalimantan/Dayak people, Sulawesi/Toraja people, Nias/Nias people, Lombok/Sasak people, Sumatera/Kubu people).
    c. Deutro Malay/Young Malay (distribution : Sumatera, Java, Bali, Madura, Sulawesi).


  • Alluvium : period happening approximately 40.000 – 25.000 years ago (Holocene period)
  • Amphibian : organism can live in water and on land.
  • Archaean : oldest period in earth periodization, assumed to last approximately 2.500 million years.
  • Deutro Malay : Young Malay, Malayan Mongoloid race, similar to Old Malay, so the two have the same characteristics. These people developed into ethnic groups of Aceh, Minangkabau (West Sumatera), Java, Bali, Bugis and Makasar in Sulawesi, etc.)
  • Diluvium : ice age happening approximately 600.000 years ago.
  • Geology : science that studies the structure and layers of earth crust.
  • Homo sapiens : intelligent being.
  • Meganthropus Paleojavanicus : large creature from java.
  • Mesozoic : middle life age, lasted about 140 million years (Secondary age).
  • Neozoic : new life age happening approximately 65-60 million years ago.
  • Paleozoic : early lifr age, lasted approximately 340 million years. It is also called the primary age.
  • Sahul Shelf :land uniting the eastern region of Indonesia (Papu) with Australia.
  • Sunda Shelf : land uniting the western part of Indonesia with Asia.
  • Pithecanthropus Erectus : ape man that can walk unpright, product of reconstruction by Eugene Dubuois.
  • Proto Malay : old Malay, Malayan Mongoloid race with characteristics such as : brown skin, straight hair, slim-tall build, medium mouth and nose. Included in the descendants of this people are Toraja people (South Sulawesi), Sasak people (Lombok), Dayak people (Central Kalimantan), Nias people (West coast of Sumatera), Batak people (North Sumatera), and people (South Sumatera).
  • Ice age : period happening around 600.000 years ago when ice covered approximately 2/3 of the earth surface.
  • Glacial period : period in which sea water lowered because the seas at north and south poles froze and ice covered 2/3 of earth’s surface, while shallow seas like the Java Sea and Arafuru Sea dried out.
  • Interglacial period : period in which ice melted and sea water surface went up again.
  • Quaternary age : the fourth age, happened approximately 1.000.000 – 600.000 years ago. It was assumed to be the beginning of human life.
  • Primary age : period when life started for the first time.
  • Reptile period : period in which giant reptiles lived on earth.
  • Tertiary age : third age in which mammals developed fast.

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