The history of Indonesia can be marked as the dawn of mankind since it is where the remains of the early man were unearthed. During the ancient age of kingdoms and empires, Indonesia saw the rise of the great empires that ruled over almost the entire South East Asia and regarded to play a key role in the history of the region. After gaining independence from foreign colonization and the wave of both World Wars, Indonesia emerge as one united country and continue to thrive among the nations of the world to this very day.
Dawn of Mankind
Fossilized remains of Homo erectus and his tools, popularly known as the “Java Man” found in the archeological site of Sangiran in Central Java, suggest the Indonesian archipelago was already inhabited by “the early man” at least since 1.5 million years ago. Recently, the fossil of Homo floresiensis or nicknamed as ‘hobbit man’ was discovered in Liang Bua, Flores Island and also believed to be one of the ancestors of modern humans.
Age of Kings and Sultans
Chinese chronicles mention that trade between India, China and the islands within what today is the Indonesian Archieplago was already thriving since the first century AD. The powerful maritime empire of Srivijaya in southern Sumatra that ruled over the Sumatra seas and the Malacca Straits from the 7th to the 13th century was the center for Buddhism learning and famous for its wealth. In the 8th- 9th century, the Sailendra Dynasty of the Mataram kingdom in Central Java built the magnificent Buddhist Borobudur temple in Central Java, and followed by the construction of the Hindu Temple Prambanan.
From 1294 to the 15th century the powerful Majapahit Kingdom in East Java held suzerainty over a large part of this archipelago. Meanwhile, small and large sultanates thrived on many islands of the archipelago, from Sumatra to Java and Bali, to Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Ternate and the Moluccas, especially following the arrival of Islam in the 13th Century.
The Colonial Era
Following the arrival of Marco polo in Sumatra, successive waves of Europeans—the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British—sought to dominate the spice trade at its sources which is at the Moluccas or Maluku Islands of Indonesia began in 16th century. In 1596 the first Dutch vessels anchored at the shores of West Java. Over the next three centuries, the Dutch gradually colonized this archipelago until it became known as the Dutch East Indies.
The Emergence of Indonesia and the Declaration of Independence
Revolt against the oppressing colonizers soon built up throughout the country. The Indonesian youth, in their Youth Pledge of 1928 vowed together to build “One Country, One Nation and One Language: Indonesia”, regardless of race, religion, language or ethnic background in the territory then known as the Dutch East Indies.
Finally, on 17 August 1945, after the defeat of the Japanese in the Second World War, the Indonesian people declared their Independence through their leaders Soekarno and Hatta. Freedom, however was not easily granted. Only after years of bloody fighting did the Dutch government finally relent, officially recognizing Indonesia’s Independence in 1950.