Australia and Oceania

Australia and Oceania



Australia and Oceania

Chapter Four: Interaction and Retrenchment

Australia and Oceania

Aborigines were the original inhabitants of Australia. They did not turn to agriculture, but maintained nomadic foraging societies. As a result of their nomadic life, they frequently met, interacted and traded with peoples of neighboring societies and they exchange surplus food and small items of trading value of which pearly oyster shells were the most popular

Aboriginal means of or pertaining to the “stone age”

Animism comes from the Latin word “animus” meaning soul or spirit and is the animism is the belief that souls inhabit all or most objects found in nature, such as rocks or bodies of water, even natural phenomena such as lightening, rain or storms.

Austronesians were (and are) a population group in Oceania and Southeast Asia who speak or had ancestors who spoke one of the Austronesian languages. Their point of origin is believed to be Southern China. They form a diverse group of peoples inhabiting roughly half the globe, ranging from Madagascar off the east coast of Africa to Easter Island in the Pacific.

Homo-Erectus means “Upright walking human". They were a species of hominids who flourished in east Africa between 1.5 million and two hundred thousand years ago. They possessed brains larger than that of Australopithecus, fashioned more sophisticated tools, knew how to control fire and had effective language skills. Between five hundred and two hundred thousand years ago, they spread to North Africa and Eurasian landmass. They were replaced by Homo-Sapiens.

Kapu is a Hawaiian word of Austronesian origin which means "forbidden". In ancient Hawaii, kapu refers to the ancient system of laws and regulations.

Marae were sacred places, which served both religious and social purposes among Polynesian peoples. Most were destroyed with coming of missionaries in the eighteenth century, but in some places, most notably among the Maori of New Zealand, Marae still play a vital part of everyday life.

Oceania is the designation which refers to most of the islands in the Pacific Ocean; subdivisions include Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Australia and New Zealand.

Pathogens are agents (bacteria and viruses) which cause disease.

Outrigger Canoes: Large canoes equipped with beams and sails; used by Austronesian peoples in their migrations. The beams with a float pad were used to stabilize the canoes and reduce the risks capsizing during long voyages

Polynesians were Austronesians who settled the Pacific Ocean Basin mostly in the area within the Polynesian Triangle. They gradually inhabited the larger Pacific islands and supported a surging population with unique social and political development.

The Polynesian Triangle is a geographical region of the Pacific Ocean anchored by Hawai'i, Rapa Nui or Easter Island) and New Zealand.


The Indo Europeans

All Hallows Even was the Christian feast the supplanted the pagan festival of Samhain on October 31st, the evening before the old Celtic New Year’s Day. The name was eventually slurred into Halloween.

Battle of Teutoburg Forest was a famous victory in northwest Germany won by Germanic tribes over the Romans was in 9 CE, when they destroyed three Roman legions.

Blood Frenzy was a characteristic of the war loving, ancient Celts who worked themselves into a fever pitch of emotional fervor before they went into battle naked and screaming.

Cyrus the Great united the Medes and the Persians and built the Achaemenid Empire.

Darius the Great was the Persian ruler who invaded India in 510 and brought Persian sophistication of India. 

Celtic Art was fantastic, ornamental, avoiding straight lines and only occasionally using symmetry or balance. Unlike Classical Art which strove to imitate nature or ideal of beauty, Celtic art was noted for interlacing weaving patterns and complex symbolism.

Celts were an Indo European people closely related to the Greeks and the Romans whose homeland seems to be in modern Western Germany. Around 500 BCE, they began to spread through a substantial portion of Western and Southwestern Europe – more as migrants than conquerors. The Romans described them thusly: burly size, red hair (often made stiff by applying a cement solution of lime), shaggy mustaches and loud, deep voices; how they wore pants, not tunics and twisted gold collars around their necks. The Romans also considered them courageous, childishly impulsive and emotional, boastful and given to exaggeration, but yet quick-witted and eager to learn.

Druids were Celtic priests who supplied religious, educational and judicial functions. The Romans despised the Druids because of their emotional hold on the people and tried to exterminate them.

Germans were, like the Celts, closely related to the Greeks and the Romans. Their homeland seems to have been what is today Eastern Germany and Scandinavia. Like the Celts, the Germans were ferocious warriors. Germanic tribes migrated to the eastern and northern borders of the Roman Empire from the second century C.E.; beginning in the mid-5th century, invaded the Western Roman Empire and deposed the emperor there in 476; settled in Italy, Gaul, Spain, Britain, and North Africa.

Hittites established a powerful kingdom based in Anatolia between 1900 and 1600 BCE. They traded with the Babylonians and Assyrians and adapted their Indo European language to Cuneiform. In 1595 they conquered the Babylonian Empire and dominated South West Asia until the 1200s when the empire broke up. The Hittites were inventors swift, deadly light weight chariots and more dramatically helped to usher in the Iron Age as they perfected iron metallurgy and began to produce effective iron weapons.

Iberian Celts lived in Spain and almost surely traveled regularly to North America.

Ireland is the only independent Celtic nation in the modern world.

Patricius or St. Patrick was the chief apostle to the Irish in the early to mid 5th century. He was responsible for the establishment of Irish Monasticism and Ireland’s mini Golden Age.


Pliny the Elder was the Roman historian who reported that traders from Ceylon (modern Shi Lanka) told of a people beyond the Emodian (Himalayan) Mountains who were called Seres and who were described as taller than ordinary humans with flaxen (blond/yellow) hair, and blue eyes and who spoke in an incommunicable language – implying that Indo Europeans were living in Central Asia.

Samhaim was the Lord of the Dead in Celtic religion.

The Sweet Track, is an ancient plank road built by the ancient Celts in Somerset England, and not only one of the oldest engineered roads ever discovered but also the oldest timber trackway or plank road discovered in Northern Europe.

Tarim Basin is a great desert that lies in Xingjian (Singkang) Province in Northwestern China. Its most forbidding feature is the forbidding Taklamakan Desert

Tocharian was a language of Indo European origin spoken in the Tarim Basin of Singkang Province in China. Well preserved mummies which are genetically mixed Asian-Caucasian have been found around the oases on the eastern and southern edge of the Tarim Basin.

Xingjian or Sinkang province is a large, sparsely populated area in northwest China which takes up about one sixth of the China’s territory. Xinjiang borders Tibet to the south and Qinghai and Gansu provinces to the southeast, Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the west.


Turks, Mongols, the Xiongnu, the Huns and Tartars (or Tatars)

Turks, Mongols, the Xiongnu, the Huns and Tartars (or Tatars) were all descended from tribes that originated in Central Asia. Like the Indo-Europeans and the Bantu, they were diverse groups of culturally and linguistically related peoples. They were nomads who organized themselves into families, clans and tribes and the date of their original expansion from their Asian homelands is unknown.


Lake Baikal is in Southern Siberia in Russia near Irkutsk. Many scholars think that the area around the lake is the original home of many of the Turkish tribes that wandered out of Central Asia.

Maodun (210-174 BCE), was the Xiongnu’s most successful leader. He was even able to force tribute form Liu Bang, the first Han emperor. There is a story that he once trained his forces to shoot their arrows at whatever target he selected, even his father’s horse and one of his wives. Soldiers who disobeyed were instantly killed. When the soldiers were sufficiently obedient, he ordered them to shoot at his father and Maodun became the Xiongnu chief.

Sima Qian was the Chinese historian who said that the Xiongnu were descended from the last emperor of the Xia dynasty. He also told the story of Maodun coming to power (above).

The Bantu

Bantu were peoples of sub-Saharan Africa; originated in the region around modern Nigeria during the second millennium B.C.E. and spread throughout almost all sub-Saharan Africa by about 1000 C.E.; established divergent societies, but all spoke tongues belonging to the Bantu family of languages. The Bantu were the first sub-Saharan culture to form an agricultural society.

Transmission of Culture is the technical term used to describe ability of the Bantu to fuse their own culture with those cultures they dominated.

Banana Culture was brought to Madagascar and then Africa by Austronesians from Malaysia. The Banana Culture did two things: It added variety to the Bantu diet, and more importantly, increased the Bantu zone of agriculture, because bananas could be grown in tropical and forested areas where yams and millet could not.

Savannas are the grasslands of West Africa.

Sahel is the arid steppe land that lies between the savannas and the deserts of North Africa.

A Stateless Society was typical of Bantu society; it is where there is little or no government with no development of a hierarchy or bureaucracy; this kind of organization was governed mostly through family and kinship groups without elaborate hierarchy of officials or a bureaucracy. Some areas of Sub Saharan Africa retained this organization until the major incursion of the Europeans in the 1800s.

Kingdom of Kongo was the most important of the early Bantu kingdoms. Kongo was established during the 14th century in the valley of the Congo River, which embraced much of modern-day Republic of Congo and Angola. Kongo maintained effective authority until the mid-17th century.

The Silk Road

Ban Chao was a Chinese general who, in 97 CE, took his army as far west as the Caspian Sea with 70,000 men and established direct military contacts with the Parthian Empire, also dispatching an envoy to Rome in the person of Gang Ying.

Chang’an (Xian) was (with Luoyang) a principal eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Chang’an means “perpetual peace” and was made the capital of the Han dynasty by Liu Bang who built it across the river from the Qin capital, Xian. Much of Chang’an would be destroyed after the fall of the Tang dynasty (907CE) so for all practical purposes Chang’an and Xian are one urban area whose name today is Xian.

Gang Ying was the Chinese diplomat who traveled as far west as Mesopotamia around 97 CE 

Gregory the Wonderworker, who traveled the Roman Roads in Anatolia, was a tireless Christian missionary with a reputation for performing miracles and popularized Christianity during the mid-third century C.E.

Manichaeism, a syncretic sect of Christianity, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, also spread along the Silk Roads. Mani a devout Zoroastrian prophet from Babylon who lived from 216 to 272 C.E founded it in the mid 3rd century.) Manichaeism was characterized by an ascetic lifestyle and high moral values while promising eternal life for the followers of the good god. Because it challenged Zoroastrianism in Iran, Mani was horribly tortured to death and his religion was exterminated by the Sasanids, but survived in Central Asia

Monsoon System: Trading network of the Indian basin linking India and Arabia in the east and Egypt and the Mediterranean basin in the west by the way of the Red Sea; so called because merchant seamen relied on the monsoon winds to govern their sailing and shipping in the Indian Ocean.

Nestorianism was perhaps the most famous form of Christianity to travel by the Silk roadsNestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, taught Christ was one person in two natures, as opposed to the orthodox position that Christ had one nature of two persons.

Pandemic comes from the Greek words meaning all people and describes a outbreak of disease and usually high death rates that affects a large area (as opposed to a local area) of the world. 

Pathogens are bacteria and viruses that cause disease and are as old as humankind. The principal ones mentioned in our studies have been (and will be) the Typhoid plague in Athens, the Antoine smallpox plague in 2nd century Rome, the first recorded Bubonic plague in the 6th century called Justinian’s plague; in subsequent chapters we shall study the European pathogens that devastated Siberian and Native American cultures and the Spanish Influenza of 1919.

“Shaggy” camels were bred for the travel along the Silk Roads during winter because of the terrible heat of summer.

The Silk Road refers to those land and sea routes that linked the three classical centers of Civilization, especially during and after Hellenistic Times., which would grow without interruption until the 10th century. Then, in the thirteenth century, there will be a revival of the Silk Road, which would last until the seventeenth century when European advances in technology eclipsed the Silk Roads.

The Taklamakan Desert was located in the Tarim Basin and was of the most dangerous spots along the Silk Roads; it name means "he who enters does not come back out."

Zhang Qian was a courtier of the Han dynasty who was sent by the emperor to central Asia to arrange for allies against the Xiongnu in 139 B.C.E. He was twice captured by the Xiongnu but finally managed to escape and return to China twelve years later; became a hero known for his unwavering loyalty to the emperor. His travels contributed much to the opening of the silk roads.

The Collapse of Han China

China’s Dark Ages stared with the collapse of the Han and lasted from 220 to 580. At one point there were sixteen separate warlord kingdoms, but generally three kingdoms dominated: the Wei in North China; the Wu in Southeast China and the Shu in South West China.

Hedi (88-106) was the Chinese emperor whose court was dominated by hundreds of family consorts and concubines with many more eunuchs to guard them – all struggling for the emperor’s ear.

Wang Mang, (9-23), also called the Socialist Emperor, tried like the Gracchi Brothers in Rome to institute an extensive program of land reform and innovative monetary and economic reforms. These programs, however, were undermined by the greedy elites and Wang Mang was assassinated.

The Yellow Turban Rebellion was a series of rebellions that were sparked by heavy taxation, famine and an agrarian crisis. Land owners and peasants alike for armed bands and bloodshed followed. Although the rebellions were crushed, the Han were permanently weakened.

Sinicization was the Chinese ability to absorb the newcomers. All throughout her early history, nomads from Central Asia who, like legal and illegal migrants all through history, looked for a better life flooded China. Sinicization was the process by which these nomads settled down, wore Chinese clothes, began to farm and adopted the culture of China.  

Syncretism is the combination or fusion of different forms of belief, practice, technology or cultural traditions. Sinicization is partly syncretic because nomads like the Xiongnu were absorbed by Chinese culture but Manichaeism is fully syncretic because Mani took elements of Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Christianity to form a new religion. .

The Collapse of the Roman Empire

Alaric was the leader of the Visigoths who wanted (under pressure from the Huns) to make a home within the Roman Empire. The emperor in Constantinople admitted them but when the Roman authorities mistreated them, Alaric led the Visigoths into Italy sacked the city of Rome in 410 C.E.

Arianism taught that there is only one God and that Jesus, although he was divine, was created, like you or me. Arianism thus emphasized the humanity of Jesus at the expense of his divinity.

Diocletian was the Roman emperor known for his division of the empire into two administrative districts. This system was called the Tetrarchy where four top co-rulers (two senior emperors, each called Augustus, and two assistants, each called Caesar) of the Roman Empire. The Tetrarchy system failed completely and, after Diocletian's death in 305 C.E., a power struggle among the co-rulers and their generals led to bitter civil war. Diocletian was also the last Roman emperor to persecute Christians

Constantine was the Roman emperor, known for his unification of the Roman empire after it was divided by Diocletian into two administrative districts; established Constantinople as the new capital city; also known as the first Christian emperor of the Roman empire, whose Edict of Milan in 313 C. E. allowed Christians to practice their faith openly.

Odoacer was the Germanic general who, in 476 C.E., deposed Romulus Augustus, the last Roman emperor in the western half of the empire. Thus, 476 marks the end of the Western Roman Empire.

St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.) was the Bishop of Hippo in north Africa. He was well educated in philosophy and harmonized Christianity with Platonic thought so that Christianity could be easily appreciated by intellectuals and the educated classes.

Theodosius was the Emperor of the Byzantine empire, known for his proclamation that made Christianity the official religion of the empire in 380 C.E..

Barracks Emperors were claimants to the imperial throne of the Roman Empire, mostly generals, who frequently replaced one another in a violent manner during the half century from 235 to 284 C.E.

Byzantine Empire was the name for the eastern half of the Roman Empire, which survived invasions of Germanic peoples in the 5th century C.E. and lasted for about one millennium thereafter. The capital city was Constantinople.

Church Councils (the most important ones being called Oecumenical Councils) were assemblies of religious authorities of Christianity, held to resolve theological disputes among Christians and determine official doctrines.

The City of God (De Civitate Dei) was the famous work of St. Augustine which sought to explain the meaning of history and the world from a Christian point of view.

Dioceses were Christian districts presided over by bishops; present in all the prominent cities of the Roman Empire from the fourth century C.E. onward

Pope comes from the Latin word papa ("father") and refers to the bishop of Rome who emerged as a spiritual leader of Christian communities after the collapse of Western Roman Empire.

  1. Rome admired and preserved Greek philosophy, literature and science.
  2. They were master builders and engineers: aqueducts, the Pantheon, the Coliseum, the Basilica, etc.
  3. The idea of imperial unity in the name of ROMEremained a political concept that kings and emperors would struggle to attain until the early twentieth century
  4. Roman political thinking guided the formation of many emerging European states and deeply influenced the American Founding Fathers. (Why do we have a senate and not a parliament?)
  5. Roman law remains one of the keystones of Western law
  6. The Roman Empire was the soil in which Christianity grew and flourished; then was recognized and became the state religion
  7. The language of the Romans, Latin, is still the official language of the Roman Catholic Church and is still taught in high schools and universities the world over.



Similarities in the collapse of the Classical Civilizations:
Rome, Han, Gupta,

  1. They all felt pressure from invading nomads (Germans, Huns, Xiongnu) who also pushed other barbarians before them;
  2. They were all weakened by political corruption and poor rulers; moreover, all struggled with moral decay in the years just prior to collapse;
  3. They all found it increasingly impossible to defend their borders, be it the Rhine River between Gaul and Germany, Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland or the Great Wall in China.
  4. Both the Han and Rome experienced population losses due to plagues and epidemics, due largely to diseases carried along the Silk Roads.


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