Indeed, a major discovery in the area of metal technology was made at Ban Chiang in Thailand which has produced the earliest radiocarbon dates for bronze technology. These dates have been the focus of much dispute. Recently a socketed bronze adze from the Balobok Rockshelter shellfish gathering culture in the Philippines was dated to 5,140 years ago.
The early date would help confirm the Ban Chiang dates and also suggest long-range trade as tin, a component of the bronze alloy, is not readily available in this region.
There are two other important indicators of early metal technology in this area, the discovery of a brass needle at Musang Cave in the Philippines dated to 4,000 years ago, and the distribution of the tumbaga word for a gold-copper alloy.
The word tumbaga and related forms appear in Central and South America also for an alloy of gold and copper. It was once thought that these words had traveled over from the Philippines during the Spanish galleon trade. However, archaeological evidence now clearly shows that metal technology including the smelting of tumbaga predates European contact (see Prof. Dorothy Hosler's site). In fact, the earliest metal working may go back 3,000 years ago.
Words for gold and other metals have been reconstructed for the languages of this region:
*lujang "brass" PAN Dempwolff
*luyaN "brass" PAN Lopez
*timah "tin" PAN Dempwolff
*bulaw "gold" PAN Dyen
*bulaw-an "gold" PAN Streseman
*hemas "gold" PAN Lopez
*bari "metal" PAN Blust
PAN = Proto-Austronesian
The ancient Indians knew Southeast Asia as the Gold Land or the Gold Islands. The ancient Greeks had the same terminology. The texts are a bit ambigious but there is some suggestion that Dilmun was a source of gold and silver. The ships coming from Dilmun were also said to have carried tin although it is not specificed exactly where this metal came from.
In latter Biblical and Phoenician literature, we hear of long trade journeys that lasted three years and brought back gold, silver, tin and lead among other products of tropical nature. These trade missions started from the port of Ezion-geber on the Red Sea. According to the historian Josephus, the destinations of these voyages was Southeast Asia, the Land of Gold.
The Phoenician writer Sanchuniathon tends to confirm this when he states that the Phoenicians sailed across the Erythraen Sea during these trade voyages.
The mention of tin is important because this metal was very rare in the ancient world. The known sources in Central and West Asia and in Europe are not nearly sufficient to have supplied the tin used during the Bronze Age.
The greatest source of tin in the world is Southeast Asia specifically Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Tin here is derived from alluvial deposits as was most ancient world tin. This metal also occurs naturally here with copper, thus offering a convenient situation for the discovery of the bronze alloy.
The Bronze Age in China also relied on Southeast Asian sources of tin from Yunnan and possibly from further south.
Thus, the Nusantao trade may well have supplied the tin necessary for the bronze age. It is also possible that bronze technology was an invention of Daic peoples from Thailand and was carried by Nusantao seafarers to other locations.
Then there is evidence suggesting the transfer of tumbaga and at a late date possibly brass technology.
Large amounts of gold and silver were brought from Southeast Asia helping provide the capital that created empires of wealth in different regions of the world.
The wealth and technology also had its negative consequences. The dragon from the sea had brought with it the ingredients for wars of conquest and greed.
May the mountain overpower you!
May the mountain hold you back!
May the mountain conquer you!
May the mountain frighten you!
May the mountain shake you to the core!
May the mountain hold you in check!
May the mountain subject you!
May the mountain cover you!
May the mighty mountain fall on you,
May you be held back from my body!
-- The Conjuration of Mt. Mashu
Paul Kekai Manansala