Much of the ancient world inherited by our ancestors now lies under water after melting ice caps flooded vast areas at the end of the last Ice Age. New advances in geology and marine technology mean that the great archaeological finds of this coming century will more than likely be found under the oceans. It now looks likely that large populations of early humans were obliterated from the historical record by this catastrophe over 10,000 years ago. ~ Graham Hancock
In order to understand ancient Vietnam and how it fits in with world history, I have to take a look back farther in time than I have been. In fact, I have to go back to the time when we were all starting to move out of Africa. Unfortunately, this means I have to talk about an area of the world that is no longer even on the map and for the longest time, was thought to be mythical.
I am standing here, looking at the shadowy depths of an area called Sundaland which, sixty-thousand years ago, was once a rich, fertile area, densely populated by a people with a high level of civilization.
Map taken from petetherockman.com
OK, so I know some folks may think I am talking about a mythical place similar to an often-talked-about-but-never-found Atlantis, but there is real geological evidence that it does indeed exists.
Geological Evidence for Sundaland
According to geologist Peter Cattermole, Sundaland  was HUGE. It was the largest area on Earth that underwent a submersion following three waves of global flooding following glacier ice melts at the end of the last ice age. This means that, soon after our ancestors migrated out of Africa (and archaeogenetics show that it was in one big wave of migration, not two smaller waves), one of the first places we went to was Sundaland. The weather was nice, the food was plentiful, we proliferated and grew in numbers. We lived and worked and played in that area for at least 50,000 years—plenty enough time for a fairly advanced level of civilization to occur. 
It was Eden…until global warming occurred (sound familiar?), at which time, we got flooded.
It didn’t happen all at once. When the first signs of flooding appeared, around 20,000 years ago, my ancestors were slowly being forced to migrate westward. Eventually, the southeast Asian subcontinent was hit HARD by three great sea level surges which sank the continent in huge swaths of land. The first surge occurred in 12,000 BC, the second surge hit at around 9,500 BC, and the final surge hit around 5,600 BC. Three times, they were forced to move westward and northward, onto drier shores of what is now present-day Northern Vietnam and Southern China. From there, the population recovered and began spreading out all over the area. 
This happened as early as twenty-thousand years ago, when our ancestors found their homes becoming water-logged and had to move further inland. However, according to new findings back in August of 2012, people were not just living in the area of Sundaland, they were also spread out into areas that were much further inland and further north. 
Here, I hit upon another gnarly situaiton: How to prove human movement. Since that was not within the scope of geology, I had to consult modern anthropology.
Anthropological Evidence for Human Presence
According to Dr. Laura Shackelford, anthropology professor at University of Illinois, in the summer of 2012, a skull found in Northern Laos that was dated circa 63,000 years old, indicates that there was also human presence there, which corroborated with the latest genetic studies that indicate that modern humans occupied that part of the world at least 60,000 years ago. “This is the first fossil evidence that supports the genetic data,” she said. 
Compelling evidence also shows that we went as far west as Sumeria, where folks started setting up a new civilization.  That is how archaeologists go from seeing nothing—no sign of human civilization, to all of a sudden, a people who called themselves Sumerians springing up out of nowhere, with a completely developed culture and civilization. Even though there was no evidence whatsoever of where they originated and how they came to acquire their knowledge, the middle-east region became known as the cradle of civilization because that was the farthest scientists had been able to pull back the veil of ancient past. 
But now, with better technology, better methods of research, we are starting to discover deeper and deeper levels of humanity’s existence. With archaeogenetics and the ability to do genome sequencing of ancient biological evidence, all of a sudden, we had the tools and knowledge to reach back even farther—thousands and thousands of years farther.
Archaeogenetical Evidence for Human Movement and Expansion
Genetics indicate a radical and completely fascinating story. The real cradle of civilization seems to be pointing towards the sunken Sundaland continental shelf, with the oldest of that population, genetically-speaking, being the Vietnamese population. 
According to the sequencing of human mitochondrial DNA from 153 independent samples which was done in 1992 by a team of scientists working with the Genetics Society of America, “all Asian populations were found to share two ancient AluIIDdeI polymorphisms at nps 10394 and 10397 and to be genetically similar indicating that they share a common ancestry. The greatest mtDNA diversity and the highest frequency of mtDNAs with HfiaI/HincII morph 1 were observed in the Vietnamese suggesting a Southern Mongoloid origin of Asians.”  This means that my Vietnamese ancestors spread out EVERYWHERE.
Using this initial finding as the leaping board, through a massive collaborative effort of the Human Genome Organisation in 2009, scientists from 40 institutes were able to gather 2,000 samples from 73 different populations covering almost the entire spectrum of linguistic and ethnic diversity and genotyped for approximately 50,000 single nucleotide polymorphic markers.
This is some of what they were able to assertain: 
1. East and Southeast Asians share a common origin.
2. East Asians mainly originated from South East Asian populations with minor contributions from Central-South Asian groups.
3. A common ancestor of the Negrito and non-Negrito populations of Asia entered into the continent. This supports the hypothesis of one wave of migration into Asia as opposed to two waves of migrations from Africa.
4. The Taiwan aborigines are derived from Austronesian populations. This stands in contrast to the suggestion that this island served as the ancestral “homeland” for Austronesian speaking populations throughout the Indo-Pacific.
5. Genetic ancestry is highly correlated with linguistic affiliations as well as geography.
This is powerful information. It sent a shock wave rippling through the communities around the world when the information was initially released. As more and more evidence began to surface, the idea of a Sundaland Cradle of Civilization became more and more widespread until it began to turn the tide and is now in the process of rewriting the history of ancient mankind.
By no means am I saying that this is all there is to know about our ancient past. I will always be on the lookout for any new information that comes to light in regards to ancient people of Sundaland and elsewhere. Indeed, much of what has just been found all around the Sundaland area between 1999 and early 2013 (barely 14 years of research) continues to support the evidence of what has been indicated by genetic sequencing. However, this is plenty enough evidence for me to confidently move onto my next leg of the journey, that of rediscovering the history of my people.
1. Petetherockman.com. Peter Cattermole.
2. Dr. Martin Richards. “Climate Change and Postglacial Human Dispersals in Southeast Asia”. Oxford Journals.http://www.physorg.com/news130761648.html. Retrieved 2010.
3. Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia. Oppenheimer, Stephen. July 1999.
4. An Anatomically Modern Human in Southeast Asia (Laos). Dr. Laura Shackelford. August 2012.
5. Mapping Human Genetic Diversity in Asia. Science Magazine. December 2009.
6. Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization. Graham Hancock. October 2003.
7. Genetic ‘map’ of Asia’s Diversity. BBC News. Dec. 2009.
8. Southeast Asian Mitochondrial DNA Analysis Reveals Genetic Continuity of Ancient Mongoloid Migrations. The Genetics Society of America. 1992.
9. HUGO (Human Genome Organisation). Dr. Vikrant Kumar. December 2009.