There is no doubt that the Orang Asli are the descendants of the earliest inhabitants in the peninsula. It has been suggested that they retained much of their identity to the present day because of their relative isolation from the other communities and the forces of change. This is not to suggest that the Orang Asli lived in complete isolation, existing only on subsistence production. It has been shown that the Orang Asli have played a significant role in the Malay Peninsula's economic history as collectors and primary traders as early as the 5th Century A.D. The rise of the Malay sultanates, coinciding with trade in Orang Asli slaves, forced the group to retreat further inland to avoid contact with outsiders.