Thursday, March 17, 2005

Niah Caves in Sarawak were inhabited

KUCHING: An on-going study on the Niah Caves in northern Sarawak has confirmed that modern humans had certainly been living there 43,000 years ago or probably earlier, said University of Cambridge Professor Graeme Parker.

Prof Parker, who is the Niah Cave Project 2000 director, said this confirmation was important, because there has been much debate on when modern humans lived in the caves.

Excavations at the Niah Caves, first carried out by Tom and Barbara Harrison between 1957 and 1965, have found human skulls and a burial ground.

Project 2000, which is undertaken by the Sarawak Museum, involves some 60 researchers, including PhD students from 15 universities in Britain, the United States, Australia, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia.

“The objectives of the project is to understand the stratigraphies, reconstruct the Harrisons’ work and understand the settlements in the caves,” said Prof Parker during a talk on the project at Dewan Tun Abdul Razak yesterday.

Also present was Sarawak Museum director Sanib Said.

Prof Parker said the studies were primarily to address three primary research questions – when did modern humans first colonise Borneo in South-East Asia, were early foragers able to exploit rainforests, and when, how and why did farming begin? The project, divided into three phases, is expected to be completed in 2008.

Phase One (2000-2003) involved field work. Phase Two (2003-2005) is on studies of Harrison archive while the planned activities in Phase Three are studies on the neolithic mortuary practice and regional foraging behaviour.

Some 200 bodies have been found in the neolithic cemetery in the west mouth of the cave.

Prof Parker said during the recent excavations, there were clear evidence that the large amount of animal bones found were cut or broken by human camping or living in the caves.

Source: The Star

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