Sunday, September 21, 2014

Niah Caves

WE begin with a new perspective and new dating of the Niah Cave complex. Imagine, if you will, the caves facing an arm of the seaside that worked its way inward 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. 

This time period is known as the Holocene and dates from 11,000 years ago to the present. It is the end of the last glacier advance, or the ice age. Sediment cores outside the cave confirm this.

The peoples of the region were going through a change in that they had started to bury their dead. Death was a major tragedy for them and brought about many hardships. 

The demise also negotiated the crossover between the natural and supernatural world. The burials began in Niah about 6,000 years ago, during the early Holocene period.

The people of the area had two sources of food. The first was the closed tropical rainforest, which provided bearded pigs and monkeys. There were occasional cattle, tapir and deer. 

The second source was brackish seawater. The riverine-estuary environment brought turtles and clams. Edible plants such as yams, taro and sedges were also present and vines probably helped the people make baskets. There was also evidence of basic stone working.

One of the major problems in excavating the remains and determining the dates was that Tom Harrison and his wife Barbra attempted to crudely dig up the graves and date them. 

They scattered the bones and left the place in a mess. Scientists are now trying to piece together what is left. (see ‘The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrison and his Remarkable Life’ by Judith Heinmann.)

One of these people is Dr Lindsay Lloyd-Smith, who is attempting to make some sense out of the erroneous conclusions offered by the Harrison clan. She offers a reclassification and re-dating of the scene.

There are three distinct burial clusters in Niah Caves. The first, and oldest, was located in the back of the west cave, while the second one was several metres south at the cave entrance. The most common type of interment was the body in the flexed position.

The flexed position was where the body was placed in the grave with its arm and legs bent. The positions were that the “arms were tightly bent at the elbows with the forearms bent upwards”. A second category is where the arms were only loosely flexed.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Niah Caves