Taking a walk through Niah caves

A news feature showing you why you should skip the malls for the Niah Caves.

Light Shining Through Niah Caves
photo credit: amanderson2

Abandoning the malls and discovering the Caves
Brunei fm, 28 Feb 2010

At least fifty spine-tinglingly ancient discoveries have been made in Sarawak’s caves, which are suspected to have been in use by the indigenous human population since the Pleistocene era. The Niah Great Cave is the most exciting of them all as it was the site of the discovery of the oldest human skull ever found in Asia. Archaeologists have dated it at around forty thousand years old, making it the property of a young gentleman from the Holocene era.

The remains of Neolithic humans, along with fascinating evidence of how their habits and daily lives would have changed over the centuries, are available to view at the Sarawak Museum in Kuching. The Niah Great Cave is also famous for its incredibly well-preserved cave paintings, some of which depict strange, skeletal longboats bearing their passengers to the land of the dead, and for the ancient Borneo tradition of swallows’ nest-collecting.

Further exploration will reveal a painted cave known for its well-preserved and highly complex prehistoric cave paintings.The paintings can be difficult to see unless you allow your eyes to become accustomed to the dim light. They are rendered in red hematite and cover a long narrow strip (approximately 30 metres) at the back of the wall. They portray spread-eagled human figures, probably representing warriors and hunters, some of the animals of the souls of the deceased on the dangerous journey to the land of the dead.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

1 thought on “Taking a walk through Niah caves”

  1. This is nitpicky but Holocene=10,000 BC, not forty thousand years ago! I think the author means “Pleistocene gentlemen” 😉

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