Megaliths of the Kelabit Highlands

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Batu Kalong

via Kuching In and Out:

Batu Kalong

Highlands is possibly an ancient and, at the same time, a continuous one. Recent archaeological research suggests that some of the earliest stone mounds were constructed as early as around 2,500 years ago. Excavations conducted at a number of megalithic sites in the Kelabit Highlands have also found an array of artefacts such as cremated bones, stone and glass beads, local earthenware and trade ceramics, and metal objects belonging to different time periods between 2,000 and a few hundred years ago. Among the Kelabit, megalithic practices were observed until around 1950, when the tradition ceased owing to modernisation and the people’s conversion to Christianity. Traditionally, megaliths were built during irau (‘feast’) as part of elaborate funerary rites of elite members of the Kelabit society. The batuh nangan and the lungun batuh, for example, were burial monuments where the bones of the deceased were placed in a secondary burial event known as burak nulang. The batuh senuped, on the other hand, commemorated the deceased or marked the location of the grave. The perupun, besides functioning as memorials, are also said to be the final repositories for the valuable properties (beads, gongs and jars) of heirless elites.

Source: Kuching In & Out | Documenting Our Culture, Food & Lifestyle – MEGALITHS OF THE KELABIT HIGHLANDS

Batu hidup ditemukan di Jenagor – Terengganu – Utusan Online

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Utusan Online (18 May 2017, article in Bahasa Malaysia): A trio of standing stones ‘batu hidup’ has been uncovered in Terrengganu. The location of these megaliths are quite interesting as they are usually found on the western side of the Malayan peninsula (Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Perak). I have often though that the standing stones are part of a megalithic cultural package that was carried from Sumatra, so their discovery on the eastern side of the peninsula is potentially significant.

KUALA TERENGGANU 18 Mei – Tiga bongkahan batu megalith yang dikenali sebagai batu hidup ditemukan di Jenagor, Hulu Terengganu baru-baru ini.

Source: Batu hidup ditemukan di Jenagor – Terengganu – Utusan Online

New burials found at the Plain of Jars

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Plain of Jar excavations. Source: AFP, via Bangkok Post 20160404

Exciting new research coming out of our colleagues from Laos and Australia: preliminary research from the Plain of Jars have uncovered burials – both primary and secondary – found in association with the massive stone jars.

Plain of Jar excavations. Source: AFP, via Bangkok Post 20160404

Plain of Jar excavations. Source: AFP, via Bangkok Post 20160404

Another piece in plain of jars puzzle placed by Lao-Australian archaeological team
Shanghai Daily, 04 March 2016

New Findings on Lao Plain of Jars Help Unravel Ancient Mysteries
VOA, 21 March 2016

Ancient burials revealed at Laos’ mysterious Plain of Jars
AFP, via Bangkok Post, 04 April 2016

Stone jars used to dispose of the dead in ancient Laos, Australian researchers say
ABC News, 04 April 2016

One of Asia’s most mysterious archaeological sites, the Plain of Jars in Laos, was used as an ancient burial ground, Australian researchers say.

The Plain of Jars in central Laos is made up of 90 sites, each containing ancient carved stone jars up to three metres tall.

Today the Australian National University (ANU) announced a team from the School of Archaeology and Anthropology had discovered human remains estimated to be 2,500 years old, shedding light on the use of the sites and jars which had been previously unknown.

Full story here.

Drone flights over the Plain of Jars

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In September I was in Laos and I had the opportunity to visit the Plain of Jars, or at least, a few of the jar sites that dot central Laos around Xieng Khouang province. There are over 2,000 jars spread out in over 100 sites. Not all of them are accessible, because of the presence of UXOs, and several have been destroyed due to war and development.

Aerial view of the Plain of Jars Site 1

Aerial view of the Plain of Jars Site 1

The megalithic jars are somewhat unique in Southeast Asia – less known, but distinctively peculiar and in need of further study. They are associated with burials, and the jars themselves display a large variability in forms and sizes and distribution. Despite the rainy weather, I was fortunate to be able to take the UAV out for a spin over various sites:

Gunung Padang excavators working out of questionable assumptions

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Gunung Padang site, Java. Source: Jakarta Globe 20141028

A controversial archaeological excavation is taking place at Gunung Padang, a megalith site in Java, where the investigators are looking for evidence for a lost civilisation. The problem is, they seem to be working on a number of questionable assumptions, and the article talks about one of them – the so-called Out of Sundaland hypothesis.

Gunung Padang site, Java. Source: Jakarta Globe 20141028

Gunung Padang site, Java. Source: Jakarta Globe 20141028

‘Out of Sundaland’ Assumption Disproved
Jakarta Globe, 28 October 2014
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Conference on Megaliths in Southeast Asia and the Pacific

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For any readers in Seoul, you might be interested in this conference on Megaliths in Southeast Asia and the Pacific in Sogang University.

2014 포스터 최종

Problematising Megaliths of Southeast Asia and the Pacific
Date: 16-17 October 2014
Venue: Room 302, Jeong Hasang Hall, Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea

Download Brochure

Excavation at Indonesian megalithic site draws criticism

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An excavation at the Gunung Padag megalithic site has drawn criticism for its excavation methods by the local archaeology centre. The excavation is being run by an independent team of researcher, who according to the report, have “unlimited” funding.

Archaeologists slam excavation of Gunung Padang site
Jakarta Post, 30 September 2014
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Perupun Arur Ritan stone mound site

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Nicholas Gani

Nicholas Gani

Nicholas Gani
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
It’s a photo of Lindsay Lloyd-Smith and I trying to capture a ‘perfect’ plan shot of the excavation trench at the Perupun Arur Ritan stone mound site in the village of Pa Lungan in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak. Part of our work in this year’s Early Central Borneo project, which just ended last week.