Perak govt plans to shut access to prehistoric Gua Tambun rock paintings

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via Malay Mail, 10 July 2018: Gua Tambun is a site that I know very well – I studied it for my MA research a decade ago and have gone back to the site every couple of years. The news article incorrectly calls it the largest site in Southeast Asia, although it is one of the largest sites in the region. From the images in the news story the forest growth has been the heaviest that I’ve seen. The site has always had a problem with maintenance, but most of the rock art itself is well protected because it is out of reach of human hands. If anyone knows how to put me in touch with the relevant authorities, please send me an email – I would be very willing to help with the site’s rehabilitation.

Source: Perak govt plans to shut access to prehistoric Gua Tambun rock paintings | Malay Mail

Conservation plan for Gua Tambun

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Gua Tambun. Source: The Star 20160309

The Perak State government announced last month plans to revitalise and conserve the Gua Tambun rock art site in Ipoh, a site I am very familiar with. The plans include constructing an entrance and public facilities, but more alarmingly, an awning to protect the paintings from damage. This is a really bad idea, because it represents a major environmental change to the rock shelter (not to mention as being practically unfeasible).

Gua Tambun. Source: The Star 20160309

Gua Tambun. Source: The Star 20160309

Working to save Tambun Cave
The Star, 08 March 2016

Realising the importance of the preservation and conservation of all archaeological and heritage sites in Perak, the state government is set to revitalise the Tambun Cave by building facilities to ensure that the place does not lose its lustre. The caves are famous for its pre-historic drawings,

State Tourism, Arts, Culture, Communications and Multimedia Committee Chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi told MetroPerak that the state government recently finalised the conservation plan for Tambun Cave including the proposal to build a proper entrance and other public amenities.

She said RM120,000has been allocated for the construction, which will commence this month.

Full story here.

Support the Gua Tambun Heritage Awareness Project!

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Gua Tambun rock art

Gua Tambun is the largest rock art site in Peninsular Malaysia, and one that I studied for my MA years ago. So I am mighty pleased to urged your support for the Gua Tambun Heritage Awareness Project, run by my colleague Dr Goh Hsiao Mei. (Disclaimer: I am not personally involved with project, but I support it 100%!)

Gua Tambun rock art

Gua Tambun rock art

Dr Goh is currently building a public archaeology and outreach programme to help raise awareness and appreciation for the Gua Tambun site in Ipoh, and to empower the people living near the site to help manage it from both a conservation and visitor management standpoint.

She is currently raising funds to develop and conduct school programmes and community workshops and at the time of writing she has met a third of the RM4,300 (about US 1,000) that she needs. You can contribute to her cause on her crowdfunding website, the Gua Tambun Heritage Awareness Project.

National Heritage, but vandalised and under-maintained


Locals bemoan the lack of maintenance of the Gua Tambun rock art site, despite having been designated as a national heritage site. I recorded the site as part of my MA research several years ago and there was very little or promotion of the site then and it is sad to hear that this is still the case.

Vandalism at Gua Tambun. The Malay Mail 20150411

Vandalism at Gua Tambun. The Malay Mail 20150411


National heritage lost to ravages of time and vandals
Malay Mail, 11 April 2015

In another country, a drawing dating back thousands of years ago would have become the pride of the nation, a major tourist attraction and a well-guarded heritage.

Such an artifact would have been flaunted to the extremes, ensuring it would never be lost and continue to generate as much tourist dollars as possible.

But, sadly, that is not the case for the drawings on the walls of a collapsed cave in Tambun, a five-minute drive from the centre of Ipoh town.

Believed to have been discovered by British soldiers in 1959, the drawings are said to be at least 3,000 years old although there have been claims they could even be 12,000 years old.

Full story here.

The sad state of Gua Tambun

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These news stories were posted by Liz Price in a comment on the recent post about Gua Tambun, but I have a particular interest in the site so I’m re-posting them here. Graffiti has always been a problem ever since the site was open to public in the 1970s.


Heritage site not treasured
The Star, 09 April 2014

Walls of Gua Tambun vandalised with paint and sketches
The Star, 05 April 2014

Gua Tambun jadi mangsa vandalisme
Sinar Harian, 05 April 2014
Article is in Bahasa Malaysia
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And now, a shameless plug…

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I’m pleased to announce that the preliminary findings from my research at Gua Tambun in Perak (Malaysia) has been published in this May’s issue of Rock Art Research. It’s a short paper co-authored with my supervisor, Dr. Stephen Chia, about the findings of rock art at the site, including many panels of paintings that have gone unreported until now (hence the title, ‘new’). You can read the abstract after the jump, and order a copy of the journal here.

‘New’ Rock Art from Gua Tambun, Perak, Malaysia
Tan, N. H. and Chia, S.
Rock Art Research, 2010, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 9-18.
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Two weeks documenting the rock art in Ipoh


Well, more closer to 12 days. My first two weeks of January was spent documenting the rock art of Gua Tambun, in a limestone mountain just outside the city of Ipoh, the capital of Perak in Peninsular Malaysia. This documentation and research project is the main focus of my MA thesis at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

The field crew: Nick, Suresh, Velat, Dr Stephen, me

The field crew: Nick, Suresh, Velat, Dr Stephen, me

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Clarification on the Star's Gua Tambun article


And so the last story featured for this year is… me. A couple of weeks ago I was invited by the Perak Heritage Society to a visit to some prehistoric cave sites in Perak, to raise awareness for some of the spectacular sites that are present in the state, and also to highlight the need for conservation for these sites. Among those present in the tour was a reporter from the Star, one of the largest local English dailies in Malaysia, who produced this story focusing on me and my research, despite my request NOT to be prominently featured. More distressingly, there were a number of errors, factual and inferred, attributed to me that I feel I should address here.

Art of our ancestors
The Star, 29 December 2008
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Categories: Malaysia


Scenes from the World Rock Art course in KL


A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to attend the World Rock Art course at the University of Nottingham’s Kuala Lumpur campus, an intensive five-day introduction to the rock art traditions from around the world. Most of our days were spent in the (extremely cold) lecture rooms of the university’s branch office in the city centre, but one of the highlights of the course was a field trip to Gua Tambun, the site I’m researching.

(my bad. i had inadvertedly got only half of Dr George Nashs face in this shot)

(my bad. i had inadvertedly got only half of Dr George Nash's face in this shot)

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