Sabah’s Mansuli Valley has archaeotourism potential

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Source: The Star, 22 November 2018

via The Star, 22 November 2018:

Source: The Star, 22 November 2018

Source: The Star, 22 November 2018

The little known Mansuli Valley, one of the oldest valleys in Borneo, may soon be on the map of Indiana Jones wannabes.

It is likely to beckon visitors who are keen on archaeotourism or interested in archaeo­logy and historical sites.

Located about 30km from Sabah’s Lahad Datu district, there is evidence that the area was inhabited about 235,000 years ago.

Source: Sabah’s Mansuli Valley has archaeotourism potential – Nation | The Star Online

Categories: Borneo Malaysia Tourism


Debuting on Thursday, a documentary about Borneo heritage

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Khazanah Borneo

For readers in Malaysia, Kazanah Borneo (‘The Treasures of Borneo’) is a documentary starting on Thursday, 27 September 2018 featuring several archaeological sites in Malaysian Borneo. The programme airs on TV1 at 4.30 pm.

Khazanah Borneo

Khazanah Borneo


1. Kota Kinabalu 27/9
2. Agop Batu Tulug, Kinabatangan 4/10
3. Lembah Mansuli, Lahad Datu 11/10
4. Tingkayu, Kunak 18/10
5. Gua Madai 25/10
6. Bukit Tengkorak, Semporna 1/11
7. Kuching Bahagian 1 8/11
8. Kuching Bahagian 2 15/11
9. Santubong 22/11
10. Gua Batu Sireh, Serian 29/11
11. Gua Niah Bahagian 1 6/12
12. Gua Niah Bahagian 2 13/12
13. ‘The Grand Old Lady’, Miri 20/12


Military relics reveals life and death of the Sandakan Death Marches

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Archaeology doesn’t necessarily have to go way back thousands of years to understand the lives and times of people who lived before – sometimes it’s as recent as World War II, as revealed by a cache of Australian military relics unearthed in Sabah. They are the grim remnants of the infamous Sandakan Death Marches, which led to the death of some 6,000 military personnel and civilians.

Unearthed: a final message from Sandakan’s doomed soldiers
Sydney Morning Herald, 22 September 2008
Photo gallery
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East Malaysian artefacts sent overseas for testing

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Earthenware finds from Bukit Tengkorak, in the East Malaysia state of Sabah, are to be sent to the US for testing to ascertain their age and potential for future research. Unfortunately, the report doesn’t specify exactly what kind of tests are to be done on the site.

Earthenware Found In Bukit Tengkorak Sent For Scientific Tests
Bernama, 08 September 2008

Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said today that samples of earthenware and other items found in Bukit Tengkorak, near here, which are believed to be more than 500 years old, have been sent to the United States of America for scientific tests.

He said if the tests found that they were of high historical value, an indepth study would be carried out to excavate the remaining historical artifacts at the site.


Bukit Tengkorak: The next new archaeological park?

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The Sabahan site of Bukit Tengkorak is slated by the Malaysian government to be developed as the next new tourism site and archaeological park. The neolithic artifact remains from Bukit Tengkorak give the impression that the site was a nexus for exchange in ideas and good from island Southeast Asia to the west to the Melanesia in the east.

Bukit Tengkorak To Be Developed Into New Tourism Attraction
Bernama, 18 April 2008
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Spotlight on Sabah's stone age culture

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22 April 2007 (New Straits Times) – Today’s NST features a special spotlight on the stone age culture – past and ethnographic present. The first story is about the prehistory ceramics industrial site at Bukit Tengkorak (Tengkorak Hill).

New Straits Times, 22 Apr 2007

SpotLight: Stone Age Potters

Tampi villagers today don’t think twice about using clay from the foot of Bukit Tengkorak and nearby areas in southeastern Sabah for their pottery, digging wells for fresh water, burning wood for fuel and eating a wide range of fish, shellfish and molluscs.

But most of them are unaware that from about 3,000 until 2,000 years ago, people at the summit of the 600-foot hill did the same–when the Semporna peninsula was a late Stone Age population hub and craft centre.

Experts from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), the Sabah Museum Department and the Department of Natural Heritage have found millions of sherds which show that the site about five kilometres from Semporna town was one of the largest, if not the largest, pottery making sites in Island Southeast Asia (SEA) and the Pacific during the Neolithic era (the last part of the Stone Age, beginning 8,000 BC).

Their findings have overturned some theories about how prehistoric people lived and traded in the region.

Until the excavations here, archaeologists believed that long-distance sea trade and migration of people in insular SEA and the Pacific moved east from Melanesia (near Papua New Guinea) to Polynesia, leaving behind what is known as the “Lapita culture” of pottery, stone tools and ornaments.

“Our research at Bukit Tengkorak shows that 3,000 years ago, people were not only moving east towards New Britain in Melanesia but also westwards towards Sabah,” explains Dr Stephen Chia of USM’s Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia, who based his PhD thesis on the site.

“This is one of the longest trading routes in the world during the Neolithic period,” says the archeochemist who found obsidian (a volcanic glass used to make tools) at the site and traced it chemically to Talasea in New Britain, 3500 kilometres away. His fieldwork in Southeast Asia also found stone tools and pottery similar to Bukit Tengkorak in the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu Archipelago and Sulawesi.

The second story covers the Bajau people who live in the vicinity of Bukit Tengkorak on the Semporna peninsula of Sabah – the clay stoves produced by the Bajau are remarkably similar to the 3,000-year-old stoves unearthed nearby, implying an unbroken ceramics manufacturing tradition.

New Straits Times, 22 Apr 2007

Bajaus carrying on a long tradition

The finished handiwork of this Bajau woman in Sabah’s southeastern Semporna peninsula looks exactly like the 3,000-year-old stove unearthed at nearby Bukit Tengkorak.

“Pottery has been made like this for hundreds of years,” says Rogayah. “Each house has a stove to grill fish or satay and cook rice.”

“The way of life of the Bajaus today and the food they eat are similar to what we found on site,” says Dr Stephen Chia of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia.

“We think that the nomadic Bajau Laut may have landed here to trade, mend their nets, dry fish and bury their dead, but it was the settled coastal Bajaus who made the pottery.”
However, he cautions: “The people of Bukit Tengkorak could also be a totally different group of maritime people who shifted here and then moved on.”

Related Books:
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)
Man’s conquest of the Pacific: The prehistory of Southeast Asia and Oceania by P. Bellwood

Ministry To Fund Archeological Research In Bukit Tengkorak

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21 April 2007 (Bernama) – Archaeological research in Bukit Tengkorak, Sabah, on a prehistoric ceramics manufacturing site is set to continue, to unravel more answers on the migration and dispersal routes from island Southeast Asia to the pacific islands.

Ministry To Fund Archeological Research In Bukit Tengkorak

The Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry will allocate sufficient funds to enable the archeological research in Bukit Tengkorak to continue.

The National Heritage Department, meanwhile, will fully finance the repair of public facilities in the area for visitors’ comfort.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim told reporters this when visiting Bukit Tengkorak, about 10km from Semporna town, today.

The archeological research in Bukit Tengkorak, located about 500ft above sea level, and its surrounding areas began in 1994 by a team from the Malaysian Archeological Research Centre of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in cooperation with the Sabah Museum Department.

The research shows that Bukit Tengkorak was probably the biggest porcelain manufacturing site in Southeast Asia, especially during the Neolithic age.

Over five million pieces of ceramic wares with various patterns, aged about 3,000 years, have been found there.

Related Books:
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)
Man’s conquest of the Pacific: The prehistory of Southeast Asia and Oceania by P. Bellwood