via ABC, 27 October 2018: A beautiful multimedia essay about recent excavations in the Niah Caves complex.
Trader’s Cave Excavation. Source: ABC news 20181027
The caves are also one of the most important fossil sites in the region.
Over the past 60 years, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of hundreds of skeletons in a Neolithic cemetery up to 4,000 years old, and an Iron Age cemetery up to 2,000 years old.
It is also where an iconic fossil known as Deep Skull was unearthed in 1958 by British palaeontologists Tom and Barbara Harrisson.
Source: This Borneo archaeological dig cave could shed light on the Mt Toba super-volcano eruption and humans’ arrival in the region – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
via Borneo Post, 27 October 2018:
Source: Borneo Post 20181027
KUCHING: The new Sarawak Museum Campus is set to become a must-visit attraction once it opens its doors to the public in 2020. The RM308-million project is undertaken in two stages – the first one …
Source: New Sarawak Museum set to open its doors in 2020 – BorneoPost Online | Borneo , Malaysia, Sarawak Daily News | Largest English Daily In Borneo
via Borneo Post, 22 October 2018: New materials recovered from the Niah Cave complex pushes the dates of human habitation to 65,000 years and shedding light into early modern humans in Southeast Asia.
Darren Curnoe. Source: Borneo Post 20181012
Human civilisation has been established to exist as far back as 65,000 years ago at Niah Caves complex, Sarawak – vastly exceeding the previous estimate of 35,000 years following the initial discovery of the ‘Deep Skull lady’ at the cave complex.
Discovered in the Niah Caves back in 1958, the ‘Deep Skull lady’ are remains of a female human skull that was ascribed an age of about 35,000 years, making it one of the oldest modern humans discovered in South-East Asia.
Source: New pre-history timeline discovered for Borneo – BorneoPost Online | Borneo , Malaysia, Sarawak Daily News | Largest English Daily In 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.
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
via Kuching In and Out:
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
New paper in PLOS One describing mandibles from the Niah Caves – these were excavated by the Harrissons in 1957.
Rare Late Pleistocene-early Holocene human mandibles from the Niah Caves (Sarawak, Borneo)
Darren Curnoe, Ipoi Datan, Jian-xin Zhao, Charles Leh Moi Ung, Maxime Aubert, Mohammed S. Sauffi, Goh Hsiao Mei, Raynold Mendoza, Paul S. C. Taçon
The skeletal remains of Late Pleistocene-early Holocene humans are exceptionally rare in island Southeast Asia. As a result, the identity and physical adaptations of the early inhabitants of the region are poorly known. One archaeological locality that has historically been important for understanding the peopling of island Southeast Asia is the Niah Caves in the northeast of Borneo. Here we present the results of direct Uranium-series dating and the first published descriptions of three partial human mandibles from the West Mouth of the Niah Caves recovered during excavations by the Harrissons in 1957. One of them (mandible E/B1 100″) is somewhat younger than the ‘Deep Skull’ with a best dating estimate of c30-28 ka (at 2σ), while the other two mandibles (D/N5 42–48″ and E/W 33 24–36″) are dated to a minimum of c11.0–10.5 ka (at 2σ) and c10.0–9.0 ka (at 2σ). Jaw E/B1 100″ is unusually small and robust compared with other Late Pleistocene mandibles suggesting that it may have been ontogenetically altered through masticatory strain under a model of phenotypic plasticity. Possible dietary causes could include the consumption of tough or dried meats or palm plants, behaviours which have been documented previously in the archaeological record of the Niah Caves. Our work suggests a long history back to before the LGM of economic strategies involving the exploitation of raw plant foods or perhaps dried and stored meat resources. This offers new insights into the economic strategies of Late Pleistocene-early Holocene hunter-gatherers living in, or adjacent to, tropical rainforests.
Source: Rare Late Pleistocene-early Holocene human mandibles from the Niah Caves (Sarawak, Borneo)
via Malaysian Digest, 06 January 2018:
FURTHER studies and researches are being conducted to determine if the first human civilisation in Southeast Asia started from Sarawak’s very own background, which is the Niah Caves tucked within Miri division.
Source: More Studies On Niah Caves Skull
Darren Curnoe of the University of New South Wales is on his three-week excavation of the Niah Caves in Sarawak and he will be tweeting and broadcasting his experiences on Facebook Live. You can follow his progress here:
Darren Curnoe – Anthropologist. 80 likes. Biological anthropologist and archaeologist with an insatiable curiosity about the kind of creature we are and how we came to be this way.
Source: Darren Curnoe – Anthropologist
A study of the Deep Skull from Niah has some new interpretations – female, not male;and likely originating from East Asia.
The Deep Skull of Niah. Source: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Deep Skull from Niah Cave and the Pleistocene Peopling of Southeast Asia
Front. Ecol. Evol., 27 June 2016 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2016.00075
37,000-year-old skull from Borneo reveals surprise for scientists
Popular archaeology, 27 June 2016
Could this skull rewrite human history? 37,000-year-old cranium found in Borneo may be evidence that ancient Aborigines were not the first to settle in Pacific island
Daily Mail, 27 June 2016
The Deep Skull from Niah Cave in Sarawak (Malaysia) is the oldest anatomically modern human recovered from island Southeast Asia. For more than 50 years its relevance to tracing the prehistory of the region has been controversial. The most widely held view, originating with Brothwell’s 1960 description and analysis, is that the Niah individual is related to Indigenous Australians. Here we undertake a new assessment of the Deep Skull and consider its bearing on this question. In doing so, we provide a new and comprehensive description of the cranium including a reassessment of its ontogenetic age, sex, morphology, and affinities. We conclude that this individual was most likely to have been of advanced age and female, rather than an adolescent male as originally proposed. The morphological evidence strongly suggests that the Deep Skull samples the earliest modern humans to have settled Borneo, most likely originating on mainland East Asia. We also show that the affinities of the specimen are most likely to be with the contemporary indigenous people of Borneo, although, similarities to the population sometimes referred to as Philippine Negritos cannot be excluded. Finally, our research suggests that the widely supported “two-layer” hypothesis for the Pleistocene peopling of East/Southeast Asia is unlikely to apply to the earliest inhabitants of Borneo, in-line with the picture emerging from genetic studies of the contemporary people from the region.
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.