Friday, September 19, 2008

Complete human skeletons found in Perak, Sarawak

Archaeologists have discovered late Neolithic human remains in peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

Complete skeletons like those found in this discovery are rare and the researchers suggest that the two finds involve two separate physical types, "Mongoloid" at Perak and "Australo-Melanesian" in Sarawak.

Both burial grounds were associated with similar types of cultural artifacts.

The Sarawak remains were apparently associated also with cave paintings.

Prehistoric human remains found in Perak, Sarawak
By Himanshu Bhatt

GEORGE TOWN (Sept 18, 2008):
Archaeologists have made the most sensational discovery since Perak Man with almost simultaneous unearthing of two separate groups of complete Neolithic human skeletons in peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, both dating back some 3,000 years.

Neolithic skeletons found in Gua Kain Hitam, Sarawak
at the laboratory of USM's Centre for Archaeological
research. In the background are the principal
archaeologist and researchers in the project.
A total of three males with Mongoloid features, aged between 25 and 35 years, were found submerged in a coastal mangrove swamp in Pulau Kalumpang, near Taiping, Perak.

Another eight skeletons, including seven males aged betwen 25 and 45 years, were discovered in Gua Kain Hitam, at a back portion of the sprawling Niah caves complex near Miri.

Bearing Austro-Melanosoid features (similar to Australian aborigines), they were found laid in flat positions one metre underground. The only female here was between 35 and 45 years old when she died.

Coincidentally, both sets of remains, excavated over the last two months, were part of prehistoric burial grounds, and surrounded by ceremonial items like beads, pottery, shells and animal bones.

Experts say the findings are significant as they reveal details about early indigenous societies that lived in the country. Ancient paintings were also found on the walls of the cave in Sarawak.

Assoc Prof Dr Mokhtar Saidin, Director of USM's
Centre for Archaeological Research shows a lower
jawbone with some teeth intact, from a skeleton
found at Gua Kain Hitam, Sarawak.
"These remains are very important as the skeletons are almost fully complete," said assoc Prof Dr Mokhtar Saidin, director of the Malaysian Centre for Archaeological Research (PPAM) in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) at a press conference today.

The skeletons measure from 156 to 161 cm in height.

He stressed that the Pulau Kalumpang skeletons are more than 98% complete, compared with the 11,000 year-old Perak Man, discovered in Lenggong in 1991, who was 90% complete.

The Pulau Kalumpang project was conducted by a Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) team headed by veteran archaeologist Datuk Prof Nik Hassan Shuhaimi. USM assisted by providing technical and laboratory facilities.

The Guan Kain Hitam project, meanwhile, was led by Assoc Prof Dr Stephen Chan of PPAM, with a Sarawak Museums Department team headed by deputy director Ipoi Datan.

The research was funded by the National Heritage Department and USM.

Chan said this was the most important discovery in the Niah caves complex since Tom

An archaeologist unearthing the remains of a Neolithic
human skeleton at mangrove swamp in Pulau Kalumpang,
Harrison’s project in the late 1950s and the Datuk Prof Zuraina Majid-led excavations there in the 1970s.

"We believe there are many more remains yet to be found further below the earth and in other parts of the cave," he said.

Chan stressed that the discovery helped to make the Niah caves complex the most significant site for prehistoric human remains in Southeast Asia.

Most of the remains are now at the PPAM laboratory, where they are being carefully analysed. The three skeletons which were submerged in sea water are also being desalinated.

The local authorities have invited Japanese paleoanthropologist Dr Hirofumi Matsumura, from Sapporo Medical University, to study the bone remains to shed more light on the prehistoric humans and their lifestyles.

Also present at the press conference was Sarawak Museums Department director Sanib Said.