- 2008/09/16 Proof of Neolithic presence in Sarawak and Perak

The prehistoric human skeletons found in Gua Kain Hitam, Sarawak, last year, and Pulau Kalumpang, Perak, last month, prove that human beings existed in the areas during the Neolithic age.

The skeletons were recovered by a research team from the Universiti Sains Malaysia's Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia led by Associate Prof Stephen Chia and Sarawak Museum Department assistant director Ipoi Datan.

The remains found in Gua Kain Hitam were buried in a cave, while those in Pulau Kalumpang were found in a mangrove swamp.

The team brought back six remains from Gua Kain Hitam to the centre for scientific analysis. Five of them were males aged between 25 and 45, while the remaining one was a female aged between 35 and 45.

They were all between 156 and 160cm in height.

Chia said they had engaged Dr Hirofumi Matsumura, a paleoanthropologist from Sappora Medical University, to learn more about the human population and the prehistoric community's way of life.

"Certain skeletal remains were found to be reddish in colour. They were believed to have been sprayed with a substance called haematite, which is a symbol of blood and life."

Also present were centre director Associate Prof Mokhtar Saidin, Matsumura and Sarawak Musuem Department director Sanid Said.

Matsumura said the condition of the remains was not so good, but through preliminary research he gathered that they belonged to a native indigenous group.

"There was an abnormality on the femural bone on one of the remains. It is either genetic or a result of an injury. I have not seen such a thing before. I have to do more research."

Sanid said the discovery at Gua Kain Hitam was significant -- 53 years after the skeletal remains believed to be more than 40,000 years old were first found in the Niah caves in Sarawak.

"The discovery is crucial for our history and tourism."

Chia said the remains of three bodies found in the swamp in Pulau Kalumpang were brought back to the centre. Two were found submerged in sea water.

"The study was carried out jointly between the centre and Universiti Kebangsaan Malay-sia's archaeology expert, Datuk Prof Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman."

Chia said the bones were undergoing a process to remove salt, as the presence of salt would hasten the decay of the bones.

"The bones are washed and then soaked in mineral water until there is no more salt.

"After that, they will be dried before a proper analysis is carried out."

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