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13 June 2005
Ancient ceramics to shed light on Borneo's history

A team of scientists led by British-based archaeologist Dr Patrick Daly is working to determine the nature of human activity in Southeast Asia as far back as 40,000 years ago. Daly, of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research of the University of Cambridge, and his team expect to have the answers documented and published in a book comprising two monographs in 18 months under the Niah Caves Project of the Sarawak Museum. But first the scientists have to put together and study 60,000 pieces of ceramics unearthed from the Niah Caves' West Mouth Cemetery, a task they expect to complete by November.
     The main goal of the proposed research is to analyse the ceramic material from the Neolithic cemetery in the Niah Caves, located 120 km south of Miri, and situate it within the broader context of Southeast Asian archaeology. The research will shed light on the relationship between the islands and mainland of Southeast Asia, and determine whether developments in the islands were the result of migration and diffusion from the mainland, or were part of a trajectory of growth independent of the mainland.
     Daly said the earliest evidence of human settlement in Niah, dating back to around 40,000 years ago from the initial excavation by the late Tom Harrisson, Curator of the Sarawak Museum between 1947 and 1967, had made it a significant site. However, he said, it was unfortunate that Harrisson had never published comprehensive reports during the almost 20 years of excavation despite numerous articles and media appearances.
     The Niah Caves, gazetted as one of Sarawak's historic sites, is part of the Niah National Park and can be reached from Miri or Bintulu via a two-hour drive on the Pan Borneo Highway.

Source: Bernama.com (12 June 2005)

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