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21 September 2008
Neolithic skeletons discovered in Malaysia

Archaeologists have stumbled upon eight human skeletal remains, believed to be from the Neolithic period between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago, at an ancient burial site at Gua Kain Hitam near the Niah Caves, Sarawak (Malaysia). The research team, comprising members from Universiti Sains Malaysia's Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia headed by Prof Madya Dr Stephen Chia, and the Sarawak Museum Department headed by its deputy director Ipoi Datan, uncovered the remains.
They were buried together with artefacts such as pottery, beaded ornaments and food remains such as shells and animal bones.
     The centre's director Prof Madya Mokhtar Saidin said that the discovery in was considered to be of great significance as the excavated remains were almost complete. "Of the eight, only six - which were the remains of five men and a woman - were brought back in June to the centre for analysis. The female is believed to be aged between 35 and 45 while the men were probably aged between 25 and 45, They measure between 156cm and 160cm," he added.
     Mokhtar said the discovery was a result of a two-year research work which began last year funded by the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry and the USM Research University grant. "The study on the remains of the eight would provide us the information on the type of their lifestyle, their period of settlement and their origins. Some of the remains were found with stains of red ochre which could symbolise some ritual during burial," Dr Chia said, adding that excavation works at the burial site were on going. Ipoi said the skeletal remains shared the same characteristics with the Austro Melanosoid people who used to roam around Sumatera and Papua.
     The centre was also carrying out analysis on three skeletal remains which were found submerged in water at a mangrove swamp at Pulau Kalumpang, near Taiping, Perak, last month. Mokhtar said the remains were excavated by the research team from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia which had sought assistance from USM for the analysis to be carried out at the centre's laboratory. He said the remains, believed to be males between the ages 25 and 35, were about 1,000 and 3,000 years old.

Source: The Star (18 September 2008)

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