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4 May 2010
Mesolithic cave discovered in North Sumatra

The three storey cave, which is located in a hilly, densely forested are of North Sumatra's South Dempo sub-district, has two distinct entrances, seven rooms, as well as human footprints. Natural sedimentation, however, as caused the walls of the cave’s rooms to narrow over time and has partially obscured some of the cave's ancient palm print markings.
     Local residents are familiar with the cave and refer to it as 'Rie Tebing'. Local community leader, Manto, described the cave as having played a role in local lore. Traditional stories of the cave tell of it being created by a hermit who then used it as a residence.
     Evidence of a neatly carved bed in one of the rooms suggests that it is unlikely that the cave is a purely natural formation. Also, because of the varying rock types and densities occurring in the area and the fact that the cave's walls are uniformly carved, indicates that the cave is probably man-made. An additional two meter deep chamber was also described as being part of the cave complex, but is apparently inaccessible to any but expert cavers.
     Manto said that there are many ancient sites in the area, but lack of knowledge on the part of the local people leads them to attribute mythological and ritual importance to these places. The historical significance of the sites is usually only discovered by the locals through media publications by experts in the field.
     Kristantina Indriastuti, a researcher at the Palembeng Archaeology Institute, stated that the discovery of the cave was of great significance. The only other known cave residences are a Paleolithic site in the Kikim sub-district, Lahat, and a Mesolithic cave located in Ogan Komering Ulu district, South Sumatra.
     Indriastuti indicated that due to the relative dryness of the cave, it could possibly have been used as a residence. She did state, however that further investigation would be necessary to establish this as fact. Evidence such as cooking charcoal, ancient trash or stone tools such as flints, axes, shavings or flakes would support the lore that the cave was used as a residence. "Based on the South Sumatra area with its limestone or Karst Mountain condition, such as the one in Bukit Barisan, cave life activities are possible", Kristantina said.
     Approximately thirteen caves exist in the Karst Plateau region in Jambi Province. It is important for the Jambi Prehistoric Legacy Conservation Centre (BP3) to work in conjunction with local communities Kristantina says, in order to preserve the caves and protect them.

Source: Antara News (26 April 2010)

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