Thursday, June 4

Bone fragments unearthed at Niah Caves to return home to S’wak tomorrow

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Ting (third left) officiates at the seminar while accompanied by Sarawak Museum Department’s acting director Tazudin Mohtar (second left), Krigbaum (fourth left) and others at the opening ceremony.

KUCHING: A total of 122 bone fragments that originated from the Niah National Park Archaeology Site will be brought back from University of Florida, United States to Sarawak tomorrow (March 6).

Initially expected to arrive on Wednesday, the mission to bring back the skeleton collection was made possible after several rounds of negotiations that took place from Feb 21 to 28.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah was present during the handing over ceremony of the skeleton at the University of Florida on Feb 21.

The skeleton collection will be showcased at the new RM300-million Sarawak Museum Complex, the second largest Museum in Southeast Asia.

The museum is expected to be open to the public by the end of the year.

“As far as we know, the Niah Caves of Sarawak have also become the world’s best-known home to primitive humans and it is now a household name in the world of research after the discovery of the Niah ‘Deep Skull’ back in 1958,” said Abdul Karim.

He added that the ‘Deep Skull’ was once believed to an adolescent male but it has been identified as a young adult female based on the latest findings.

Abdul Karim’s text-of-speech was read out by Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Sebastian Ting at the opening ceremony of one-day ‘The Return of Niah Skeletal Collections: Long Journey Home’ seminar at a hotel near Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg here today.

New research findings from Traders Cave – part of the Niah Cave system – has also indicated that human activities existed in this part of the world as far back as 65,000 years ago.

The 122 bone fragments were originally shipped to the University of Nevada, United States in the 1960s to be studied before being transferred to the University of Florida, due to climate stability.

Dr John Krigbaum – an anthropology expert from the University of Florida – explained that several research papers on the skeletal remains found in Niah Cave are still ongoing and are expected to be completed within several years.

“I think we are going to have peer-reviewed papers published (on our researches) and the findings can be assessed by our peers to make the science much more strong,” said Krigbaum when speaking to the press.

The ‘Return of Niah Skeletal Collections: Long Journey Home’ seminar gathered experienced scholars in archaeological research of the Niah Cave system, besides covering the history and development of archaeology in Sarawak.