Niah Cave: A Gaze into the Most Beautiful Historical Tour

“This text is part of “gnothi seauton” – self-awareness. It will be serialized. It quotes the research journey of the Writer from Niah Cave – Hindu-Javanese stone artifacts in Pakit and Kapuas Hulu, to the ancient graves of Batu Sicien in Krayan, as well as evidence of the stone culture’s history in Ba’Binuang, Central Krayan.

From Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, we find evidence that people have inhabited the land of Borneo, leaving their historical traces.

Let’s begin with Niah Cave.

An hour’s journey from Kuching to Niah Cave provides undeniable historical evidence that humans inhabited Borneo at least 46,000 years ago. This fact was recorded by Barker and others (2007), indicating that ancient humans once dwelled in the hills around Niah, Sarawak, on the island of Kalimantan.

Professor Collins (201&) noted that the inhabitants of Niah represented the Australo-Melanesian migration. This clan later moved to populate Eastern Indonesia, Papua, and Australia.

As noted by the Professor, “Although the migration of humans 40,000 years ago has been traced, it is also known that there was a new wave of migration in the Nusantara around 4,000 years ago. This second migration brought Austronesian people to the Nusantara” (Collins 2014). See also Bellwood (1997:92). These two ancient migrations have already shaped and influenced the complexity we witness in Kalimantan today.”

I met Collins at the International Congress I of Dayak Culture in Bengkayang (June 2-6, 2017). As the Chair of the Steering Committee (SC), I had extensive discussions with him. Then, I attentively listened to his presentation. Although it did not directly address the origins of the Borneo population, this Professor from the National University of Malaysia’s Ethnic Studies Institute at least provided clues. For us to further investigate, as our curiosity about Niah Cave grows.

Human habitation of Borneo is proven by Niah Cave. Its age has been tested with C-35. Research conducted by the British in collaboration with the Sarawak Museum in Kuching proves that our civilization is ancient and noble. And indeed, we are noble humans.

So, why should we follow theories that remain unproven? That the ancestors of the Dayak people came from Yunan?

Where is the historical evidence? History must contain: 1) Where is the setting (location and time)? 2) Who are the figures/actors? 3) What happened/how did it happen? 4) What are the documentary proofs?

Commencing History 40,000 Years Ago
Niah Cave has met the criteria as historical evidence. What is the method of historical research? In such a way that I am of the opinion that the native inhabitants of Borneo are not from anywhere else but here. And in this place.

Niah Cave, a historical site located in the Miri region of Sarawak, holds profound significance in the history and culture of Sarawak. This place is not just a tourist attraction but also bears silent witness to human journeys spanning thousands of years. Let’s explore the wonders and historical riches contained within Niah Cave.Niah Cave marks the beginning of Sarawak’s history, at least in written records, around 40,000 years ago. During this time, prehistoric humans known as “Niah Man” inhabited this region. They were part of the Homo sapiens group that roamed the now-submerged Sundaland continent.

Niah Caves are situated in the hills of Mount Subis, approximately 16 km from the South China Sea. During the late Pleistocene and early Holocene periods, the sea had not yet reached this area, allowing the “Niah Man” to freely move from Sumatra or Malaya to much of what is now Southeast Asia’s islands. However, about 12,000 years ago, climate changes caused some polar ice to melt and sea levels to rise, forming a geographical map more akin to what we know today.

Niah Cave isn’t just a single cave but a complex of caves, bearing names like ‘Great Cave,’ ‘Guano Bat Cave,’ and ‘Cave of the Winds,’ referencing events that occurred within them or items found there. In the 19th century, these caves were not well explored by adventurers because much of their secrets remained hidden.

Recent Research Surprises
However, in 1957, the Sarawak Museum began investigating Niah Cave and made many astounding discoveries. Apart from layers of prehistoric human settlements, they found the skull of the “Niah Man” in the West Mouth of the Great Cave. This skull displayed morphological affinities with present-day Tasmanian inhabitants, who no longer exist in the region. The “Niah Man” group appears to have migrated south while other tribes entered Borneo.

Further research revealed that the “Niah Man” was likely a woman. Since 2014, the correct term for this esteemed ancestor is “Niah Woman” or, in politically correct terms, “Niah Person!”

The success of this research has reshaped our understanding of early human history in this region.*)

Source of illustrations for this article: Charles Tyler (1993).

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Masri Sareb Putra
Articles: 730

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