Skip to main content
Ref ID: 30280
Ref Type: Journal Article
Authors: Solheim, Wilhelm G.
Title: The present status of the 'Palaeolithic' in Borneo
Date: 1960
Source: Asian Perspectives (1958)
Notes: Introduction: Almost a century ago Alfred Russel Wallace drew the attention of T. H. Huxley to two groups of caves in Sarawak as possibly containing archaeological sites of importance in the question of the evolution of man. These were the Bau Caves, near Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, and the Niah Caves, 300 miles north up the coast of Sarawak (Huxley, 1864). As an eventual result of this information an expedition was jointly sponsored by the Royal Society and the British Association for the Advancement of Science to investigate these caves. The exploration party, led by A. H. Everett, was in Sarawak for nine months during 1878-79. Everett's report, presented to the Royal Society in 1880 (Everett, 1880), was completely negative
all the remains found were recent and the caves were reported as undeserving of further study. Both groups of caves have been revisited numerous times, but until recently, without serious archaeological intent. Several excavations have been made in various of the Bau Caves during the last ten years bringing to light interesting but relatively recent remains (Harrisson and Tweedie, 1951). The largest and most lately discovered of these Bau Caves, will be investigated for the first time early in 1959. In 1947 new surface collections were made in the Great Cave at Niah, but Tom Harrisson, the Curator of the Sarawak Museum. In October 1954, Harrisson, accompanied by Michael Tweedie (then Director of the Raffles Museum in Singapore) and Hugh Gibb, spent two weeks conducting preliminary digging at Niah and discovered 'unquestionable evidence of long-term human occupation, habitation and burial, with signs of distinct stratifications' (Harrisson, 1957, p. 161). Not until 1957 could the necessary financing be arranged so as to undertake full-scale excavation. The 1957 operations were supported primarily by the Shell Oil Companies, with the necessary Sarawak Government backing through the Sarawak Museum (Harrisson, 1957, p. 161). In 1958 it was possible to increase greatly the size of the undertaking by the additional support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation of Lisbon. It is from these two seasons' work, under the leadership of Tom Harrisson, that it is possible to report a 'status' for the Palaeolithic of Borneo.
Date Created: 3/27/2006
Volume: 2
Number: 2
Page Start: 83
Page End: 90