Sarawak to get back an­cient hu­man re­mains

New Straits Times - - News -

KUCH­ING: Sarawak is in the process of re­triev­ing a col­lec­tion of 116 hu­man burial re­mains un­earthed al­most six decades ago from the Niah Caves near Miri.

The burial re­mains, dis­cov­ered by the then Sarawak Mu­seum cu­ra­tor Tom Har­ris­son, are cur­rently kept at Univer­sity of Ne­vada, Las Ve­gas (UNLV) in the United States.

State Mu­seum di­rec­tor Ipoi Datan said a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing (MoU) had been signed and an agree­ment had been reached to trans­port the col­lec­tion back to Sarawak.

“Af­ter we signed the agree­ment last week, the col­lec­tion was packed into 33 boxes and trans­ported by land from Ne­vada to Florida. Our as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor of ar­chae­ol­ogy, Mohd Sher­man Sauffi, joined the road trip, which took three days un­til the col­lec­tion ar­rived at Univer­sity of Florida safely,” he said.

Ipoi said the col­lec­tion would only be brought back in 2019 due to limited stor­age space avail­able at the mu­seum in Sarawak.

“We need bet­ter stor­age fa­cil­i­ties to keep the col­lec­tion.

“Thus we will have to wait for the new mu­seum to be com­pleted.”

The burial re­mains were dis­cov­ered by Har­ris­son and his wife dur­ing their ex­ca­va­tion works at Niah be­tween 1947 and 1967 and the burial re­mains were later taken to Ne­vada for stud­ies.

Be­sides nu­mer­ous stone and bone tools, shells, pot­tery, and some hu­man burial re­mains were found at the West Mouth of Niah Caves, dated from 40,000BP (Be­fore Present) years to 1,000BP years.

“We have spent USS2,000 (RM8,849) to trans­port the find­ings from Ne­vada to Florida.”

Apart from those in Neveda, there were 42 burial items stored in Kuch­ing, one in the Bri­tish Mu­seum, the United King­dom, and an­other at the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum Lei­den in the Nether­lands.

When asked if the col­lec­tion would be dis­played for the public, Ipoi said the mat­ter was un­der dis­cus­sion.


Sarawak Mu­seum di­rec­tor Ipoi Datan dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the state Mu­seum Depart­ment yes­ter­day.

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