Sarawak to get back ancient human remains
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.