21.06.2006 - 27.06.2006
Niah Caves (there are more than one, connected to each other) is an important historical site for Sarawak. Archaeologists unearthed series of prehistoric treasures, among them, a human skull of over 40,000 years giving evidence of Homosapiens dwellings in these caves and making it one of the earliest findings of human existence in South East Asia. Niah Caves covers an area of 11 hectares (equivalent to the size of three football fields), is also one of the oldest caves in the world.
The first cave that greeted us was Trader's Cave. During its heydays, guano (bat droppings) and swiftlet nest collectors meet their traders here to sell off what they've collected. The only remains today are the wooden structure (belian) and overhanging limestones.
After a steep climb from Traders' Cave, we arrived at the west mouth of Niah's Great Cave.
The Great Cave measures 60m high and 250m wide which makes it ideal for bat dwellings. The cave turned pitch dark as we dwelled further. The ammonia-filled air, stepping on the soft layers of bat droppings under our feet and the squeaking sounds of bats and swiftlets invoked eerie feelings in us. We moved on quickly to search for the Painted Cave. Soon, we reached the back of the cave which offered us a breath of fresh air and sunlight.
Painted Cave was a further 20mins walk where prehistoric human-like paintings drawn on red hematite were located. It's difficult to make out the drawings as the area has been fenced off. I later read that the drawings were supposed to represent some funeral dance rituals since it was also a burial site evidenced by the boat-shaped coffins and human remains found in the same area. These historical treasures are now housed in the Sarawak Museum in Kuching.
Located at the West Mouth of Great Cave in Niah is the escavation site where a 40,000 years human skull was unearthed in 1958.