Sarawak to re-submit bid to make Niah Caves Unesco heritage site

The Niah caves have been used by humans at different times ranging from the prehistory to neolithic, Chinese Sung-Era and more recent times. — Picture via Sarawak Forestry Corporation homepage
The Niah caves have been used by humans at different times ranging from the prehistory to neolithic, Chinese Sung-Era and more recent times. — Picture via Sarawak Forestry Corporation homepage

KUCHING, Jan 22 — The Sarawak government will re-submit nomination for the Niah Caves National Park in Miri Division to be a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Site, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg said today.

He said an archaeological works carried out by researchers from University of New South Wales, Australia, showed evidence of human settlements at the caves dated back to about 65,000 years ago.

“On record, human settlements in other parts of the world is about 40,000 years ago, but the Niah caves have evidence to show that the settlement was much more earlier,” he said at the opening of the stakeholders consultation on the proposed forestry policies here.

“If that is the case, we have to make Niah Caves National Park free from quarry activities so that it will be accorded the Unesco World Heritage Site,” he said.

He said the state government will upgrade facilities at the national park for the visitors to enjoy.

He said entrance fees will be charged for people visiting the park.

In 2010, the government nominated the park and its caves in the world heritage list. However, the site was excluded in the revised tentative list of the government in 2017.

In the 1950s and 1960s, former curator of Sarawak Museum Tom Harrisson excavated the site and made significant discoveries, including what is known as the Deep Skull in 1958.

Since then local and foreign scientists have continued the archaeological research, and many articles have been published in the Sarawak Museum Journal.

The main cave, Niah Great Cave, is located in Gunung Subis and is made up of several voluminous chambers with high ceilings.

The Great Cave lies in a large limestone block, about a kilometre long in general north to south direction and about half a kilometre wide, that is detached from the main Gunung Subis complex, by a valley between about 150 to 200 metres wide.

The whole “Gunung Subis Limestone Complex” lies some 17 kilometres inland from the South China Sea coast, near the town of Batu Niah and about 65 kilometres south west of the town Miri.

The caves have been used by humans at different times ranging from the prehistory to neolithic, Chinese Sung-Era and more recent times.

The Sarawak Museum began systematic archaeological work in the caves since 1954.

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