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Niah National Park

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Title: Niah National Park  
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Subject: Miri, Malaysia, Archaeological sites in Malaysia, Miri, National parks of Malaysia, List of national parks of Malaysia
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Niah National Park

Niah Caves
The main entrance to the Niah Caves at sunset.
Discovery 1950
Entrances 1
Niah Caves
An archaeological site at the Painted Cave (Kain Hitam). Painted Cave is a small but archaeologically significant cave located south of the Niah Great Cave complex where ancient burial sites and cave paintings can be seen here.

Niah National Park, located within the district of Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia, is the site of the Niah Caves, one of the largest limestone caves in the world. Niah National Park was 31.4 km² when it was gazetted in 1974.[1] Nomination for World Heritage status of the Niah Caves was sent to UNESCO in 2010.


  • Niah Caves 1
  • Archaeology 2
  • Current activities 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Niah Caves

The main cave, Niah Great Cave, is located in Gunung Subis and is made up of several voluminous, high-ceilinged chambers. 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 meters wide. The main Gunung Subis complex rises to about 394[2] meters above sea level at its highest point. The whole "Gunung Subis Limestone Complex" lies some 17 kilometres inland from the South China Sea coast and about 65 kilometres south west of the town Miri. It is roughly heart shaped measuring five kilometres from its northern tip to the south and four kilometres across. The Gunung Subis is surrounded by a low countryside with gentle hills from which the small limestone massiv and its smaller detached blocks rise rather appruptly out of the jungle, some with cliffs over 100 metres high.[3] Though it is not an extensive cave system compared to others in Sarawak, it has been estimated to cover some 10 hectares and the roof rises to about 75 metres above the cave floor in some places.[4] In geological terms, the limestones are part of the Subis Formation. This is dated to some 20 to 16 million years ago during the Early Miocene.[3]


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

The cave is an important prehistorical site where human remains dating to 40,000 years have been found.[4] This is the oldest recorded human settlement in east Malaysia. More recent studies published in 2006 have shown evidence of the first human activity at the Niah caves from ca. 46,000 to ca. 34,000 years ago.[5] Painted Cave, situated in a much smaller limestone block of its own, some 150 metres from the Great Cave block's south eastern tip, has rock paintings dated as 1,200 years old. Archeologists have claimed a much earlier date for stone tools found in the Mansuli valley, near Lahad Datu in Sabah, but precise dating analysis has not yet been published.[6]

Research was pioneered by Tom Harrisson in the 1950/60s.[7] Since then local universities and foreign scientists have continued the archaeological research, and many articles have been published in the Sarawak Museum Journal. The site has been re-excavated (1999-2003+)[8] by a joint British-Malaysian expedition to determine the accuracy of Harrisson's work.

Items found at Niah Cave include Pleistocene chopping tools and flakes, Neolithic axes, adzes, pottery, shell jewellery, boats, mats, then iron tools and ceramics and glass beads dating to the Iron Age. The most famous find is the human skull dated at around 38,000 years BCE.[4][8] Painted Cave has paintings and wooden coffin 'death ships'.

Current activities

The caves are also well known for the birds' nest (Swiftlet) industry. They are a popular tourist destination in Sarawak.

See also


  1. ^ Niah National Park from Sarawak Forestry
  2. ^ Niah National Park at Geographia.
  3. ^ a b Short description for a cd-rom about the caves by Ecomedia Software
  4. ^ a b c "The Great Cave of Niah" by Huw Barton
  5. ^ Barker, Graeme; et al. (2007). "The 'human revolution' in lowland tropical Southeast Asia: the antiquity and behavior of anatomically modern humans at Niah Cave (Sarawak, Borneo)". Journal of Human Evolution (Elsevier) 52 (3): 243–261.  
  6. ^ Fong, Durie Rainer (10 April 2012). "Archaeologists hit 'gold' at Mansuli". The Star. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  7. ^ Harrisson, Tom (1957). "The Great Cave of Niah: A Preliminary Report on Bornean Prehistory". Man 57: 161–166. 
  8. ^ a b The Niah Cave Project at the University of Leicester.

Further reading

  • , XX(I), 1977Asian PerspectivesKennedy, Kenneth A. R., "The Deep Skull of Niah: an Assessment of Twenty Years of Speculation Concerning its Evolutionary Significance",

External links

  • Tourism Malaysia - Niah National Park
  • A short description of the caves as a touristic destination.
  • Summary of the article "A short history of birds' nests management in the Niah caves (Sarawak)." by Quentin Gausset from the "Borneo Research Bulletin" published in 2002.
  • Another version from the Sarawak Forestry with a map of the caves
  • Article with a picture of some paintings and death ships.
  • Picture of some cave paintings.
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