Zooarchaeology at Niah Cave: Contributions to our understanding of Southeast Asian Prehistory

Philip Piper, Lim T Tshen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Tom Harrisson and a team from the Sarawak Museum, Kuching commenced archaeological excavations in earnest at the Great Niah Caves, Sarawak in 1957. Since then Niah has produced one of the oldest and longest well-dated records of an anatomically modern human presence in Southeast Asia, extending from the Late Pleistocene (c. 50 Ka) to the sub-recent. The archaeological investigations have also led to the recovery of one of the most substantial collections of well-preserved vertebrate skeletal remains ever recovered in the region. The potential of this resource was recognized early, and in 1961, Tom Harrisson wrote a seminal piece for Malayan Nature Journal describing how human populations had impacted on mammal communities inhabiting the forests around Niah throughout prehistory. In the following decades, zooarchaeological research at Niah has continued to play a pivotal role in developing our understanding of Southeast Asian prehistory. In this paper, we discuss some of the most significant insights that vertebrate zooarchaeology at Niah has provided in our understanding of palaeoecological change, human-animal interactions and some of the ways animals were integrated into culture and ideology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)195-208
    JournalThe Malayan Nature Journal
    Volume81st Anniversary Special Issue 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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