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Rock Art, Burials, and Habitations: Caves in East Kalimantan

From: Asian Perspectives
Volume 44, Number 1, Spring 2005
pp. 219-230 | 10.1353/asi.2005.0006

Abstract

This paper presents a brief summary of a program of study of the archaeology of caves and rock shelters in East Kalimantan, especially the results of recent fieldwork along the Marang River. The caves and rock shelters cluster into three groups in terms of their elevations in the karstic landscape and their archaeological remains. The highest and most inaccessible caves are the locations of rock paintings. Caves at middle locations have produced evidence for funerary activity. Large, dry rock shelters, mostly flat-bottomed, at the foot of the cliffs were preferred for habitation. The paintings consist especially of hand stencils but also include anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures as well as other motifs. A stalactite date indicates that the earliest hand stencils may predate ca. 10,000 B.P., and drawings of what may be extinct animals suggest that some of the other motifs could be of such antiquity. The funerary material includes both pottery similar to Neolithic material elsewhere in Borneo and also later material associated with bronze artifacts. Some of the habitation sites may be pre-Neolithic on the evidence of multiple AMS dates between 4000 and 11750 B.P.; others are more recent. A particular focus of further research will need to be an attempt to establish the antiquity and the authorship of the rock art, and its relationship, if any, to the Holocene uses of the caves for burials and habitation.