Asian Perspectives: Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific: Past Human Activity and Geomorphological Change in a Guano-Rich Tropical Cave Mouth: Initial Interpretations of the Late Quaternary Succession in the Great Cave of Niah, Sarawak

Article excerpt

2005, Past Human Activity and Geomorphological Change in a Guano-Rich Tropical Cave Mouth: Initial Interpretations of the Late Quaternary Succession in the Great Cave of Niah, Sarawak. Asian Perspectives: Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific, Vol. 44 Issue 1, 16-41.

This paper presents initial interpretations of the processes and events responsible for the late Quaternary sequence in the West Mouth of the Great Cave of Niah, in the hot and humid lowland rainforest and swamp forest of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. It evaluates the geomorphological context of the site within the known pattern of rapid late Quarternary climate change. Attention is given to the proximity to the sea and the likelihood of humid tropical and cooler drier conditions. The stratigraphic succession is described and four units or lithofacies (2C, 2, 3 and 4) are recognized as being of particular geomorphological and archaeological importance. The key processes operating within the site are the accumulation and subsequent failure and flow of bat and bird guano, hillslope colluviation, and ephemeral stream flow and pond development. Units 2C and 2 contain the critical archaeology, including the Deep Skull from an anatomically modern human, discovered by Tom Harrisson. These were formed by colluviation from a complex cave-mouth rampart and stream flow from within the cave. The stream transported fine-grained sediment to a shallow pond, and both the stream and pond deposits show evidence for prolonged desiccation. Human activity is associated with these surfaces. …