5 things you must experience in Niah National Park: fulfill your archaeological dreams

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We’ve introduced many national parks in Sarawak, but this time we will tell you about Niah national park. This park has an amazing  environment with its own ecosystem of plants and animals. There is even a special archaeological site where human remains were discovered. 

Niah National Park is located northeast of Sarawak, about 110 km from Miri. The entrance to the main cave alone is said to be large enough to fit a few Notre Dame Cathedrals. Old and new stone age burial sites and iron-age cave paintings are waiting to be explored.

 

caves - Niah Cave

Niah National Park

Niah national park

Niah Cave is made up of 3 caves: Trading Cave, Painted Cave and dark Moon Cave. During the 1950s, archaeologist Tom Harrison and his wife Barbara excavated a human head skull. It is appears from the age of the skull that 40,000 years ago Niah Cave already had human activities. Niah Cave is listed as one of the world’s famous archaeological caves.

Trader’s Cave

Trader’s Cave

Take the wooden stairs to the trading chamber and you’ll see the remains of the trader’s outpost–wooden structures built into the cave walls. During the olden days, traders set up shop here to trade birds’ nests and other goods. The space in Niah Cave is very big. Dense stalactites present a natural uncut beauty.

Niah Cave

Niah Cave

From the trading chamber, a short trek further will take you into the main chamber of the cave. You will be fascinated to find the wooden home of Tom and his wife, which has been preserved as a museum.

Niah entrance

Niah entrance (Picture from: [email protected])

Painted Cave is the star of Niah Cave. It also has archaeological value. Archeologists discovered red ancient murals that is more than 1,200 years ago here. It shows animals, forests, people, etc., The murals have faded due to environmental influences, but they are still in good condition.

Red ancient murals

Red ancient murals

These murals watch over a gravesite where dead bodies were laid to rest in boat-shaped coffins. The locals believed that the “boat coffins” could help extradite dead souls to the afterlife. Other items that were considered to be of use in the afterlife were also placed inside the boat.

Painted Cave

Painted Cave

The Moon Cave is darker; it’s almost black inside and a torch is required. Although the road inside is relatively smooth, visitors still need to be extra careful.

Dark Moon Cave

Dark Moon Cave

Moon Cave was once an ancient tomb for human remains.  Archaeologists have found cultural relics, including metals, stone tools, ceramics, fragments of hornbill skulls, etc. They found human bones without heads, some with holes in the skull likely caused by spears. It is suspected that this was once an ancient battleground. Want to know more about the Moon Cave? Next time, come and explore in person.

Moon Cave exit

Moon Cave exit

After walking out of Niah Cave, you can visit Niah Archaeological Museum which is situated nearby.  It exhibits historical artifacts and culture of the area.

An ancient human skull at Niah Museum

An ancient human skull at Niah Museum

You can learn about various mysterious archaeological stories. The boat coffin from the Painted Cave is also exhibited here. 

Niah Museum

Niah Museum

Niah Cave is not only famous for cultural relics, there are also bird’s nest in the cave. It is said that this is a habitat for 2 million swifts and 5 million bats. Scaffolds, ladders and hanging ropes to reach the  bird’s nest can be seen. You’re lucky if you see workers carry out the swallow’s nest during January till March and August till December.

Ladders to reach the swallow's nest

Ladders to reach the swallow’s nest

If you want to see the swallows or bats living here, use your flashlight and look up.  You may find a swallow or  a bat hanging upside down just above your head. 

A swallow tending to its nest

A swallow tending to its nest

 

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