Indonesian cave yields ancient art, human burials

Ancient art and human burials found in an Indonesian cave will give key insights into the prehistoric human occupation of Southeast Asia.

Indonesian cave yields ancient art, human burials
Professor Truman Simanjuntak holding an exact replica of an ancient stone hand axe excavated
from East Java [Credit: University of Wollongong]
Professor Truman Simanjuntak, from the Jakarta-based Indonesian National Centre for Archaeology, visited UOW this week to address researchers at the Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS).

He said his archaeological team that is excavating Harimau ("Tiger") Cave in Sumatra and has yielded "some very, very impressive finds", which will likely be dated by CAS researchers.

Among the finds is the first example of rock art in Sumatra and the discovery of 66 human burials dating back about 3000 years.

"Sixty-six is very strange," Prof Simanjuntak said, adding that they have never found such a big quantity of burials.

"It means that this cave was occupied intensely by humans and they continued to occupy it for a very, very long time,” he said.

These findings shed new light on the complex cultural behaviours of Indonesia’s first farming communities, who lived in the limestone caves of Harimau and used them as a burial place and a “workshop” for tool-making activities.

With much of the cave still to be excavated, researchers are excited about the secrets they might hold.

"There are still occupation traces deeper and deeper in the cave, where we have not excavated yet. So it means the cave is very promising,” Professor Simanjuntak said, adding that his archaeological team has uncovered evidence of a potentially far older history of occupation at Harimau Cave, which could open up new and intriguing avenues of research. 

Source: University of Wollongong [April 12, 2013]

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