40,000-year-old Niah Caves human bones return to Sarawak

Sarawak Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah (second from right) receives the prehistoric human bones at the MAS Cargo terminal in Kuching today. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: Sarawak today welcomed home 40,000-year-old Gua Niah prehistoric human bones which had been in the United States since the 1960s.

The 122 pieces of bone fragments arrived from Florida and were received by state Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah and Sarawak Museum Department officials.

The repatriation was supervised by anthropology expert John Krigbaum from the University of Florida and assisted by the museum’s Archaeology Unit chief Mohd Sherman Sauffi.

Karim told reporters the prehistoric bones were discovered in Gua Niah during an excavation conducted by a team of researchers, led by the museum’s first curator, Tom Harrisson, in the 1950s and 1960s.

“The bone fragments were sent to the University of Nevada in Las Vegas for research purposes before being transferred to the University of Florida in Gainesville in 2017.

“After more than 50 years abroad, our ancestors have finally returned home,” he said.

Karim said the bones will be displayed at the Sarawak Archaeology Museum which is being upgraded and expected to be opened to the public later this year.