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Sunday October 9, 2011

Bewah Man may be a woman

KUALA TERENGGANU: Local experts are working hard to decipher the mystery of the 16,000 years old “Bewah Man” currently kept under lock and key in the Terengganu Museum here.

Believed to be the oldest skeleton ever found in the country, the remains are being given the “five-star” treatment by the state government while 15 archaeologists and scientists toil daily to unlock its mystery.

To date, the local researchers have yet to verify the gender of the remains, which were discovered two years ago in Gua Bewah near Tasik Kenyir.

Museum director Yusof Abdullah said the remains were kept in a fully air-conditioned storage facility and closely guarded at all times.

Intriguing display: A group of schoolchildren looking at the replica of the Bewah Man skeleton which is being showcased at the Terengganu Archaeology Exhibition at the state museum.

“Only our conservation unit personnel and archaeologists involved in the research work pertaining to the remains are allowed access to the area as we do not want it to be tainted by bacteria or other outside elements.

“Even with the precautions in place, the skeletal remains are kept in a glass container to prevent it from deteriorating,” he said.

Yusof added that the remains were the state's and the country's priceless treasure.

He said the museum might also seek the cooperation of experts from the United States to help in the research work on the remains.

“We hope to be able to make a breakthrough in our research by the end of the year or early next year,” he said.

The remains would be returned to the place where it was found once the research was completed, he added.

“We hope the remains will be able to attract visitors to the cave once the plan to turn Gua Bewah into a floating exhibition centre becomes a reality,” he said.

The state government is considering building various facilities around the area following the discovery of the skeletal remains.

Yusof said the age of the skeletal remains was also deciphered with the assistance of experts from the US.

The Bewah Man is the second prehistoric skeletal remains to be found in the area.

The first discovery was made in 1976, also around Gua Bewah.

But the age had been determined to be only about 2,500 years old.

Yusof said archaeologists had also made some interesting discoveries in the area over the years, including primitive equipment used during the Stone Age such as pots and axes as well as eating utensils.

“We believe Gua Bewah holds many treasures of its inhabitants during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic era.”


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