MIRI: Ancient crocodile effigies are set to join Sarawak’s ecological tourism attractions.
Carved from earth and used as part of rituals practised by the Iban and Lun Bawang communities, the 3,000-year-old effigies symbolise the enduring spirit of the crocodile.
Sarawak Museum director Ipoi Datan said the effigies, which symbolised the spirit of the crocodiles, were discovered in more than 70 locations between Betong Division and Lawas.
“We have started carrying out a survey on the sites of the effigies in 2004 and the work was intensified three years later.
“The biggest found so far, is about 53 feet (16.2m) long,” he said here recently.
From survey works, he said, over 40 sites belonging to the Iban community were found between Betong and Balingian in Mukah Division.
He said the Ibans were noted for practising hill padi farming and had a traditional belief that the effigy played a role in protecting their crops.
“The effigy will be used for the malik umai ritual, where the traditional farming community believes it (effigy) possesses a crocodile’s spirit to frighten away pests trying to destroy their crops,” said Ipoi.
In the case of the ancient Lun Bawang community, he said a crocodile effigy was carved to become the centre of celebration for successful head-hunting trips.
He said the earthen effigies that hardened over the years also served as land boundary markers.
With some members of the Lun Bawang community migrating beyond the state over the years, he said they also brought the tradition with them that led to several crocodile effigies found in Sabah. — Bernama