THE site of the Neolithic drawings at Gua Tambun near Ipoh is in a sorry state of affairs.
The fascinating drawings dating between 3,000 and 5,000 B.C. are not only slowly fading away with the passage of time due to constant exposure to the sun and rain, but graffiti has also ruined the condition of the walls.
It is sad to see such a beautiful cave, which also offers visitors a spectacular view of the city’s skyline, and its awesome hematite rock paintings not maintained properly.
A walk along the passage leading to the cave and the stream flowing beneath is also polluted with rubbish.
During a check at the site by MetroPerak, we had to walk for about 2km before reaching a flight of stairs to get to the site.
As the photographer and I reached the bottom of the staircase, we had to slowly make our way up 138 slippery and steep steps that were partially covered by undergrowth.
But the first thing we noticed was not the pre-historic drawings but the graffiti, the work of vandals.
Names of those who had probably visited the place, palm prints, sketches, writings and red paint were the horrible sight that greeted us.
However, after gazing high up at the face of the cliff, we spotted the pre-historic drawings.
Among the drawings were those of tortoises, wildboar, abstract designs, deer and a dancing matchstick man.
We found it difficult to identify some of the drawings due to the signs of flaking on the hills that were noticeable.
Despite signboards placed there to notify the public that the cliff was adorned with pre-historic drawings, certain irresponsible people were not bothered to protect such a heritage site.
Mohd Nor Mat Darus, 52, who works as a supervisor at a horse ranch close-by the cave, said vandals had been destroying the walls by drawing graffiti for more than five years.
Working at the ranch for more than 20 years now, Mohd Nor said he had seen people, who were probably from the National Museum Department, coming to the site to clean the cliff of the wall, but that soon after this is done, the vandals struck again.
“It is so sad to see that people do not understand the importance of preserving such a heritage site.
“The youngsters, especially, do not understand the value of the drawings, and deface the walls with their scribblings during their visits,” he added.
Universiti Sains Malaysia Global Archeology Research Centre director Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Mokhtar Saidin, when contacted, said the cave was under the jurisdiction of the National Heritage Department.
He said the place was an ideal tourism spot, if maintained accordingly.
“Such places must be taken care of, not destroyed, as findings at such sites date back to thousands of years,” he added.
When contacted, a spokesperson from the department said it was difficult to keep an eye on such sites round-the-clock.
He said it was difficult to prevent vandals from striking at such sites, and impossible to assign staff to take care of the premises as well.
“For example, at the Lenggong Valley heritage site, we fenced up the area but the fence has gone missing too, and signboards broken.
“Some youngsters do not understand the value of such heritage sites, and such problems are becoming rampant.
“Creating awareness and educating the public is one way of overcoming the problem, he said, adding that such information must be passed on at the school level.