MIRI: Ancient crocodile effigies are set to become an ecological tourism attraction in the state.
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 crocodiles.
Sarawak Museum director Ipoi Datan said the effigies were discovered in over 70 locations between Betong Division in the southern part of the state and Lawas, Sarawak’s northernmost district.
“We started carrying out a survey on the sites of the effigies in 2004 and the works were intensified three years later.
“The biggest is about 53 feet (16.2m) long,” he said here recently.
He said over 40 sites belonging to the Iban community were found between Betong Division and Balingian, in the Mukah Division.
The Iban community, he added, was noted for practising hill paddy farming and had a traditional belief that the effigy played a role in protecting their crops.
“The effigy was used for the ‘Malik Umai’ ritual. The traditional Iban farming community believes it possesses a crocodile’s spirit to frighten away pests,” Ipoi said.
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.
When some members of the Lun Bawang community migrating beyond the state over the years, they brought along the tradition that led to several crocodile effigies being found in Sabah, he said. — Bernama
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