KUALA KLAWANG: Not many may be aware of the existence of caves in Negri Sembilan that date back to prehistoric times.
Located in the Pasoh forest reserve in Simpang Pertang in Jelebu district, these caves are where Peninsular Malaysia’s southernmost prehistoric site is located.
This ancient site is a fairly recent discovery after Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) archaeologists carried out excavation works there two years ago and found artefacts that provided evidence of human presence some 14,000 years ago.
The main cavern and its network of caves in this area have been named Gua Pelangi by the locals, mainly settlers from the nearby Felda Pasoh 4 scheme.
Gua Pelangi has the makings of a tourist attraction, thanks to its historical value and treasure trove of flora and fauna.
Spread over 16ha, Gua Pelangi is situated about 135m above sea level.
It is about 67km from Seremban and about 133km from Kuala Lumpur.
USM Centre for Global Archaeological Research director Prof Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin said he sent a team to do some investigations after receiving information about Gua Pelangi sometime in 2014.
After surveying the site and conducting tests, the archaeologists confirmed that the caves there were made of limestone and could have been occupied during pre-historic days.
Following excavations two years ago, the team discovered relics such as stone tools and axes, as well as snail shells, similar to those found in other caves such as Gua Bewah in the Tasik Kenyir area in Terengganu and Gua Gunung Runtuh in Lenggong Valley in Perak.
“The artefacts we uncovered at Gua Pelangi were similar to those we found in other caves,” said Mokhtar.
“And, as per our findings, we believe that Gua Pelangi is the first prehistoric site to be discovered in the southern part of the peninsula.”
In Gua Bewah, archaeologists had dug up human skeletons and artefacts that date back to more than 16,000 years, while in Gua Gunung Runtuh, they found a 10,000-year-old skeleton of the “Perak Man”, as well as remnants of tools, shells and animal bones.
In Gua Pelangi, there is evidence of the existence of a primitive society believed to have been from the Paleolithic Era (Old Stone Age).
“The remnants of stone tools and snail shells discovered by our archaeologists are proof that humans existed in these caves more than 14,000 years ago,” said Mokhtar, adding that bone fragments of animals such as monkeys, pigs, deer, tortoises and anteaters were also found at the site.
He said the first two phases of their excavation work at Gua Pelangi have already been carried out. The third phase will be carried out once they receive sufficient funds.
“So far, we have done excavations on 13 areas but more areas have to be covered as we believe there are more artefacts buried down there.
All the artefacts discovered at the site are being kept at USM’s Centre for Global Archaeological Research.
On how the age of any particular artefact is determined, Mokhtar said the experts usually examined the object’s physical characteristics in order to determine its age.
For a more accurate age analysis, the artefact is sent to the Beta Analytic Radiocarbon Dating laboratory in Miami, Florida, in the United States, he added.
Meanwhile, Negeri Sembilan Museum acting director Aziz Mohd Gorip said the discovery of the prehistoric relics at the Gua Pelangi site has given a new dimension to the state’s history.
He said to safeguard its heritage, the site is now in the care of the National Heritage Department (under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture).
Visitors still have access to the caves but they have to be accompanied by security staff.
Mokhtar said Gua Pelangi has the potential to become a heritage site and developed into an archaeo-tourism product.
He suggested that a live gallery be established there, where museum staff could re-enact the life of the prehistoric humans who existed there, for the benefit of visitors and tourists.
“It will be fascinating for the visitors to see how they (prehistoric society) lived using natural materials like stones to create fire and make tools such as axes and knives, Mokhtar said.
“Such activities will promote Gua Pelangi as a tourist attraction and also help to improve the economic status of the local community.” — Bernama