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Friday, January 14, 2011

Perak Man

Perak Man, found in 1991, is the only complete human skeleton which has been found in Malaysia. The cave which was his final resting place is called Gua Gunung Runtuh and is situated in Bukit Kepala Gajah, or Elephant’s Head Hill, in the Lenggong Valley in Ulu Perak. The skeleton has been dated at between 10,000 and 11,000 years old, which makes him a Stone Age man, from the Palaeolithic period. The skeleton was found by Datuk Prof Zuraini Majid and her team from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
It is believed Perak Man was an important member of his tribe, judging by the way he was buried, in a foetal position, and accompanied by stone tools. He was about 157cm tall and probably aged 40-50 when he died. He had an atrophied left hand and one finger was deformed. As well as the skeleton, remnants of tools and food such as shells and animal bones were found in the cave.

The Lenggong valley is one of the Peninsula’s most important areas for archaeology, as excavations have revealed many traces of Malaysia’s pre-history. The town of Lenggong is situated some 100km north of Ipoh on the Kuala Kangsar-Grik road. It is the site of the oldest known place of human activity in the Peninsula. Today, it is still a rural area, with small kampungs surrounded by green vegetation and limestone hills.
Lenggong can be likened to an open-air museum, and is home to legends, skeletons, cave drawings and precious finds such as jewellery, pottery, weapons and stone tools. Gua Gunung Runtuh was probably used as a temporary camp when the people were out hunting, being well situated high up. In the same hill, other caves have yielded archaeological remains such as stone tools and food remnants, but no more skeletons. The caves were probably used as temporary shelters and seasonal camps, whereas Gua Gunung Runtuh was lived in for longer periods.
Kota Tampan is the site of a prehistoric stone tool workshop, and has been dated at about 74,000 years old. This makes it older than the archaeological remains which have been found at Niah Cave in Sarawak, where one human skull has been dated at about 40,000 years old. But all these findings are still very young compared to those from Africa, where the predecessors of the human species originated about three to five million years ago.

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