Sunday, 14 July 2013

In Search of 'The Perak Man' - Part 2

Day 2 began with all of us convening at the Archaeological Gallery for the ‘adventure part’ of the program. There were fourteen 4x4 vehicles already waiting for us. I chose a silver and red Ford Ranger Hurricane pick-up and together with Shasha and Shareen. The convoy of 4x4s was supposed to take us to the various archaeological sites in Lenggong Valley.

Fourteen 4x4s lined up while waiting for their late passengers.
Scenic beauty of the bridge across the Perak River.
Our adventure 4x4 rides were mostly through palm oil plantations.
Lenggong Valley is a vast area in the district of Lenggong, Perak. The area, which was awarded the UNESCO Heritage Status on the 30th June 2012 includes four archaeological sites in two clusters which span close to 2 million years, one of the longest records of early man in a single locality, and the oldest outside the African continent. It features open-air and cave sites with Palaeolithic tool workshops, evidence of early technology. The number of sites found in the relatively contained area suggests the presence of a fairly large, semi-sedentary population with cultural remains from the Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Metal ages.

At one of the excavation sites at Bukit Bunuh, believed to be
along the ancient river path of the Perak River.
The lush Lenggong Valley on the Malay Peninsula contains evidence in open-air and cave sites along the Perak River spanning all the periods of hominid history outside Africa from 1.83 million to 1,700 years ago.
Undisturbed in situ Palaeolithic stone tool workshops are located on the shores of a paleolake (ancient lake) and ancient river gravel beds and dated in a long chronological sequence.

The legend of The Lenggong Valley area.
A meteorite strike 1.83 million b.p. blocked and diverted the river preserving Palaeolithic tools at Bukit Bunuh, where hand axes are among the oldest so far discovered outside Africa. Analysis suggests these were made by hominids which thus provide an extremely early date for hominid presence in South-East Asia. Mr. Shahrin did an excellent job explaining to us all these facts like the back of his hand.

Volcanic ash of the Toba volcano eruption some 72,000 years ago at Bukit Sapi.
Our 4x4 rides than proceeded to Bukit Sapi about 10 km from Bukit Bunuh. Here, we were shown the tanah putih (white earth) of about 3 metres in height. Apparently, tanah putih, as the locals call it, is a volcanic ash from Sumatera.  A catastrophic Toba volcanic eruption in 70,000 BP. caused abandonment of a workshop site containing multiple tool types at Kota Tampan. Again it shows evidence of hominid presence in the Lenggong Valley, as is the case of similar findings of workshop abandonments at Bukit Jawa (from 200,000-100,000 BP), at Bukit Bunuh (40,000 BP) and at Gua Harimau (1000 BP).

This area is protected by the Heritage Department!
Next was the highlight of the program. A very much anticipated visit to Gua Gunung Runtuh, home to the ‘Perak Man’. After a 20 minute climb through the lush tropical jungle (the last quarter was quite grueling), we reached the peak of Gunung Runtuh and went into the cave. It was here that the skeleton of The Perak Man was found and excavated by Prof Dato’ Zuraina 13 years ago. 

The last 100 metres was quite grueling for most of us.
Perak Man is South-East Asia’s oldest most complete human skeleton. It is radiocarbon dated to 10,120 BP and identified as Australomelanesoid, a hominid type occupying the western part of the Indonesia archipelago and continental South-East Asia at the end of the Pleistocene and early Holocene. Within the large karst outcrop of Bukit Kepala Gajah  are 20 caves. Three of these, Gua Gunung Runtuh, Gua Teluk Kelawar and Gua Kajang, have revealed prehistoric burials. Together these four sites in two clusters sites represent the sequence of significant stages in human history unrivalled in the region.

The smaller hole at the foreground was where Perak man was found.
We ended our 4x4 adventure trip of The Lenggong Valley with a short visit to Hutan Lipur Lata Kekabu (Lata Kekabu Recreational Park), had a hearty evening tea of roti jala, mee hoon and durians before we had a quick dip in the cool, clear stream.

By 6.30pm, most of us had ourselves recharged before we boarded our respective 4x4s and proceeded to our crash for the night, Homestay Kampung Beng.    

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