Art, bodies found in ancient caves

Archaeologists at the University of Wollongong will soon be collaborating on discoveries in a cave in Indonesia.

Professor Truman Simanjuntak from the Jakarta-based National Research and Development Center for Archaeology was at the university yesterday to address academics in the recently-established Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS).

Prof Simanjuntak is part of a group excavating Harimau ("Tiger") Cave in Sumatra, which has yielded "some very, very impressive finds".

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Among these is the first example of rock art in Sumatra and the discovery of 66 human burials dating back about 3000 years.

"Sixty-six is very strange," Prof Simanjuntak said.

"We've never found it before, such a big quantity of burials.

"It means that this cave was occupied intensely by humans and they continued to occupy it for a very, very long time.

"There is still occupation traces deeper and deeper in the cave, where we have not excavated yet. So it means the cave is very promising."

There are also plant and animal remains like chickens, dogs and pigs, suggesting these people had been domesticated rather than nomadic.

Prof Simanjuntak said Harimau Cave was one of many in the area.

"At the Harimau Cave's surrounding areas there are so many, many caves," he said.

"Up to now we have encountered up to 50 caves in the area and most of the caves contain archaeological evidence.

"It means that at that time, this area had been intensively occupied by humans. They lived in community in each cave, maybe around 10 or 20 families, and they had contact with each other."

CAS professor Mike Morwood said Prof Simanjuntak's talk formed part of an agreement between the University of Wollongong and the National Research Centre to share research and staff.

He "definitely" expected people from CAS to be working on future discoveries at Harimau Cave. Among those likely to be called on were CAS's world expert on dating rock art and a pair of experts in luminescence dating which will be required to calculate the dates of any deeper deposits found in the cave.

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