Disentangling the Harrisson Archive to Interpret the Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Vertebrate Remains at Niah Caves, Sarawak

P. J. Piper*, R. J. Rabett

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    During the 1950s and 1960s, excavations by the Sarawak Museum at Niah Cave in northwest Borneo produced an enormous archive of records and artefacts, including in excess of 750,000 macro- and micro-vertebrate remains. The excellent state of preservation of the animal bone, dating from the Late Pleistocene (c. 40 kya) to as recently as c. 500 years ago had the potential to provide unparalleled zooarchaeological information about early hunter-gatherer resource procurement, temporal changes in subsistence patterning, and the impact of peoples on the local and regional environment in Island Southeast Asia. However, the coarse-grained methods of excavation employed during the original investigations and the sheer scale of the archaeological record and bone assemblages dissuaded many researchers from attempting to tackle the Niah archives. This paper outlines how important information on the nature of the archaeological record at Niah has now finally been extracted from the archive using a combination of zooarchaeological analysis and reference to the extensive archaeological records from the site. Copyright (C) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)464-475
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • Niah Caves
    • interpretation of archives
    • excavation strategy
    • zooarchaeology
    • taphonomy
    • BORNEO

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