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Late Prehistoric Human Remains in Semporna

ENG KEN KHONG is currently a senior lecturer at the Centre for Global Archaeological Research based at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Penerbit USM (First Published, 2020)
94 pages including References and Index


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Late Prehistoric Human Remains in Semporna focuses on human skeletal remains found at two sites in Semporna, Sabah, which are Bukit Kamiri and Melanta Tutup. The finding of prehistoric human remains in Sabah has been scarce until the discovery of two late Metal period burial sites in Semporna between the years 2002 and 2007, i.e. Melanta Tutup and Bukit Kamiri. Prior to this, only a handful of human teeth were found at Melanta Tutup (Neolithic) in 2002-2003 and later in 2005 at Gua Balambangan (late Palaeolithic), an island off the northern tip of Kudat. While these teeth had provided ample information about the prehistoric people, the discoveries of two burial sites at Semporna have provided several well-preserved prehistoric human remains. They provide a glimpse into these people’s identity, living conditions and environment. This book takes the palaeoanthropological approach to the human remains and attempts to answer some questions we have about the past populations in Semporna.

The artefacts found on the surface of Melanta Tutup as well as those associated with the burials suggested the presence of a long chronology of human habitation from the late Palaeolithic period to the Neolithic and early historical periods. The Palaeolithic level was dated at least 10,270 BP, the Neolithic levels were dated between 2,930 BP and 3,330 BP and the early historical levels were dated 1,130-1,440 BP. Eight human skeletal remains were excavated from Melanta Tutup at 10-30 cm deep, and radiocarbon dated to the late prehistory between AD 890 and AD 1,170. Two of the more complete burials indicated that the burials lie in an east-west orientation, with the heads pointing east. The mass burial appeared to be commingled and consisted of incomplete and fragmentary skeletal remains.

Both skeletons were identified as males, marked as S1 and S2. Skeleton S1 was a young adult aged between 25 and 34 years old, with an estimated height of ~158 cm. Skeleton S2 was a middle-aged adult, aged 35-44 years old and has an estimated height of ~166 cm. The initial impression of the two skeletal remains lying side by side in a burial during excavations at Bukit Kamiri suggested that the burial was most likely that of a male and a female. However, analysis of these skeletal has shown that there were actually two normal adult males buried in the same burial. The skeletons were poorly preserved and fragmented. The severe disintegration of the skeletons may be due to factors such as rainwater, fungal and bacterial activities, external mechanical forces such as the weight of soil exerted on the skeletons, acid from plant roots, scavenging animal and human disturbances.

Centre for Global Archaeological Research
Inaugural Archaeology Series

CHAPTER 1 Discoveries of Late Prehistoric Human Skeletal Remains in Malaysia

CHAPTER 2 Prehistoric Human Skeletal Remains in Malaysia

CHAPTER 3 The Ancient People of Melanta Tutup

CHAPTER 4 The Ancient People of Bukit Kamiri

CHAPTER 5 Conlusion


Weight0.174 kg
Dimensions22.8 × 15.3 × 0.6 cm




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