Log coffin burial in Sabah

Log coffins made from belian and merbau woods

Log coffins made from belian and merbau woods

The are many limestone’s caves in Sabah contains log coffins which had buried in the ground about a 1000 years ago. More than a thousand of these log coffins are made from belian and merbau hardwood. Other local hardwoods used for log coffins also have been discovered inside the limestone caves in Sabah.  Limestones caves in Sabah are situated at Agop Batu Tulug in Kampung Batu Puteh, Agop Miasias in Sungai Lokan, Agop Gomantong, Agop Batu Supu, Agop Sarupi in Sungai Kinabatangan, Agop Batu Balos, Agop Batu Balos, Agop Tapadong, Agop Kuala Danum, Agop Kuala Sungai Kalisun in Sungai Segama. The word “agop” which is used as the location name, means ‘cave’. ‘Agop’ word is comes from the language of the riverine tribes called ‘Orang Sungai’ of Kinabatangan.

 

Some of log coffins are decorated with unique carvings depicting animal heads such as ‘seladang’ or ‘tembadau’ heads, crocodiles, snakes, lizards and birds. The carvings on the long coffins with animal heads is belief have a related with power darkness and death and also friends of their heroes. The log coffins for adults are measured between seven to twelve feet while log coffins for children were between four to six feet long. Some said that the cave with log coffins was a former burial site for Chinese because they found Chinese artifacts inside the log coffins.

 

Inside the log coffins, the dead body will be accompanied with some items such as weapons, ceramic, blowpipe, gong, spear, food and personal ornaments. The log coffins tradition is still practiced among the local tribes around Ulu Kinabatangan and Ulu Segama in Lahad Datu.

Dongson Burial

Dongson drums

Dongson drums

A number of bronze drums known as Dongson drums, usually in pairs, were found buried in several sites in Malaysia. Dongson is the name of one of the culture in Vietnam. These burials still remains a mystery as most of them have no archeological data. The bronze drums were discovered in Kuala Terengganu, Ulu Tembeling, Kelang and Banting and are believed to have been brought from Northern Vietnam based on similarities in shape and motifs on the drum face between drums found there and those from local sites. Dongson coffins which has been found in Vietnam contained a women dressed in several layers of clothing and wrapped in a woven shroud. Woven and fabrics which is found in this Dongson coffin become the first for Southeast Asia where fibres is used with the dead body.

 

The discovery of a pair of these drums at Kampung Sungai Lang in Banting, Selangor gave to a new chapter in gathering data on Dongson drum burials as the site was systematically excavated. The find has since been classified as a symbolic burial for a personage of a high social status in his community. The drums which has a star carvings on its surface, is veieved belonged to the high ranking people. They believed can keep their status in afterlife. Some people believed that the Dongson coffins is to the burial of the head of a riverine tribe. The drums surface was decorated with geometric design, weapons, animals, and circles around the star. Ancient people belief that the drums can be able to communicate with the spirits to ask for rain.

 

The excavation revealed that the Dongson drums were used to covered on the top of 2 meter long of cengal hardwood planks. The cengal hardwood planks  is believed to have been taken from an old boat because usually boat will be build using cengal hardwood. The whole of the drums were buried in earth piled up as a mound measuring about 5 meters at ground level and 1 meter at its peak. Ten clay pots were also recovered, surrounding the drums. In addition, they also discovered glass beads were scattered around the shards. These were believed to have held food and water, while glass beads were also found scattered among the pots.

 

The Dongson drums were still being made in Thailand, until now. North Vietnam people still use Dongson drum to keep preserve and practice their tradition. The motifs of the Dongson drums such as circle with the star in the middle, normal can be found as a jewelry design, pottery decoration and textile design. In Indonesia, Dongson drums motifs can be found on ‘batik sarongs’. This Dongson drums motifs with large bands on ‘batik sarongs’ is design for the only one person who is allowed to wear it, which is the Sultan of Yogyakarta.

 

Stone Slab Burials

Stone Slab Burials

Stone Slab Burials

This practice of stone slab burials was prevalent among the coastal communities of the Bernam Valley in Perak, especially around Sungkai, Changkat Mentri and Slim River. This practiced is believe exist since the Metal Age. Stone slab grave is where the stone is placed on each other with the larger and wider stone slab will become the head of the place where the dead body will be buried. Archeologists also found glass beads, clay pottery and other grave goods near the stone slab grave.

Jar / Urn Burial

Jar / Urn Burial

Jar / Urn Burial (the red circle shown that the corpse was put inside the jar)

Jar or urn burial is a practice among communities in Sabah, Serawak and Terengganu. Jar burials used handmade local terracotta urns to keep the dead body inside it. Some test has been carried out on artifacts from jar burials in the Niah Caves in Sarawak which found that the jars which has the dead body inside dated late 2nd century BC. Some of the jars found has a human ash bones. Some of the burials just put the dead body inside the jar and cramped it to fix totally inside the jar. Some of the tribe groups in Borneo Sabah believed that the jars represent like the maternal womb, for the dead body to reincarnate and reborn again in the world.

 

Indigenous people in Bornea Sabah keep the dead body inside the house for several months or maybe years. This is because they want to keep pray and meditate for the dead body. When they dead body completely decayed, all the bones were gathered and put inside the jars. After that, the jar which is contains bones or dead body will be locate deep in the forest. This practiced will be applied for high burial platform (salong). If the family don’t have enough money, the will buried the jar for sometimes before the jar dug out to have a proper ritual funeral

 

Besides that, another form of jar burial is also practiced among the tribes in Sabah and Sarawak where one or more than one of dead body will be put inside the single jar. The jar is left in several months until the dead body is decompose. After the dead body is decomposed, the skulls and bones are collected and arrange in the jars on the floor of limestone caves.  Meanwhile, the Kelabit people of Sarawak are known to gather burial urn close to megalithic structures that are raised deep in the jungle.

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