The “Early Photography in Borneo” a panel at the 2021 EuroSEAS conference

The 2021 conference of the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) was held in Olomuc, Czech Republic, from the 7th to the 10th September.

The panel “Between Heritage and Colonial Representations: Early Photography in Borneo”, organised by Antonio Guerreiro, included four presentations related to Borneo:

  • Antonio J. Guerreiro, “Charles Hose’s Borneo: A Pioneer photographer in Sarawak”
  • Rosalie C. Corpuz, “Early Photography in North Borneo – Sabah, Malaysia”
  • Bernard Sellato, “Jean Demmeni (1866-1939), a great photographer for two famous Borneo explorers”
  • Nicolas Césard & Bernard Sellato, “Expeditions and photography in Kalimantan. Combining historical and morphological approaches to reconstruct Dutch military excursions in the Interior of Borneo”

Panel abstract

Charles Hose

The panel will showcase the salient aspects of early photography in Borneo, in the former British (Sarawak, Sabah), and Dutch colonial areas (Kalimantan), c. 1870s – 1920s. A first step will be identifying the individuals active in the field and their practice of photography. Charles Hose (1863-1929) as a cadet, then Resident, was the most notable administrative
officer in the Brooke Raj who was involved in pioneering ethnographic studies and photography. Between 1884 and 1907, he was posted in out-stations, in the Baram and the Rejang. The panel will outline the different uses of photography and more generally, illustration, in Charles Hose’s main publications, including the style of the captions. The relation between photography and ethnographic and natural history collecting, will be stressed. Besides cultural heritage (tangible, i.e material culture, and its intangible dimensions), the exotic as expressed in landscapes, animal life and portraits, features prominently in the images from this period. Dayak/Punan/Penan/Murut indigenous peoples and fauna and flora have been the most popular subjects of photographers. A mapping of the categories of representations in order to focus on the colonial gaze in Borneo will be provided. The panel will address as well the historical context at the time: the colonial presence and ‘ethnographic expeditions’ taking place in central Borneo, a region spread between Sarawak and Kalimantan, Indonesia (known then as ‘Dutch Borneo’). Another famous photographer, Jean Demmeni (1866-1939), participated in A. W. Nieuwenhuis’ three expeditions taking place across West and East Borneo, between 1896 and 1900. Hose intensively practiced photography during his postings in the Baram and the Rejang areas (circa 1895 – 1907,1920). Besides Charles Hose and Jean Demmeni, other photographers were active in Borneo during this period (inter alia Evans, Funk, Furness, Grubauer, Haddon, Harrisson-Smith, Martin and Osa Johnson, Mjöberg, Tillema, Woolley). Besides so-called ‘scientific photography’, used to support academic texts and explorations, another photographic type which has been overlooked, i.e. postcards with exotic and romantic connotations, will be considered. In short, early photography besides engravings or drawings – actually the former often made after photographs – had a significant role in the shaping of Borneo’s ‘culturescape’ during the 20th century.

Transmission of shamanic knowledge among the Lebbo’ people: a poster by Antonio Guerreiro

Last december, the “Maison Asie-Pacifique”, a research centre located in Marseille, France, organised an exhibition entitled “Asie-Pacifique: itinéraires de recherche” for its 20th anniversary.

Antonio Guerreiro participated to this exhibition with a poster about the transmission of shamanic knowledge among the Lebbo’ people. The Lebbo’ people live in the Sankulirang karstic area, including in Merabu village, where we settled during our survey and excavation at the Liang Abu rock-shelter. In 2014, we recorded a video of Pak Kuling, telling the story of Belian Danyam to a young audience in Merabu.

Belian Danyam, literally “the young shaman” is the cultural hero of the Lebbo’. The memory of this hero has been kept alive until today among the villagers

From Borneo to New Guinea: Field research in East Kalimantan are finish, publishing continues, and new fieldwork starts in Papua New Guinea

From 2011 to 2016, the MAFBO (French Archaeological Project in Borneo) project has investigated the chronology of human occupation and its technological development in East Kalimantan since the Late Pleistocene/early Holocene. This project was in strong collaboration with several Indonesian institutions (National Centre for Archaeology, Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology), which led to 28 scientific publications, 49 conferences, and more than 50 events to the general public. During this time the project expanded its initial focus and problematic to exploring the population movements and histories from and to Indonesia across the Indian Ocean and Pacific region.
The new scientific and cooperation developed by MAFBO, led the project and its team to shift its focus to another region nearby: the New Guinea island, and specifically the territory which corresponds to actual Papua New Guinea.
For this reason, our fieldwork research in Borneo stops and new ones started in Papua New Guinea. However, despite this shift toward east, our publication work about Borneo is still ongoing and the publication of this blog will be maintained with a focus on research news on Borneo archaeology. Continuer la lecture de « From Borneo to New Guinea: Field research in East Kalimantan are finish, publishing continues, and new fieldwork starts in Papua New Guinea »

New publications: Quaternary International issue about Southeast Asia Prehistory


The proceedings of the “Southeast Asia: Human Evolution, Dispersals and Adaptation” session held in 2014 in Burgos (IUSPP Conference) have been published in a special issue of Quaternary International.

MAFBO’s team members offered two contributions, concerning respectively lithic and pottery materials: Continuer la lecture de « New publications: Quaternary International issue about Southeast Asia Prehistory »

Conference: “Cultural and Natural Heritage in the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat Karst Range of East Kalimantan (Indonesia): Policies and Conservation Efforts”

“Cultural and Natural Heritage in the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat Karst Range of East Kalimantan (Indonesia): Policies and Conservation Efforts”

« Le patrimoine culturel et naturel dans le massif karstique de Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat. Stratégies de conservation et politiques patrimoniales »

Click to download the flyer

Conférence de Antonio Guerrreiro à l’auditorium de l’Institut Français d’Indonésie (IFI) à Jakarta, le 1er juin 2016, de 17h30 à 19h. Continuer la lecture de « Conference: “Cultural and Natural Heritage in the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat Karst Range of East Kalimantan (Indonesia): Policies and Conservation Efforts” »

Pradiptajati Kusuma

Participation: 2014-

Pradiptajati Kusuma
Pradiptajati Kusuma

Pradiptajati Kusuma, often called Pai, is a population geneticist and he is a research assistant in Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology,  Jakarta. Pai works on various ethnic populations in Indonesia in respect to molecular anthropology and human evolution studies. He focuses on utilizing genomic data to understand how human demography, migration, and dispersal of language and diseases, shape genetic diversity in populations across the archipelago.

He is now working on Borneo populations, tracing the source of historical human migration through Indian Ocean that settled Madagascar. He is currently enrolled in doctoral program at Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Moléculaire et Imagerie de Synthèse, Université Paul Sabatier – Toulouse III, France, under direct supervision of Dr. François-Xavier Ricaut.

Pradiptajati Kusuma, ou Pai, est généticien des populations et assistant de recherche au Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, à Jakarta. Dans les perspectives de l’anthropologie moléculaire et des études de l’évolution humaine, Pai étudie diverses populations ethniques en Indonésie. À partir des données génétiques, il cherche à éclairer la manière dont démographie humaine, les migrations, la diffusion des langues et des maladies, déterminent la diversité génétique dans l’archipel indonésien.

Il s’intéresse actuellement aux populations de Bornéo, cherchant à retracer les flux migratoires, traversant l’Océan Indien, qui constituèrent la population de Madagascar. Il poursuit ce travail en tant que doctorant au Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Moléculaire et Imagerie de Synthèse, Université Paul Sabatier – Toulouse III, France, sous la direction de François-Xavier Ricaut.

Publication: Césard, Guerreiro & Soriente, Petualangan Unjung dan Mbui Kuvong

Book cover (click to download the full cover)
Book cover (click to download the full cover)

MAFBO’s member Antonio Guerreiro co-authored with Nicolas Césard and Antonia Soriente a book entitled Petualangan Unjung dan Mbui Kuvong: Sastra Lisan dan Kamus Punan Tuvu’ dari Kalimantan (The Adventurous Unjung and The Tale of Mbui Kuvong. Oral Literature and Punan Tuvu’-Indonesian Dictionary from Kalimantan).

Antonio Guerreiro (membre de la MAFBO) et ses co-auteurs Nicolas Césard et Antonia Soriente, ont récemment publié un livre intitulé Petualangan Unjung dan Mbui Kuvong: Sastra Lisan dan Kamus Punan Tuvu’ dari Kalimantan (Unjung l’aventureuse et le conte de Kuvong. Littérature orale et dictionnaire Punan Tuvu’ – Indonésien de Kalimantan).


Sembilan kisah yang menjadi bagian dari buku Petualangan Unjung dan Mbui Kuvong, memberikan suatu ringkasan tentang kekayaan sastra lisan suku Punan Tuvu’ dari Kalimantan Utara.
Seringkali penuh dengan kiasan, kisah-kisah yang disebut mbui ini tergolong dongeng, legenda, dan mitos, yang dimiliki suku Punan Tuvu’ dan diwariskan dari generasi ke generasi sejak dahulu kala.
 Mbui membicarakan tokoh-tokoh atau tempat-tempat yang merupakan bagian dari kebudayaan Punan. Dengan adanya keprihatinan bahwa bahasa Punan Tuvu’, sebagaimana terjadi di tempat lain di indonesia dan di dunia, akan punah berikut semua pengetahuan, nilai, kearifan lokal yang dikandungnya, maka buku ini merupakan usaha untuk mengumpulkan, merekam dan menulis kembali cerita-cerita tersebut sebagai usaha dokumentasi bahasa dan budaya.
Dongeng dan mitos Punan menceritakan kepada kita tentang sebuah masa ketika manusia, tumbuhan, dan hewan hidup erat berdekatan satu dengan yang lain, suatu masa yang tidak terlalu lampau ketika suku Punan yang masih mengembara mendiami hutan lebat di bagian hulu sungai di Kalimantan sebelum kemudian tinggal di tepi sungai besar.
Kisah-kisah itu menggambarkan dan terinspirasi dari kehidupan sehari-hari yang mulai ditinggalkan sedikit demi sedikit oleh para keluarga Punan dari Sungai Tubu dan Malinau, karena mereka mulai menetap, kemudian hidup lebih ke bagian hilir dan menjauhi hutan serta isinya.
Kisah-kisah itu juga mengingatkan akan masa lampau yang saat ini diidamkan oleh mereka yang pernah mengenalnya. masa lampau yang aturannya ditaati, dan juga tempat para anggota kelompok bertemu di malam hari untuk berbagi kisah petualangan mereka dan petualangan para leluhur mereka

Buku ini ditujukan terutama kepada generasi muda Punan, yang secara tradisional merupakan tujuan kisah-kisah tersebut, dan juga kepada mereka yang lebih tua yang mungkin mencoba mencari tahu kembali dengan membaca kisah itu dan dengan membandingkannya dengan versi terjemahannya dalam bahasa indonesia




National Geographic news article on the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat karst / Article dans le National Geographic sur le karst de Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat

Vue du karst
Vue du karst

In a recent paper entitled “A Race to Save Ancient Human Secrets in Borneo”, the National Geographic highlights the importance of protecting the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat karst biodiversity and, historical and cultural heritage. It hopes that efforts of archaeologists (MAFBO), biologists and conservation agencies will help this region of eastern Borneo to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dans un article récemment publié, intitulé « A Race to Save Ancient Human Secrets in Borneo », le National Geographic réaffirme l’importance de protéger la biodiversité et le patrimoine culturel et historique du karst de Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat, où opère notre projet franco-indonésien MAFBO. Il insiste sur les efforts conjoints des archéologues, des biologistes et des organisations pour la conservation, pour permettre de classer au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO cette région de l’est de Bornéo.

Exposition sur la préhistoire / Prehistory Exhibition (Balikpapan)

Photo courtesy of Bambang Sugiyanto
Photo courtesy of Bambang Sugiyanto

Prehistory Exhibition at the Balikpapan Plaza

An archaeological exhibition took place from the 29 th July until the 3rd August at the Balikpapan Plaza, the main shopping center in Balikpapan, the economic capital of the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan. The theme of this exhibition was “From prehistory to the first empires in East Kalimantan”. The exhibition was organized by the Regional Office for Archaeology in all Kalimantan provinces (Balai Arkeologi Banjar Baru, Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan), in collaboration with the MAFBO project. It was a huge success, beyond the expectations of the organisors. Balai Arkeologi has good experience in the organization of this kind of event – events installed in places visited by a large public, beyond museums. Shopping centers are the best places to reach a large audience and to inform them about archaeology and its importance. The exhibition displayed archaeological artefacts, photography and six educational posters designed by the MAFBO project on the prehistory in East Kalimantan.

Exposition sur la préhistoire au Balikpapan Plaza

Photo courtesy of Bambang Sugiyanto
Photo courtesy of Bambang Sugiyanto

Du 29 juillet au 3 août 2015 s’est tenue une exposition archéologique au Balikpapan Plaza (un centre commercial situé à Balikpapan, province indonésienne de Kalimantan est). Elle avait pour thème « De la préhistoire aux premiers empires dans l’est de Kalimantan ». Cette exposition a été organisée par le service de l’archéologie de Banjarmasin (Balai Arkeologi Banjar Baru, Banjarmasin, Kalimantan sud), en collaboration avec le projet MAFBO. Elle a connu un succès appréciable, le nombre de visiteurs ayant comblé les espérances des organisateurs. Le Balai Arkeologi possède déjà une certaine expérience dans l’organisation de ce type d’exposition, installées dans des lieux fréquentés par un public large : au-delà des musées, c’est effectivement dans les centres commerciaux qu’il est poss ible, plus encore, de sensibiliser le public aux travaux archéologiques et à leur importance. L’exposition présentait des objets archéologiques, des photographies et les six posters éducatifs réalisés par la mission MAFBO sur la préhistoire dans l’est Kalimantan.

Photo courtesy of Bambang Sugiyanto
Photo courtesy of Bambang Sugiyanto

V. Kusmartono talk in Victoria

Our colleague Vida Kusmartono –formerly head of the Balai Arkeologi Banjarmasin (Kalimantan, Indonesia) and now PhD candidate in Canberra– recently presented her work about Kalimantan archaeology at the Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria, Australia.

Notre collègue Vida Kusmartono – ancienne directrice du Balai Arkeologi Banjarmasin (Kalimantan, Indonésie) et aujourd’hui doctorante à l’Australian National University – a récemment présenté les recherches archéologiques qu’elle mène dans le centre de Kalimantan à  l’Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria, Australie.

Reconstructing the peopling of the deep interior of the equatorial rainforest of Kalimantan

The archaeological discoveries at Nanga Balang and Diang Kaung in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) provide data on human occupation at c. 3000 BP. On the other hand a number of investigations carried out at sites which were geodesically close to the coastal area (including Malaysian Borneo) resulted a variety of chronologies indicating late Pleistocene to late Holocene occupation. This work leads to questions about whether the deep interior of the equatorial rainforest of Kalimantan provided sufficient food resources to accommodate the hunter-gatherers to obtain their daily sustenance and survive during the pleistocene until early the holocene? What kind of human activities had occurred prior to 3000 BP? The veil of mystery was raised by a two-season excavation (2013-2014) in the upper region of the Kapuas River Basin. The radiocarbon dating of 14 charcoal samples indicated at least 6 different periods of dwelling activity, which ranged from cal BP 149 to cal BP 14992, and signified by diverse material cultures. Such chronologies would confirm an important role for such deep interior sites within the prehistory of Indonesia and Island Southeast Asia in general. Furthermore, such a record of human occupation may provide comparative data for understanding sequences of human activity in the equatorial evergreen lowland rainforest regions such as Zaire Basin and the Amazon. Vida Kusmartono is a PhD student in Archaeology at the Australian National University, Canberra


“Trophy Skulls” panel at the 2015 EuroSEAS Conference

Ling Roth, Henry, 1896, The Natives of Sarawak and British North Borneo, Volume 2, New-York : Truslove & Comba, p. 148.
Ling Roth, Henry, 1896, The Natives of Sarawak and British North Borneo, Volume 2, New-York : Truslove & Comba, p. 148.

Antonio Guerreiro, member of the MAFBO project, is organizing a panel entitled  “Unveilling Head Taking and Decorated Trophy Skulls (with a Special Focus on Borneo)” at the next conference, which will be held in Vienna, 11-14th August 2015  (

Panel abstract

In looking at ‘headhunting’ or ’head taking’ practices and ideas found in the continental and insular areas of Southeast Asia, – and especially in the great island of Borneo at the center of the Malay-Indonesian archipelago -, one is struck by the persistance of this multi-layered complex. It can be remarked that it links the social, religious and esthetic dimensions among the peoples following this custom until colonial times. Conversely, the approach advocated here stresses that it should be studied as a ‘total social phenomenon’. Then, head taking can be best approached from several points of view. In order to define the practice of head taking more clearly, we suggest that it can be considered as part of a ritual complex in which the killed individual’s head (or one of its parts, e.g. skull, jaw, hair, skin, tooth) was conserved as a ‘trophy’ or a ‘relic’ and used in various ways by the community (Coiffier & Guerreiro 1999 ; Hoskins 1996 ; Schefold 2007). During the 19th century, in the Western part of the archipelago, the rich forms of ornamentation of skulls in Western Borneo (Sarawak and the neighbouring Province of West Kalimantan) should be noted. They include engraving and the application of metal sheets to the crania, besides the insertion of wooden pieces in the cavities of the nose and cowries or nassa shells in the eyes sockets. In short, the objectivated human trophy becomes thus a ‘spirit’, either a servant or a protector, belonging to the longhouse or village of his murderers. As a pusaka, an inherited prestige good, the skull housing the spirit was also supposed to be a source of luck and fertility for the whole community, and not only for the head takers themselves. It is noticeable that some groups, e.g. the Kayan, disposed of old skulls as they lost their positive features and became malevolant (Hose and Mac Dougall, 1912 ; Mac Kinley 1976 ; Guerreiro 2012). From another angle, the panel will look at the questions relating to the display of such objects as human and animal trophy skulls deposited in Western Museums. The distinction of human trophy skulls and ancestor skulls is also relevant in the museographical context. What are the criteria used in the displays according to the type of Museum concerned (Natural History, Art, Anthropology, Culture…) ?

More information on the conference Website