Interviews of Researchers: Samantha Elsie Jones



Cet entretien avec Samantha Elsie Jones est le premier d’une série de rencontres que nous souhaitons publier sur ce blog. En quelques questions-réponses, nous souhaitons illustrer l’actualité de la recherche archéologique et anthropologique à Bornéo, à partir de la parole de ceux qui en sont les acteurs, chercheurs jeunes et seniors.

This interview with Samantha Elsie Jones is the first interview of a serie we wish to publish on this blog. Through few Q&A we aim to give a view on the current research in Borneo, from the witness of the (young and senior) researchers who do it.


Where did you train and in which field of research ?

“2005-2006: I completed an MSc in Environmental archaeology at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. 2007-2012: I completed a PhD in tropical palynology from the Kelabit Highlands of Borneo, also at Queen’s University  Belfast. 2014-present: I am currently undertaking a Marie Curie Post-doc at IPHES, Tarragona in Spain, which includes continued training in the use of various different proxies in the field on palaeoecology.”

What drove you to study this research field?

“It was during an Erasmus year in Switzerland, which I undertook during 2002-2003. This was part of a Geography and German joint honours degree, based at Plymouth University in England. Geography is a very broad topic and it wasn’t until I began studying in Bern that I was introduced to the field of palaeoecology, which inspired me to continue once I got back to Plymouth, leading eventually to where I am today.”

What research are you doing/have you done in Borneo and Indonesia?

“During my masters dissertation I completed a palynological reconstruction from lake sediments, extracted from a place called Logan Bunut in the lowlands of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. During my PhD research I undertook a multi-proxy investigation using pollen, phytolith, loi & magnetic susceptibility from the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak. The work involved two months in the Kelabit Highlands collecting the data as well as the lab work and analysis after the field seasons. My PhD research was also part of the ‘Cultured Rainforest Project’ a multi-disciplinary project, involving anthropologists, archaeologists, botanists and palaeoecologists, which was set up to investigate long term and present day interactions between people and the rainforest in the Borneo highlands.

My own research produced a 50,000 year environmental history, a 6000 year record of potential human activity and a 3000 year record of likely clearance and sago palm management. The 3000 year record correlates quite well with the archaeological findings. I also produced a pollen reference collection from the Kelabit Highlands containing over 200 species of flowering plant.”

What is your opinion on the current state of anthropological/archaeological research in Borneo and in the South East Asian region?

“There has been a lot of good work by archaeologists and anthropologists over the years; however tropical forests including those in SE Asia are still some of the least explored areas in the world, particularly for archaeology. Location of sites is often difficult due to the vast canopy cover, the harsh terrain and dangers which might be associated with working in tropical forests; on top of this the warm wet climate often means preservation of bones and artefacts is poor. I also feel that archaeological training and research at a national level remains under-developed in Borneo and the SE Asian region, particularly in island SE Asia. There remains a wealth of archaeology undiscovered and many unanswered questions (regarding early hominid development, past cultural practices, the development of arboreal and agricultural practices etc…).”

What research developments in anthropology and archaeology would you like to see in these regions?

“I would like to see the development of archaeology and palaeoecology at universities within island SE Asia. I would also like to see more integrated approaches with different disciplines working together, particularly anthropologists, archaeologists and palaeoecologists. Anthropologists are able to provide a deep understanding of how different communities live today and in the recent past (e.g. their spiritual beliefs-practices, foraging-farming strategies, tool use and different uses of landscape) which can be used to aid the interpretation of archaeological/palaeoecological records from the more distant past. For example uses of various artefacts uncovered during excavations or perhaps the importance of specific plants over time.

Most importantly I would like to see archaeology and anthropology develop a stronger educational approach, highlighting the importance of conservation, protection of monuments, and providing information on how people’s ancestors lived in the past. Today logging is taking place at an alarming rate not just in SE Asia but in many tropical areas of the world. By highlighting areas of outstanding archaeological and anthropological interest brings awareness to why we should all work together in protecting our environment. Local people play an important role in this.”

What is the most important or exciting anthropological/archaeological discovery in these regions during the last years?

“There have been many exciting discoveries in SE Asia over the years. For example Homo floresiences on the island of Flores; Early tool use by Homo erectus on the island of Java; Early evidence of Homo sapiens at Tam Pa Ling in Laos and in the Philippines. The presence, plant use and potential forest manipulation at Niah cave in Sarawak as well as on the island of New Guinea; Development of arboreal practices/, particularly in New Guinea and in the Highlands of Sarawak during the Holocene; and many others not mentioned…”


Her page on the IPHES website : link
Sa page sur le site de l’IPHES : lien

Solidarity with the victims around the world killed for their opinions

The MAFBO project expresses solidarity with the victims around the world killed for their opinions

As an effective collaboration between French and Indonesian people, beyond national, cultural or religious borders, we strongly emphasise the importance of inter-understanding and working around common projects, as such anthropological and archaeological research.

“The vice president of the Indonesian parliament, M. Fadli Zon, visited the French embassy in Jakarta (Indonesia) to present his condolences for the attack on Charlie Hebdo. He was accompanied by Mme Rachel Mariam and M. Elnino M. Husein Mohi, both members of the commission I of the Indonesian parliament. He was received by the first adviser and the first secretary.”


Freedom of opinion

Therefore we re-express our support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948.

Article 19

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”


 Director of the French Archeological Project in Borneo


The Cultured Rainforest exhibition / Une exposition au Petroleum Museum, Miri, Sarawak

View of the exhibition

 Le 29 novembre 2014 l’exposition « The Cultured Rainforest » a été officiellement inaugurée au Petroleum Museum de Miri par le secrétaire d’état de Sarawak. Cette exposition découle du projet « The Cultured Rainforest » qui s’est déroulé entre 2007 et 2010. Elle restera ouverte jusqu’en avril 2015.

The Cultured Rainforest Project was set up to examine the long term and present day interactions between people and the rainforest in the Kelabit Highlands of Borneo. It was directed by Professor Graeme Barker of the McDonald Institute at Cambridge University and included a team of archaeologists, palaeoecologists and anthropologists, but also involved working
 closely with local Kelabit and Penan people. Working across different disciplinary boundaries, the project has been able to build a relatively continuous link between present, recent past, more distant past and very distant past.

Le projet « The Cultured Rainforest » visait à étudier les interactions actuelles et dans le temps long entre les populations des hautes-terres Kelabit de Borneo et leurs environnements. Il a été dirigé par le professeur Graeme Barker du McDonald Institute de l’université de Cambridge et impliquait une équipe composée d’archéologues, de paléoenvironnementalistes, d’anthropologues, en collaboration avec des représentants des populations locales Kelabit et Penan. Grâce à un travail interdisciplinaire le projet a permis d’établir un lien relativement continu entre le présent, les passés récent, lointains et très lointains. 

Exhibition opening

A short summary of the CRF findings include a 50,000 year vegetation history of potential climate and environmental change, potential human activity from 6000 years ago and secure evidence of human activity from at least 3000 years ago. Secure evidence in the archaeological record include the presence of large open-air settlement sites dating to 2,500 to 1,000 years ago, with what appears to be stone walls as well as lots of pottery and metal work. The presence of open-air sites is supported by the palaeoecological record which suggests forest clearance and management of the sago palm Eugeissona from 3000-2800 years ago. Eugeissona is the main sago palm managed today in the Kelabit Highlands, primarily by the Penan but possibly by both the Penan and Kelabit in the more distant past. A cultural shift seems to have taken place within the last 500 years with an increase in megalithic activity and by the establishment of rice. Today and even more so in the recent past anthropological work has highlighted the importance of rice as a symbol of wealth and status amongst the Kelabit. Anthropological work has also highlighted the profound differences between the ways in which Kelabit farmer-foragers and Penan foragers in the present day see their respective ‘proper’ relationships with the landscape. While the Kelabit aim to mark the landscape (constructing megalithic monuments, cutting ditches, making rice padi fields and cemeteries), the Penan aim to leave nothing but their personal traces.

The petroleum Museum

 Les principaux résultats du projet comprennent une histoire de la végétation et des changements climatiques et environnementaux sur 50 000 ans, des attestations d’activités humaines probables à partir d’il y a 6000 ans, et des attestations certaines à partir de d’il y a 3000 ans. Archéologiquement, ces attestations certaines se traduisent par de grandes implantations humaines à ciel ouvert datées d’entre il y a 2500 et 1000 ans, dans lesquelles ont été observés ce qui semble être des murs de pierres ainsi que de nombreux fragments de poterie et d’artisanat métallique. Ces sites en aire ouverte sont également attestés par les données paléoenvironnementales qui indiquent des pratiques d’essartage et de culture du palmier sago Eugeissona à partir d’il y a 3000-2800 ans. Eugeissona constitue le principal palmier à sago aujourd’hui cultivé dans les hautes-terres Kelabit, principalement par les Penan bien qu’il soit probable qu’il ait été cultivé à la fois par les Penan et le Kelabit dans un passé plus lointain. Un changement culturel semble avoir eu lieu au cours des 500 derniers années, qui se traduit par une augmentation des pratiques mégalithiques et par l’introduction du riz. Aujourd’hui, et plus encore au cours du passé récent, les recherches anthropologiques ont souligné l’importance du riz comme symbole de richesse et de statut social chez les Kelabit. Ces travaux ont également montré les profondes différences entre les relations entretenues avec leurs environnements par les fermier-collecteurs Kelabit et par les collecteurs Penan. Alors que les Kelabit tendent à marquer le paysage (avec des monuments mégalithiques, des fossés, des cultures de riz – dits « padi » –, des cimetières), les Penan ont tendance à ne rien laisser derrière eux sinon leurs marques individuelles.

Archaeological findings

The exhibition aims to be educational, informative, to create cultural understanding and appreciation, and to demonstrate the importance of protecting the rich cultural heritage of Sarawak. The exhibition features photographs, information panels of the multi-disciplinary research, a collection of present day and recent past artefacts, a selection of materials discovered in the excavation and a multimedia presentation that takes a journey into the landscape. Another highlight is a  display of about 10 paintings illustrating the story of Tuked Rini by Kelabit artist Stephen Baye of Ulung Palang longhouse in Bario, who is the grandson of the first Kelabit overall chief or pemanca. The opening exhibition included several presentations by the team members of the CRF project and a book launch ‘Tuked Rini ‘ by Dr.  Monica Janowski.


Basketry in display

L‘exposition se veut pédagogique, informative afin de susciter une compréhension et une appréciation culturelle et de démontrer l’importance qu’il y a à protéger le riche patrimoine culturel de Sarawak. Elle comprend des photographies, des panneaux explicatifs concernant la recherche multidisciplinaire, une collection d’artefacts actuels et anciens, une sélection du matériel découvert lors des fouilles et une présentation multimédia qui invite à un voyage dans l’environnement. La présentation d’une dizaine de peintures illustrant l’histoire de Tuked Rini, réalisées par l’artiste Kelabit Stephen Baye de la longue maison Ulung Palang à Bario, le petit-fils du premier chef Kelabit de Pemanca, constitue un autre point d’intérêt.  Lors de l’inauguration de l’exposition les membres de l’équipe du projet « The Cultured Rainforest » ont présenté leurs travaux et le livre « Tuked Rini » a été présenté par le docteur Monica Janowski. 


Text: Samantha Elsie Jones
Trad. fr. : Sébastien Plutniak

More information on the ‘Cultured Rainforest Project’ can be found at:
Pour plus d’informations à propos du projet « The Cultured Rainforest » visitez :
A ‘virtual visit’ of the Kelabit Highlands, showing sites where the project worked, is available at:
Une « visite virtuelle » des hautes-terres Kelabit présentant les sites où le projet s’est déroulé est disponible à :

Project documentation
Posters in display



Bénédicte Voeltzel

Participation: 2011BV

  • Archéologue à l’Inrap ;
  • Rattachée à l’UMR 7041 ArScAn (Parix X) ;
  • Doctorante en Préhistoire (archéozoologie) à l’Université Paris Ouest-Nanterre (directeur Éric Boëda).
  • Works as an archaeologist at the National Institute for Rescue Archaeology (Inrap);
  • Affiliated to the ArScAn laboratory, Paris;
  • PhD Candidate in Prehistoric Archaeology at Université Paris Ouest-Nanterre (supervisor: Éric Boëda).

Sébastien Plutniak

Participation: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

Dr. Sébastien Plutniak has been trained as a field archaeologist and a ceramologist at the TRACES laboratory (Toulouse, France). He got a master of archaeology and a PhD. of sociology at the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences). He is in charge of the pottery analysis, takes part to the excavations and manage the project webpage.

Sébastien Plutniak a été formé comme archéologue de terrain et céramologue au laboratoire d’archéologie TRACES (Toulouse, France). Il il a obtenu un master d’archéologie puis un doctorat de sociologie à l’EHESS. Au sein du projet MAFBO, il assure l’étude des matériaux céramiques, participe aux opérations de fouille et administre la page web du projet.

[Personal page, ORCID, publications in open access]

Related publications

  • Plutniak, S., A Araujo, A. Oktaviana, B. Sugiyanto, J.-M. Chazine, F.-X. Ricaut. 2022. “Mainland-coastal Interactions in East Borneo: Inter-site Comparison and Bayesian Chronological Models of two Late Pleistocene-Holocene Sequences (Liang Abu and Kimanis rock shelters)”, The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, doi: 10.1080/15564894.2022.2108947.
  • Plutniak S., A. Astolfo, S. Puaud, J.-G. Ferrié, A.A. Oktaviana, B. Sugiyanto,  J.-M. Chazine, F.-X. Ricaut. 2016.“Borneo as a half empty pot : pottery assemblage from Liang Abu, East Kalimantan”. Quaternary International. doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.11.080.
  • Plutniak, S., A. A. Oktaviana, B. Sugiyanto, J.-M. Chazine, F.-X. Ricaut. 2014, “New Ceramic Data from East Kalimantan: The cord-marked and red-slipped sherds of Liang Abu’s layer 2 and Kalimantan’s pottery chronology”, Journal of Pacific Archaeology, vol. 5, no 1, p. 90–99.
  • Plutniak, S., A. A. Oktaviana, J.-G. Ferrié, B. Sugiyanto, J. Sarels, A. Guerreiro, R. Fauzi, M. Grenet, T. Simanjuntak, F.-X. Ricaut 2014. “Human Occupation of the Mangkalihat Karstic Area: Rock Art and Settlement History in East Kalimantan”, Borneo Research Bulletin, 45, p. 320–322.

Antonio Guerreiro

Participation: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

Dr. Antonio J. Guerreiro, a social and cultural anthropologist and linguist is a member of the Institut de Recherches Asiatiques (IrAsia, CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université, UMR 6603), Maison Asie-Pacifique, Marseille, France. Specialised on Borneo and the Western Austronesian area (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines), Dr. Guerreiro has joined the MABFO research programme in East Kalimantan in 2010. In the frame of the research, he has investigated from an ethnolinguistic perspective the oral traditions of the Lebbo’/Basap people in East Kutai and Berau regions. The following questions have been adressed during his fieldwork (2010-2013):

  • Lebbo’/Basap’s migrations and human settlements in the Karstic range area in connection to the archaeological sites, caves and rock shelters; Ethnohistory of the Basap sub-groups;
  • Linguistic affiliations and dialectology of the Lebbo’/Basap subgroups in Eastern and central Borneo;
  • Shamanic traditions and ritual among the Lebbo’ people of the Lesan River;
  • Kinship relations, kinship terminology and familly organisation of villagers in the communities of Merabu, Mapulu and Pana’an.

Antonio Guerreiro, anthropologue et linguiste : membre de l’Institut de Recherches asiatiques (IrAsia, CNRS Aix-Marseille Université UMR 6603), Maison Asie Pacifique. Spécialiste de Bornéo et du monde austronésien occidental (Indonésie, Malaisie, Philippines). Depuis 2010 dans le cadre de sa participation à la MAFBO à Kaltim, il étudie d’un point de vue ethnolinguistique les traditions orales des populations Lebbo’/Basap, à Kutai Est et Berau. Particulièrement les thèmes suivants :

  • migrations et établissements humains des Basap/Lebbo’ dans la zone kartistique en rapport aux sites archéologiques, grottes et abris sous roche, ethno-histoire ;
  • affiliations linguistiques des populations basap/lebbo’ dans l’Est de Bornéo ;
  • traditions chamaniques et rituels annuels ;
  • relations de parenté et organisation familiale des villageois à Merabu, Mapulu et Pana’an.


Michel Grenet

Participation: 2013, 2014, 2015

Michel GRENET, MGarchéologue lithicien. Membre associé du laboratoire TRACES – UMR 5608-CNRS, Université de Toulouse II, Le Mirail. Spécialiste de l’analyse et de la documentation des industries lithiques. Travaux et études en cours :

  • Stratégies d’acquisition des matières premières dans les bassins versants des rivières Lesan, Karangan et Marang (aire karstique de la péninsule de de Mangkalihat).
  • Analyse typo-technologique et techno-fonctionnelle des industries lithiques des niveaux précéramiques holocènes et céramiques des sites de Liang Jon, Liang Abu et Liang Pemalawan.
  • Documentation graphique et photographique des industries.

[Academia page]

Ruly Fauzi

Participation: 2013, 2014

He got his Master degree from the HOPSEA Erasmus Mundus OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAProgramm. He is specialised in Paleolithic lithic industry and is now researcher at the Pusat Arkeologi Nasional (Arkenas), Jakarta.

Jean-Michel Chazine

Participation: 2011

First trained as Engineer, has become ethno-archaeologist (Master JMC& DEA from Paris 1 University) and worked during over 20 years in the Indo-Pacific area, from Eastern Polynesia to Borneo and Philippines. After having created the Archaeology Department of French Polynesia and studied the diachronic settlement of atolls, has discovered in Borneo, since 1992, thanks to cavers, a cluster of caves, whose some are ornate. Has then created and managed since 2003 until 2009, the pioneering Franco-Indonesian project of research and excavations in close relation with the Puslit Arkenas from Jakarta and Banjarmasin (MOU). Has been especially interested by the different diachronic and technical aspects of human settlement and use of the countless Kaltim’s caves and shelters and more precisely studied its unknown Rock Art, which they contain. Although actually retired, is still actively involved in Prehistoric settlement of the Indo-Pacific area questions.

Ingénieur de formation, est devenu ethno-archéologue (Master et DEA de l’Univ. de Paris 1) et a travaillé pendant plus de 20 ans dans l’aire Indo-Pacifique, de la Polynésie Orientale à Bornéo et les Philippines. Après avoir créé et dirigé le Département Archéologie de Polynésie Française et étudié l’occupation diachronique des atolls, il découvre, à Borneo, à partir de 1992, grâce à des spéléologues, un ensemble de grottes dont certaines sont ornées. A créé et dirigé depuis 2003 jusqu’à 2009, le programme pionnier de recherche et de fouilles franco-indonésien en étroite association avec le Puslit Arkenas de Jakarta et Banjarmasin (MOU). S’est intéressé aux différents aspects diachroniques et techniques de l’occupation et de l’utilisation des innombrables grottes et abris du Kaltim et particulièrement étudié l’art rupestre inédit qu’elles contiennent. Bien qu’à la retraite, continue de s’intéresser activement à la Préhistoire du peuplement de l’aire Indo-Pacifique.

Astolfo Araujo

Participation: 2014

Astolfo Araujo is lecturer at the Museum of Archaeology and AstolfoAEthnology, University of São Paulo, Brazil (MAE/USP). Originally trained in Geology, he got his MA and PhD in Archaology, and presently his main interests are linked to tropical geoarchaeology on the one hand, and the application of evolutionary epistemology to archaeological problems on the other. He is head of the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Studies on Evolution, Culture, and Environment (LEVOC) at the MAE/USP.

Astolfo Araujo est maître de conférence au Musée d’archéologie et d’ethnologie de l’université de São Paulo au Brésil (MAE/USP). Après une formation en géologie, il a obtenu un master et un doctorat en archéologie. Ses principaux thèmes de recherche concernent, d’une part, la géoarchéologie des milieux tropicaux et, d’autre part, l’application d’une perspective épistémologique évolutionniste sur les problèmes archéologiques. Il dirige le laboratoire d’études interdisciplinaire de l’évolution, de la culture et de l’environnement (LEVOC) au MAE/USP.

[Academia page]

François-Xavier Ricaut

Participation: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

François-Xavier Ricaut is a CNRS researcher in the laboratory FX2of Molecular Anthropology and Image Synthesis (UMR 5288 AMIS), which is affiliated to the University Toulouse 3 (Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France). As an anthropobiologist his research aims to investigate aspects of the history and evolution of human populations, and in particular the modalities of human settlement. The Indo-Pacific region is one of the main areas for his research. His research is based on the analysis of spatial and temporal distribution patterns of the biological diversity of individuals and populations. Both contemporary and ancient populations are studied through the analysis of genetic markers and skeletal morphological variation, which allow different layers of population biological history to be explored.

François-Xavier Ricaut is director of the French Archaeological Mission in Borneo MAFBO (French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs), entitled « Human occupation of karstic area, rock art, and settlement history of East Kalimantan (Indonesia).

François-Xavier Ricaut est chargé de recherche au CNRS, à l’UMR 5288 AMIS (Anthropobiologie Moléculaire et Imagerie de Synthèse), Université Paul Sabatier (Toulouse, France). Chercheur spécialiste en anthropobiologie, il s’intéresse particulièrement à l’histoire et l’évolution des populations humaines (homme moderne), et en particulier aux modalités de dispersion et de peuplement, en s’appuyant sur l’étude de la distribution géographique et temporelle de la variabilité biologique des individus et des populations. Son cadre de recherche s’inscrit notamment dans la région Indo-Pacifique.

François-Xavier Ricaut est responsable de la mission archéologique « Étude diachronique de l’utilisation des grottes et abris sous roche de Bornéo, de l’Art pariétal de Kalimantan Est, et de l’Histoire du peuplement » du MAEE (Ministère des Affaires Étrangères et Européennes)


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