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

source: http://aasv.org.au

Interviews of Researchers: Hubert Forestier

Hubert Forestier
Hubert Forestier

For this second interview, Hubert Forestier —Professor of Prehistory at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle— Paris (France) kindly accepted to answer our questions about his past and current research in Southeast Asia.

Where did you train and in which field of research?

I trained at Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, Department of Prehistory & CNRS UMR 7194 – Histoire naturelle de l’Homme préhistorique. My research field was Indonesia (Java, Sumatra, Nias, mentawai) during more 10 years and now I moved to Cambodia and Northern Thailand to excavate limestone cave site.

Où et quelle a été votre formation ?

J’ai été formé au département de préhistoire du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris, Unité Mixte de Recherche 7194 du CNRS. J’ai travaillé pendant plus de dix ans sur des terrains indonésiens (Java, Sumatra, Nias, Mentawai). Depuis quelques années, je me suis déplacé au Cambodge et en Thaïlande du nord pour fouiller des sites en grottes karstique.

What drove you to study this research field?

My study field is focus on the archaeo-stratigraphy and chronocultural-stratigraphy of the Hoabinhian and pre-Hoabinhian settlement in cave: the Last Hunther-gatherer groups. But I work also on the archaic Middle Pleistocene stone tools found on open air site in Northern Thailand  (Lampang region) and on the Mekong terraces (Cambodia).

Qu’est-ce qui vous a amené sur ce terrain de recherche ?

Mon domaine de recherche se concentre sur l’archéostratigraphie et la stratigraphie chrono-culturelle des occupations en grottes hoabinhiennes et  pré-hoabinhiennes : ce sont les derniers groupes de chasseurs-cueilleurs. Je travaille également sur les outils de pierre taillée archaïques du milieu du Pléistocène que l’on trouve dans des sites de surface dans les régions du nord de la Thaïlande (Lampang) et sur les terraces du Mekong (au Cambodge).

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

I went to Borneo long time ago to visit Dr Harry Widianto (Dir. Of the Balai Arkeologi Banjarmasin) and Gua Babi site. I’ve worked a little on the stone tools assemblage.

Quelles recherches avez-vous menées à Bornéo et en Indonésie ?

Je suis allé à Bornéo il y a longtemps afin de rencontrer le Docteur Harry Widianto (alors directeur du bureau de l’archéologie à Banjarmasin) et de visiter le site de Gua Babi. J’ai travaillé quelque peu sur l’assemblage lithique de ce site.

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

The anthro-archaeological mixt research in Kalimantan and in Southeast Asian region is very thorough and highlights some very important facts about Hunter-gatherer programs especially on the study of territory, peopling, lifestyle, technology, cosmology and genetic.

Quelle est votre opinion à propos de l’état actuel des recherches en anthropologie et archéologie à Bornéo et dans l’Asie du sud-est ?

Les recherches anthropo-archéologiques à Kalimantan et en Asie du sud-est est complète, minutieuse et éclaire des faits essentiels à propos des chasseurs-cueilleurs, concernant notamment le territoire, le peuplement, le style de vie, la technologie, la cosmologie et la génétique.

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

I would like to see an sort of synthesis of “Cultural ecology” which crossed different aspect of human living place on the long time standing from Pleist/Holocene-Neolithic to now.

Quelles recherches en anthropologie et en archéologie souhaiteriez-vous voir se développer dans ces régions ?

Ce serait une sorte d’« écologie culturelle » synthétique qui croiserait,dans la longue durée, différents aspects de la vie humaine, depuis le Pléistocène/Holocène à aujourd’hui.

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

The most important anthropological research in Indonesia/Borneo is certainly the excellent work of Bernard Sellato (CNRS, France) on Kalimantan, which provided interesting and fundamental results on History, and anthropology of Forest tribes. For archaeology the most important  work was recently the results obtained & published at Niah (Sarawak) cave by Graeme Barker team and of course the field work of the French Indonesian Project by François Semah (MNHN) on Sangiran Dome, Central Java (Ngebung site, Pucung…) Finally, my research project on Mentawai island (“Flowers men”), Siberut island, West Sumatra where I would apply three ways of research archaeology, anthropology and history (oral tradition).

Quelle est, selon vous, la découverte archéologique ou anthropologique la plus importante ou stimulante de ces dernières années dans cette région du monde ?

Le programme de recherche le plus important en anthropologie en Indonésie/Bornéo est certainement l’excellent travail de Bernard Sellato (CNRS, France) mené à Kalimantan, qui a produit des résultats fondamentaux sur l’histoire et l’anthropologie des tribues forestières. Concernant l’archéologie, les résultats récents les plus significatifs sont ceux obtenues et publiés à propos de la grotte de Niah (Sarawak) par l’équipe de Graeme Barker. On y ajoutera bien entendu les travaux de terraind du projet franco-indonésien mené par François Sémah (MNHN) au dôme de Sangiran, Java centre (site de Ngebung, Pucung…) Enfin, ce sont également mes travaux de recherche sur l’île de Mentawai (à propos des « Hommes-fleurs »), l’île de Siberut, l’ouest de Sumatra, où j’ai mené trois types d’enquête, archéologique, anthropologique et historique (tradition orale).

Hubert’s institutional webpage: http://hnhp.cnrs.fr/?337-FORESTIER-Hubert&lang=fr

Liang Pemalawan (en)

Research history

L’abri sous roche de Liang Pemalawan / Liang Pemalawan rock shelter
Liang Pemalawan rock shelter

Liang Pemalawan was located during the 2010 archaeological survey conducted by J.M. Chazine and F.X. Ricaut. Many remains, found directly on the ground, were collected during the first visit to Liang Pemalawan (earthenware potsherds, lithic artifacts, funeral gifts, metal, and faunal remains). These first results suggested the regular and ancient frequentation of the site, and its archaeological potential.


Liang Pemalawan rock shelter (N1°32’5.84″ E117°18’15.67″) is a vast shelter facing west-northwest, opening 500 m east of the left bank of the Lesan River (Kelai River catchment) at the foot of a karstic massif belonging to the tertiary Oligocene landforms of the Mangkalihat peninsula. This site is included in the group of the so-called “Merapun caves”, which includes Liang Abu rock shelter (7.5 km southeast).

Liang Pemalawan is an erosive formation of karstic origin which extends on a roughly south-north axis, about 20 m long and 12 m wide (maximum), between the break of the steep slope and the back wall.


Cartographie du site de Liang Pemalawan avec implantation des zones fouillées Relevé MG et FXR./ Cartography of Liang Pemalawan and area excavated MG et FXR.
Cartography of Liang Pemalawan and area excavated MG et FXR

Planimetric excavations in squares D7 and E7 were conducted, and two test pits revealed 3 stratigraphic units (US1, US2, and US3). However, only 50 cm were excavated before a mass of fallen blocks was reached. Datation of a charcoal at the bottom of US3 in contact with the rocks gave a date of 720 +/-30 BP (BETA- 353017).

Archaeological materials

Several archaeological remains have been identified: lithic industries (482 artifacts), earthenware potsherds (504 artifacts), bones (faunal and human), teeth, terrestrial gastropod shell and shellfish (3 kg, around 5000 fragments), charcoal, ocher nodules and two metallic objects found on the surface.

Many traces of recent human occupation were present on the surface (metal boxes containing glass and bone beads, and bracelets in metal. In addition, Chinese porcelain, dated from the 19th and 20th centuries, are probably associated to the remains of sepulture (lungun).

La rivière Lesan, proche du site Liang Pemalawan / Lesan river, near Liang Pemalawan site
Lesan river, near Liang Pemalawan site

Citation: Ricaut F.-X., Grenet M., Plutniak S. and the MAFBO team. « Liang Pemalawan rock shelter presentation ». Online on 12th June 2015. http://kaltim.hypotheses.org

Liang Jon (en)

Research history

Bengalon river on route to Liang Jon

The Liang Jon site was located in 2001 and archaeological test pits were conducted in 2003, 2005 and 2008. This site has exceptional archaeological potential and is probably unique in this karst region. Consequently, an excavation program was initiated for this site in 2014 (geological and topographical analysis, OSL datation).

Location and description

Liang Jon rock shelter

Liang Jon (N 01°03’52.74”, E 117°16’24.36”) is a rock shelter located 35 m above the Meteng River, a small tributary on the left bank of the Jelai River (Bengalon River basin). The shelter opens at the foot of the western face of the Gunung Marang massif (recently named Gunung Gergaji by the authors). It extends roughly on a south to north axis for 30 meters. The width of the shelter varies from 10 m in the southern part, to 6 m in its middle part, to about 4 m in the northern end. A huge elongated rock, detached from the roof, separates the western part of the shelter from a steep slope. Due to this configuration in the shelter a considerable layer of sediment (> 8 m thick) has been trapped in the middle part of the site. This shelter is oriented to the west and is well-protected from the tropical rains. Today, it remains a dry location except at its northern end which has a modest karstic drip pan.



The stratigraphy of Liang Jon is based on the results of 5 test pits and 3 test pit trenches. The stratigraphy remains unclear due to a lack of reliable datations, and also because of the difficulties in reading the stratigraphy. At the bottom of test pit B we discovered a human occupation dated from the end of the Pleistocene (10 260 +/- 60 BP ; SacA 13859). Since the depth of sediment is estimated at around 8 meters, it is likely that earlier human occupation is present in the deeper layer of the site.

Archaeological materials

Many archaeological remains have been identified: lithic industries (> 4000 artefact), earthenware potsherds (> 1500 pieces), bones and teeth (faunal remains), terrestrial gastropod shells and shellfish, charcoal, ochre nodules, an individual burial (2544 +/- 30 BP, UBA-19 255) and a deposit of skull fragments (5634 +/- 35 BP, UBA-19257).


Topography of Liang Jon rock shelter, and location of test pits S1, S2, SA, SB

Citation : Ricaut F.-X., Grenet M., Plutniak S. and the MAFBO team. « Liang Jon rock shelter presentation ». En ligne le 12 june 2015. http://kaltim.hypotheses.org/ 


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