On Saturday, June 30 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared Lenggong Valley as a World Heritage Site. Visitors accessing UNESCO’s World Heritage website on Lenggong http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1396 will be intrigued with the description of the site. It states, “The property includes four archaeological sites in two clusters which span close to 2 million years, one of the longest records of early man in a single locality, and the oldest outside the African continent.”
It features open-air and cave sites with Paleolithic tool workshops, evidence of an early Paleolithic technology. The number of sites found in this relatively confined area suggests the presence of “a fairly large, semi-sedentary population with cultural remains from the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Metal Age.”
The whole valley has so much to offer. Due to the number of relatively undisturbed sites, which are generally in good condition, the whole Lenggong Valley provides a wonderful testimony of a pre-historic site over a prolonged period of time in human history thus underlining its Outstanding Universal Value for both present and future generations.
The valley is surrounded by hills and limestone outcrops, Tasek Raban and bordered by the Perak River.
Its close proximity to a lake and river plus abundant flora and fauna, made it a suitable location to sustain “a fairly large, semi-sedentary population from early Stone Age (Palaeolithic) to Metal Age, through late Stone Age (Neolithic).”
The river was a source of raw material for making stone tools such as hand axes. “The undisturbed in situ Paleolithic stone tool workshops, located on the shores of a paleo lake and an ancient river, are an outstanding ensemble of lithic (stone age) technology.
Evidence of a hand axe dating as far back as 1.83 million years was discovered at Bukit Bunoh embedded in suevite rock, providing strong evidence of human existence at the time and earlier.
Suevite rock is formed as a result of a meteorite impact which occurred at Bukit Bunoh. The discovery of suevite at Bukit Bunoh is, currently, the only evidence of its existence in South East Asia. The stone tool workshops at Bukit Jawa date back 300,000 to 200,000 years, while the Kota Tampan workshop goes back 74,000 years.
At the limestone outcrop of Bukit Kepala Gajah, 20 caves have been identified. One of the caves, Gua Gunung Runtuh is where the Perak Man, dating back 11,000‑10,000 b.p was discovered in 1990.
The Perak Man was buried in a foetal position and is the most complete human skeleton found in South East Asia. His remains had been dated to 10,120 BP. Another two caves at this karst outcrop, Gua Teluk Kelawar and Gua Kajang, have also revealed prehistoric burials.
At Gua Badak cave paintings adorn the walls of a rock face. Once a cave, it has since collapsed due to quarrying activities done earlier.
Over at Bukit Sapi one can see volcanic ash which was carried over from Lake Toba after a super volcanic eruption 75,000 years ago. A mapping survey done in 2007 revealed that the ash was spread over an area 70km wide with a depth of between 7 to 10 meters.
Visitors to Lenggong Valley are encouraged to visit the Lenggong Archaeological Museum located at Kota Tampan first in order to get an overview of the archaeological attractions of the valley.
The Gallery exhibits and explains the various archaeological projects that took place over the last 25 years, such as the Perak Man and cave paintings among others.
Behind the Gallery is the Kota Tampan dig site a 74,000 year old stone tool workshop, a Geology Garden and a 4-story tower for a tree-top view of the Valley
Lenggong Valley is located 100 km north of Ipoh. To get there take North-South Expressway and exit via the Kuala Kangsar junction.
After the toll gate take the trunk road leading to Grik. Along the highway keep a look out for signage to the Gallery/Museum.
Bukit Bunoh is one of the oldest prehistoric archaeological sites in the world outside of Africa. Evidence of a civilisation dating back 1.83 million years ago was verified after a rock embedded with a hand axe was dated. Using the fission-track dating method, the result revealed that the age of the rock was 1.83 million years old and the rock was suevite stone.
Suevite stone is formed upon impact by a meteorite which causes native stones to melt forming a new stone suevite.
The discovery of the hand axe embedded in the suevite stone indicated the existence of a prehistoric civilisation much earlier than 1.83million years.
Subsequent findings of stone tools made of suevite stone dating 40,000 and 30,000 years back indicate that this was the only Paleolithic site in the world that functioned as a workshop for making stone tools and continued to be used periodically.
The evidence at Bukit Bunoh also questions the Nomadic theory of the Paleolithic culture.
Lenggong Archaeological Gallery Kota Tampan
All visitors to Lenggong Valley are encouraged to visit the Lenggong Archaeological Gallery first. The gallery, located at Kota Tampan, was initially called the Kota Tampan Archaeological Museum. It houses a comprehensive display of historical photos of earlier archaeological digs around the Lenggong Valley and its findings such as cave drawings, types of stone tools, bronze findings as well as a diorama that shows prehistoric families going about their daily routines.
The Perak Man is given his own corner complete with a replica and details on his background.
The Kota Tampan dig site which is also the site of a prehistoric stone tool workshop dating back 74,000 years is located at the back of the Gallery.
Next to it is the Geology Park where suevite rocks from Bukit Bunoh are on display. Further up the hill is a 4-storey viewing tower for visitors to have a view of Lenggong Valley.
Located at Bukit Sapi is volcanic ash deposited from the volcanic eruption that occurred at Lake Toba, Sumatra 75,000 years ago. The locals call this debu Toba or Toba Ash.
The Toba super eruption deposited ash throughout South East Asia. In 2007, a mapping survey of the Valley by University Sains Malaysia revealed that the ash was spread 70km around the valley and had a depth of between 7-10 metres.
The Bukit Jawa site dates back 200,000 years. The location was a workshop for making stone tools. The finding reveals evidence of the Paleolithic culture and technology during that particular period.
Gua Kajang is one of 20 caves at Bukit Kepala Gajah. It is a short tunnel cave that takes one through Bukit Kepala Gajah. This archaeological site was first researched in 1917 by I.H.N. Evans. A 10,000-year-old skeleton was discovered buried here in a folded state along with stone tools, food wastes and pottery.
At the other end of the cave is a wooden walkway that takes one to three other caves within the Bukit Kepala Gajah outcrop.
Gua Badak Cave Drawings
The drawings were discovered as early as 1918 by Evans but was thought to have been lost due to quarrying until they were rediscovered in 1992.
They depict matchstick men hunting animals with bows and arrows, which was subsequently replaced by blowpipes.
Gua Gunung Runtuh
Gua Gunung Runtuh is located atop of Bukit Kepala Gajah. The existence of human settlement, dating some 13,000 years ago, was found in this cave. However, the most significant discovery is the Perak Man.
Dating back 11,000 to 10,000 years, it is the most complete human skeleton found in South East Asia. It is the only prehistoric human skeleton in the world with a congenital deformity called Brachymesophalangia Type 2.
He was buried in a foetal position together with stone tools and thousands of riverine shells. He was 154cm tall and aged between 40-45 years. Information about the Perak Man can be gleaned at the Lenggong Archaeological Gallery.
The discovery of Perak Man has provided a lot of information about life during that Paleolithic period such as beliefs, diet, technology, race, gender and disease.
Excavation work at Gua Harimau which began in 1987 discovered a human burial site dating between 5000-2000 years ago.
This is an important archaeological site because it revealed the discovery of burial goods which included pottery and a bronze axe dated around 4000 years ago not to mention the presence of bronze molds indicating the production of metal products
Gua Teluk Kelawa
Gua Teluk Kelawar is another cave found within Bukit Kepala Gajah. The findings indicate that the cave was used as a shelter some 10,000 to 6,000 years ago. Besides evidence of stone tools and food wastes, a female skeleton (GTK 1), buried 8000 years ago, was found here.