sign in a cave in Laos

30 September 2021

Human jaw bone found in Maros cave, Sulawesi

The rock art in the caves in Maros, south Sulawesi, have been widely documented over the years. Now we have news that a Pleistocene human jawbone has been found in Leang Bulu Bettue cave. This is the first indication of humans during that time period. The jawbone, complete with teeth, has been dated to between 25,000 and 16,000 years old. The Australian archaeologists haven't been able to determine the sex or age of the person. The results were published in PLoS One, Sept 29 2021

Additional news about another find - 

In August a different team announced the recovery of genetic material from a 7,000-year-old skeleton from Leang Panninge in Maros. The skeleton was found in 2015 and was the first relatively complete human burial from the "Toalean" society. It was deduced the skeleton was a 17–18-year-old female with a broadly Australo-Melanesian affinity. She was buried in a flexed position, probably 7300-7200 years BP . The extracted DNA shows the remains belonged to a woman who was 18 years old when she died during the Holocene. Article published in Nature, 25 August 2021.

So the jawbone is a lot older than the 7000 year old skeleton. Researchers will continue digging to try and find more bones. The new find pushes back Homo sapiens’ existence on Sulawesi by thousands of years. 


24 September 2021

Cave swiftlets found dead in Phattalung caves

 An article in The Thaiger 22 Sept 2021 "5 billion baht loss as birds’ nest producing swiftlets found dead".

Apparently over 1 million birds have been found dead, in 107 caves in Phattalung's 7 islands.

The article says :

"Phatthalung authorities have requested help from the Department of Special Investigation to investigate the death of birds. These were no ordinary birds though; they were swiftlets, the birds that produce the saliva that make birds’ nest, prized as a health delicacy. And it wasn’t a few birds, it was over a million birds found dead in caves where Siamnest company has the authority to collect their birds’ nest.

And the financial loss of these birds and the birds’ nests they produce has been estimated at about 5 billion baht.

The company has permission to access 107 caves in Phatthalung’s seven islands and they sent their collection teams to gather the birds’ nest between September 9 to September 17. When they arrived to the last cave, they discovered the remains of more than 1 million birds instead of the nests they were tasked with collecting.

The team found the remains of a fire and various trash strewn about including shoes and plastic bottles. After Siamnest involved the Phatthalung authorities, the Royal Thai Police joined the investigation of the mass death of the swiftlet birds.

Unlike most birds that make nests out of twigs or similar materials, swiftlets make theirs completely out of their unique saliva which solidifies to form the nest. These saliva nests are considered a delicacy, especially in Asian regions, for it’s believed healing powers. Birds’ nest soup is often made by steaming and soaking the saliva nests.

The nests are said to help with kidney health, phlegm reduction and are desired as an aphrodisiac as well. Harvesting companies have become big businesses due to the high price the unique birds’ nest can fetch, with companies like Siamnest getting exclusive access to areas the swiftlets nest or even creating artificial sanctuaries for swiftlets to nest.

Of note, disgraced police officer Pol Col Thitisan “Jo Ferrari” Utthanaphon, whose shocking wealth was revealed upon his arrest for suffocating a suspect in custody, was said to have made part of his fortune by trading birds’ nest.


The source of the above Thaiger article is The Nation , which has lots of photos:

Horrifying Phatthalung bird massacre costs Siamnest THB5-bn in lost revenue

A Royal Thai Police (RTP) team visited Phatthalung province on Monday to investigate the case of missing birds’ nests and the mass killing of swiftlets.

Siamnest company, which has the concession for collecting bird’s nests from the 107 caves in Phatthalung’s seven islands, sent its teams off to collect nests from September 9 to 17.

However, when the collectors arrived at the last cave, they found no nests but instead, the carcasses of more than a million birds, the remains of a fire and trash including plastic bottles and shoes.

The damage from this bird massacre has been estimated at about 5 billion baht.

Phatthalung authorities, meanwhile, have contacted the Department of Special Investigation to see if they will consider taking on the case.


I've been to several caves in Phattalung province mainland, but not islands -  see labels on the right.

27 April 2021

Gunung Kanthan media updates 2021

 This is an ongoing list of media reports about the quarrying of Gunung Kanthan in Perak, Malaysia. The earlier blogs are 2013 2014 , 2015 , and 2016-2020.

Gunung Kanthan is being quarried by Lafarge Msia, who changed its name to Malayan Cement in 2019. And YTL acquired Lafarge Msia stake. But YTL still calls Kanthan the Associated Pan Malaysia Cement (APMC) Kanthan Quarry.

Reports from 2021 :

Ipoh Echo , 12 Jan 
Appeal to Preserve Monastery in Gunung Kanthan [this was removed by the 14th]

Perak China Press , 13 Jan
Hundred-year "Sakyamuni Sacred Rock" hopes that the government approves it to stay in the original site

Perak China Press , 14 Jan
There is a potential risk of falling rocks in the Gongqiaoshan [Arch Bridge Mountain]
This included a media statement from Pan Malaysia Cement in English entitled “A tragedy waiting to happen – monastery built on volatile structure prone to limestone fall”.

Flora & Fauna International , 25 Jan
Mention of Kanthan trapdoor spider.

Sinar Harian , 5 Feb
Wartakan kawasan hutan batu kapur (Gazette the limestone forest area)
Gua Khantan, Chemor, has a spider habitat, namely Liphistius khantan, which is placed on the red list when the species is not found anywhere in the world.

Several videos on Youtube , 25 Apr
Published by the  Sakyamuni Caves Monastery :

Gunung Kanthan: Saving Sacred Gunung Kanthan, Beauty with Treasure
Gunung Kanthan expedition
Gunung Kanthan: 100 Years History of Sakyamuni Caves Monastery
Gunung Kanthan: Save 100-Year Sakyamuni Caves Monastery

YTL/APMC took the Sakyamuni Caves Monastery to court on 1 Apr but as the monks didn't have a lawyer, they were granted an extension until 17 May. It seems that area C will be blasted, leaving just area D, where Gua Kanthan is -

Bernama , 26 May 2021
Perak state authorities urged to conserve two Kinta geosites

The Star , 27 May 2021
"NGOs urge Perak govt to fully commit towards preservation of two geoparks in Kinta Valley"

The Sun . 27 May 2021
"Perak state authorities urged to conserve two Kinta Geosites"

The Vibes , 31 May 2021
Century-old Sakyamuni Cave Monastery faces eviction.
This is a particularly good article as it details court orders and some history of past eviction notices etc.

The Vibes , 1 June 2021
"Money over heritage: Sakyamuni eviction threatens natural treasure, says preservationist!

The Vibes , 2 June 2021
"Sakyamuni reveals one-of-a-kind golden Buddha statue as it faces eviction"

Malaysiakini , 5 June 2021
Kuari Gunung Kanthan: Tiada syarikat dapat kontrak baru - Exco Perak (Gunung Kanthan Quarry: No company gets new contract - Perak Exco)

The Star , 5 June 2021
More tourism activities planned for geoparks in Perak, says state govt

The Vibes , 5 June 2021
Perak exco rubbishes claim on new Gunung Kanthan quarrying contracts

The Vibes , 5 June 2021
YTL subsidiary assures Gua Kanthan protection, says awarded lease in 1960

Bernama , 5 June 2021
No new contract for quarry activities at Gunung Kanthan - Perak Exco 

The Sun , 5 June 2021
"More tourism activities planned for geoparks in Perak, says state govt"

The Sun , 6 June 2021
"Move to boost tourism at geoparks in Kinta district"

Bernama , 6 June 2021
Perak planning various tourism programmes for Kinta Valley Geopark

The Vibes , 8 June 2021
More quarrying will wipe out Gunung Kanthan’s endangered species, cry green groups

The Vibes , 14 June 2021
Quarrying fears at Gunung Kanthan geopark fuel anxiety at yet another cultural site

Getaran , 14 June 2021
Gunung Kanthan, Kenapa Sambung Kontrak Sebelum Dapatkan Ulasan Teknikal? - Gunung Kanthan, why continue the contract before getting technical reviews?

Save Sakyamuni Caves Monastery, Save Gunung Kanthan
An online petition to save the monastery

The Vibes , 22 June 2021
For or against temples on limestone hills? It’s delicate environmental issue, say experts.

Sin Chew , 28 June 2021

Oriental Daily , 28 June 2021
The government is urged to intervene in the forced relocation of the Sakyamuni Buddha Temple in Gunung Kanthan

Mongabay , 30 June 2021
Monks and wildlife come under pressure from Malaysian cement company

The Star , 5 July 2021
Cave monastery near Chemor fears eviction

The Malaysian Insight , 6 July 2021
Perak’s Gunung Kanthan in danger of being reduced to rubble

Malay Mail , 14 July 2021
Perak MB promises to look into calls to preserve century-old cave temple , monastery on Gunung Kanthan 

The Star , 14 July 2021
Make cave monastery a heritage site, authorities told

The Star , 16 July 2021
MB wants to settle Kanthan cave monastery matter amicably

The Vibes , 19 July 2021
Gunung Kanthan monastery eviction case slowed by NRP restrictions.

The Vibes , 12 Aug 2021
Gunung Kanthan needs govt protection to prevent its exploitation: CAP.

The Star , 13 Aug 2021
Good reasons to preserve Gunung Kanthan (letter)

Malay Mail , 15 Aug 2021
In Kinta Valley National Geopark, century-old cave monastery fighting for its survival as quarrying activities encroach

Sinar Harian , 4 Sept 2021
'Teliti semula kelulusan kegiatan kuari di Perak' (Review the approval of quarry activities in Perak) 

The Star , 4 Sept 2021
Environmental activists want Perak govt not to extend land leases for quarries, mining sites in geoparks

Descent , June/July 2021, 280:19.
Peninsular Malaysia. Quarrying away Gunung Kanthan. 
[Descent is a caving magazine published in the UK]

China Press , 6 Sept 2021
The Neolithic murals in Gua Kanthan are estimated to be 2500 to 4000 years old

Harian Metro , 6 Sept 2021
Lukisan dipercayai beribu tahun ditemukan di Gua Kanthan (Paintings believed to be thousands of years old found in Gua Kanthan)

Berita Harian , 7 Sept 2021
Lukisan gua dianggar berusia 4,000 tahun ditemui

Oriental Daily , 7 Sept 2021
Ancient rock paintings discovered in Gua Kanthan, but most of them are destroyed by modern graffiti

Sin Chew , 7 Sept 2021
Cave paintings - Gua Kanthan, thousand year old beautiful paintings, about 2500 to 4000 years of history , Sept 2021
Gunung Kanthan 2500 years to 4000 years Rock Art Found - Sept 2021

The Star , 15 Sept 2021
Studies needed on Gua Kanthan drawings to determine origin

The Star , 10 Nov 2021
Ipoh High Court suggests cement company, cave temple settle eviction out of court


I will add to this blog as new reports are published.

27 February 2021

Perak Man has a face

End of February 2021 there was lots in the media that Perak Man now has a face. This is thanks to 3D modelling.

Perak Man, the most complete skeleton found in Southeast Asia, was uncovered at Gua Gunung Runtuh by a team of archaeologists led by Prof Datuk Dr Zuraina Majid in 1990. The excavation revealed a 10,000–11,000-year-old primary burial site of an adult human buried in the foetal position.

News reports :

FMT 24 Feb "10,000-year-old Perak Man has a face now"

Bernama 25 Feb “11,000-year-old Perak Man finally has a face”

Borneo Post 25 Feb “11,000-year-old Perak man finally has a face”

The Star 25 Feb “Perak Man now has a face, thanks to 3D modelling”.
“Perak Man – the oldest human skeleton discovered in Malaysia in 1991 – now has a face. A team at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) used virtual 3D modelling techniques to produce a facial representation of the centuries-old Perak Man. The team used 21st-century technologies to determine the cognitive capabilities of the 11,000-year-old Perak Man. It also determined that he had type A2 brachymesophalangia, a medical term which literally means “short fingers”. NST 26 Feb “The 11,000-year-old Perak Man gets a face”; this article shows a A 3D virtual reconstruction of Perak Man’s facial features. 

Perak Man, the 11,000-year-old skeletal remains found 30 years ago in the Lenggong Valley, Perak, finally has a face. A team of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) researchers and 3D graphics expert from Brazil, Cicero Moraes, had used the 3D virtual reconstruction method to reconstruct the Perak Man’s facial features. A copy of the original skull was made using computed tomography (CT) and  3D printing.

FMT image

And a YouTube video from Bernama, "INILAH WAJAH PERAK MAN" [this is the face of Perak Man]

A scientific paper: Abdullah JY, Saidin M, Rajion ZA, Hadi H, Mohamad N, Moraes C, Abdullah JM. Using 21st-century technologies to determine the cognitive capabilities of a 11,000-year-old Perak Man who had brachymesophalangia type A2. Malays J Med Sci. 2021;28(1):1–8.  Link here .


See my other blogs on Perak Man, listed under the labels column.


Noel makes a good comment (see comments below) that the paper title claims to "Determine the Cognitive Capabilities" of the Perak Man, which of course it doesn't. 

26 February 2021

Rumours of Japanese gold hidden in Thai caves

 In 2001 there was a lot in the Thai media about large quantities of gold hidden in Thai caves in Kanchanaburi. A man claimed to have found 2,500 tonnes of valuable items believed to have been left behind by retreating Japanese soldiers during World War II. He had spent 5 years searching for the gold. The place is Liijia (Li Jia) cave near Kanchanaburi, close to Thailand's western border with Myanmar.  The Prime Minister travelled to the cave by helicopter but wasn't allowed to go in, stopped by the man who claimed he found the treasure. He wanted an audience with the King and said he would leave the treasure to the nation.

Chaowarin had never actually seen the hoard or even been in the cave, but was basing his claims on the story of an elderly monk who used to meditate in the cave. The monk says he stumbled across a hidden hoard of 50 chests of gold, a steam train and the skeletons of Japanese soldiers who had committed hara-kiri. He later told the story to two men who submitted a report to the king. Chaowarin was citing a document to His Majesty, as he believed that in this country nobody would lie to the king.

After digging through into the cave with rock breaking equipment and finding nothing, the treasure hunt was called off. 

The Thai government then faced legal action and growing ridicule for sanctioning the massive treasure hunt that left Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra red-faced. 

In 1995, the same man Chaovarin had reported finding a train carriage inside a cave in Kanchanaburi, which he claimed contained Japanese treasure. He was also inspired to go on another treasure hunt by a monk who claimed he had seen visions of gold piled high in the labyrinthine cave. But Chaovarin himself admitted later that there was no truth to that story. 

In July 2020 six treasure hunters succumbed to suffocation after venturing deep into the Sangkla Buri cave near Wat Lijia. They were searching for gold believed to have been buried by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War Two. The cave was then sealed. Chaovarin resumed his search in February 2001 after authorities opened the cave to his team in a bid to end speculation about a gold hoard and to prevent future treasure hunters. 


Then in Feb 2021, there was more news about gold hidden in a Thai cave, this time deep in the mountain of Sukhothai. The Bangkok Post on 21 Feb 2021 "Cave discovery rekindles hidden gold tales. Japanese soldiers said to have secreted WWII stash in mountains". 

This time a resident, Kliang, led a local reporter on a tour of one of the caves where WWII Japanese soldiers were believed to have built a system of chambers, which are unexplored, where they supposedly hid their treasures. 

A torch light shines on an opening in one of the caves believed by locals to hold a large amount of gold left in Sukhothai by Japanese troops during World War II.

When Kliang  was young, his grandfather had told him that tonnes of gold had been offloaded by the soldiers at the Sawankalok train station and delivered in buckboards by elephants and oxen to the mountain where the gold was stashed inside pre-built chambers. The chambers were constructed inside several caves accessible through multiple entrances. The entry points to the chambers were dynamited to seal them.

A few years after the war ended, local residents witnessed about 200 Japanese soldiers trekking to the mountain. They spent weeks looking for the hidden gold but were unable to find its location. Kliang said that when he was young, he slipped into one of the interconnected caves. The Japanese troops had built shafts to let air circulate inside the caves.

A tour of a cave revealed a large open area leading to three passages. At the top of the cave there appear to be man-made openings of various sizes, which are believed to be the shafts.

"We have here evidence of chambers having been dug. Why would anyone do that if they hadn't been hiding something of value or looking for such treasure?" Kliang said.

Somchai Duenpen, deputy municipal mayor of tambon Nai Muang, said the tale about the wartime gold should not be dismissed out of hand. Also a local historian, Mr Somchai said Sukhothai lies in the route which the Japanese soldiers used to make military advances during WWII. The soldiers left the train at Sawankalok station and marched through Sukhothai's old precinct and Ban Dan Lan Hoi on their way to Mae Sot district of Tak from where they crossed into Myanmar.

Mr Somchai, who is also expert in World Heritage cultural sites, said that during the war, it made sense for the troops to have at their disposal gold which they could use to buy necessities and food. However, he insisted it was premature to assume that cave gold existed. "We should take the tale about the wartime gold with a grain of salt," Mr Somchai said.

29 January 2021

Thaipusam 2021

Thaipusam was 28 Jan 2021. But this year it was more or less cancelled, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Malaysia was under a lockdown, so the MCO (movement control order) meant there could be no celebrations. In Kedah the State government cancelled the Thaipusam public holiday. 

In Kuala Lumpur the famous Thaipusam chariot was allowed to travel from the Jalan Bandar temple to Batu Caves but without a procession. 

Photo from The Star -

I don't know what the entry fee is, I assume it is for a car.


See my 2007 blog on Thaipusam.

15 January 2021

Oldest cave art again found in Indonesia

 Once again the oldest rock art / cave paintings have been found in Indonesia, again in Sulawesi. This time it is a 45,000 year old painting of a Sulawesi warty pig from the Maros-Pangkep area. In mid Jan 2021 there were plenty of media reports about this. 

Science Advances carries the full article on 13 Jan 2021, "Oldest cave art found in Sulawesi". This is their abstract -

I was in the Maros area in 1994 and saw this babi rusa in Pettakere Cave in the Leang Leang Park -

13 January 2021

Gunung Kanthan Sakyamuni monastery cave

An article in the Perak China Press about the ongoing attempts to save the Gua Dhamma Sakyamuni monastery at Gunung Kanthan, Perak. Gunung Kanthan is being quarried and the monastery has little protection. I was invited to visit the monastery and its caves in June 2013 and have been following the progress since. Cave register number Prk 47/09.

The article was published 13 Jan 2021. It is in Chinese, this is the online English translation :

Hundred-year "Sakyamuni Sacred Rock" hopes that the government approves it to stay in the original site

In order to ensure that the "Sacred Rock of Sakyamuni" in Kanthan Mountain's century-old Buddhist temple can be kept on the original site forever, the temple hopes that the government will assist and approve the temple on the premise of maintaining the country's multi-religious, cultural and ethnic harmony. Continue to stay at the original location.

Master Fashan, a representative of the "Sacred Rock of Sakyamuni", said that since the temple has been built for a century and has been supported by many believers at home and abroad, and Kanthan Mountain has a variety of rare species, it is necessary to retain it.

Venerable Fa Shan held a press conference today with the assistance of the director of the Perstate Public Service and Complaints Center of Barisan Nasional Rawai to seek assistance from the Perstate Government.

Master Fa Shan said that as early as 2013 to 2015, someone asked the temple to be relocated, but it was approved by the then state government to keep it on the original site. Unexpectedly, the same thing happened again in December 2020. Therefore, he hopes that the state government can extend its hand. But he declined to give more details.

He said that the temple called on the government to help solve the survival crisis of the temple based on five main reasons. That is, the temple is a centuries-old cave Buddhist holy site, a spiritual sanctuary for thousands of Buddhist monks and believers, and is built in a cave. The Buddha statues are the sacred symbol of Buddhism, the world's unparalleled meditation temple, and the rare animal and plant species that exist in Kanthan Mountain are priceless treasures of the country.

Rawai later pointed out at a press conference that he would assist the "Sakyamuni Rock of Sakyamuni" to reflect its appeal to the Minister of State of Perak, Datuk Sharani, and seek assistance from the state government to keep the temple on its original site.


There is also a video with the article. 


Additional articles :

And an article in Ipoh Echo on 12 Jan, "Appeal to preserve monastery in Gunung Kanthan".

Sin Chew 12 Jan "Temple appeals / Sakyamuni sacred rock is facing crisis and hopes the government will keep this holy place forever".

Oriental Daily 12 Jan (in Chinese)

Suaraperak 12 Jan "Pengurusan kuil mohon gua Gunung Kanthan sebagai tempat ibadat penganut Buddha (The management of the temple requests the Gunung Kanthan cave as a place of worship for Buddhists) :
Malaysian management Dhamma Sakyakumi Caves Monastery hopes the cave area on Mount Kanthan, Chemor is recognized as a place of worship for Buddhists.
His representative, Dr. Chiong Sai Tin said, his party has sent an application to the state government and hopes it will be considered.
He said the cave area existed more than 100 years ago and became a place of meditation for thousands of Buddhists.
“In this cave there is a temple that is home to 15 monks.
"This is the second time we have applied to the state government after the first application in 2014," he told reporters here today.
Meanwhile, Perak Barisan Nasional Service and Complaints Center chief Mohd Ravi Abdullah said he would meet with Menteri Besar Datuk Saarani Mohamad this week to discuss the issue.


Pan Malaysia Cement began their attack on 14 Jan. They issued a media statement in English entitled “A tragedy waiting to happen – monastery built on volatile structure prone to limestone fall”. This was published in Perak Chinapress on 14 Jan, in an article "There is a potential risk of falling rocks in the Gongqiaoshan [Arch Bridge Mountain]. 

1 January 2021

Gunung Kanthan media updates 2016 - 2020

I haven't posted anything on this blog about Gunung Kanthan since 2015 (apart from Tony Whitten's memorial) so thought I should do an update. However I have been putting some news on my Caves of Malaysia wwww : Archives 2020, Archives 2019, Archives 2018 Geopark, and Archives 2016.

11 July 2017, LafargeHolcim published an article, " LafargeHolcim accelerates biodiversity efforts in Southeast Asia". This is a general article, not directly related to Kanthan. 

2017 Lafarge study on snails at Kanthan.

2017 Rimba report on the snail study.

Zookeys report on the snail study.

In 2019 YTL acquired LafargeHolcim’s entire 51% stake in Lafarge Malaysia Bhd and LafargeHolcim exited the Malaysian market.

YTL website published a feature story "Kanthan Biodiversity Initiatives" on 20 Oct 2020. It says "YTL Cement continues to play its role in the biodiversity conservation by developing rehabilitation plans at the Associated Pan Malaysia Cement (APMC) Kanthan Quarry site located in Chemor, Perak.". It sounds good but I wonder if anything is actually being done. 

There is a really nice diagram about Gunung Kanthan, its quarrying, flora and fauna etc on Coogle -

YTL Executive Chairman's Letter to Stakeholders 2020 -
In the section BIODIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION says "YTL Cement and Malayan Cement Berhad have continued to invest in conservation and biodiversity initiatives. These include preserving endemic species of flora and fauna in the limestone reserve of Gunung Kanthan and other karst outcrops.".