The Stone Age in Brunei

How long has Brunei been populated? By all reckonings Brunei's history goes as far back in time as we know it - even being mentioned in Chinese annals as far back as the 6th century. It wasn't until the 14th century when Awang Alak Betatar married a Johor Princess and became Sultan Muhammad Shah was our current sultanage lineage started and hence began the modern history of Brunei. We haven't even speculated who were the rulers of Brunei all those 900 years ago before Sultan Muhammad Shah came into power.

But Brunei has been peopled even way much earlier than the 6th Century. Sometime in 1971, the Brunei Muesums made a very startling discovery at Tanjung Batu beach at Muara. They have discovered that this area was once inhabited by primitive or stone age people. They discovered a stone implement which was later identified as an adze. According to the Brunei Museum Journal article (Brunei Museum Journal 1976), the discovery came as an 'archaeological shock' because no such stone implements were ever discovered before nor was there any archaeological indication that suggested the presence of Stone Age people in Brunei. This discovery was the unveiling of our prehistory. A few more stone age tools have been discovered ever since.

There were 4 implements that were discovered - the first implement was an adze and would have been bound onto a wooden shaft and was used for hollowing out troughs and dug out canoes and is also used as a hoe; the second was a grooved adze used for splitting logs or for hacking and crushing purposes; the third was a bevelled adze used for lighter activities, some called it a chisel used for smoothing or hollowing out wood; and the final one was a bored hoe, similar to the modern hoe, except that this one made out of stone.

At the same time, the existence of caves or rock-shelters having been occupied as living places by the neolithic people were obvious at Tanjung Batu. The remains of gigantic rocks which resembled caves and rock shelters were visible and one of the implements was found at the foot of a cliff which forms the cave.

For those struggling with their pre-history and asking what is the Stone Age - the Stone Age is the time, very early in the development of human cultures, before the use of metals, when tools and weapons were made of stone. The dates of the Stone Age vary considerably for different parts of the world. In Europe, Asia, and Africa it began about 2 million years ago. In the most advanced parts of the Middle East and Southeast Asia it ended about 6000 BC, but it lingered until 4000 BC or later in Europe, the rest of Asia, and Africa.

By that definition, Brunei has Stone Age people who has already inabited parts of Brunei theoretically as far back as 2 million years ago and lingered on until about 6,000 BC before metal was discovered and the Stone Age ended. And that my dear readers, is how long Bruneians have been on this island.

The sad thing is I have only come across this when I was trawling through the Brunei Secondary History textbook (Secondary 1) and I had to search various Brunei Museums Journals to find the real article before finding it in the 1976 edition. I have not seen the tools in real life. I have said this before with other Bruneian 'historic finds' - we got all these treasures which we found over the years, how many have been seen? It's either I haven't been to see the right exhibits at the Museums or the the exhibits at the Brunei Museums need a thorough overhaul or am I right in getting the impression that we are hiding them?


Anonymous said…
Pleasant start for today :) I have always loved the history of Brunei. My dad used to take my brothers and I to the museum every school holiday, despite the fact that the museums 'never' changed. It was still educational and fun.

I wonder how the museums are now?
Anonymous said…
Good one. I always wondered about this very same subject a few while back. But never got started in researching it.

Do you know how one could find out their family tree? Their Lineage?
Anonymous said…
to hj...
please go to the History Centre...
to s@s...
you are considered lucky since your dad took the initiative to take you to the Museums....nowadays,young school children kana bawa oleh school trips saja...atu pun ada limitations. Thank you to the teachers who took their initiatives.

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