SIPITANG: Long Pasia is at risk of losing its ancient “treasures” if they are not gazetted as heritage items, said a Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) researcher.
The varsity, which had conducted a more than decade-long research work, had recorded three slab graves, three dolmens (single chamber tombs), one more than a millennium old, 12 crocodile-shaped burial mounds and a serpent-shaped burial mound at the village.
UMS archaeologist and senior lecturer Baszley Bee Basrah Bee, who led the project funded by the National Heritage Department, said these “artefacts” reflect the tradition of using enormous stones as a secondary burial site during the Mesolithic era.
He said the culture, which was practiced by the Lundayeh people in Long Pasia, shows similarities to stones found in North Kalimantan and Sarawak.
“During our study between 2005 and 2017, we found some of the structures had collapsed, which could be due to earthquakes.
“Besides being exposed to the elements, these treasures could disappear any time because of land exploration and agricultural activities, among others,” he said.
Baszley said treasure hunters also posed a danger to these burial mounds, adding that in ancient times it was customary for wealthy people to be buried with several belongings which could now be priceless.
He said such prehistoric heritage would also likely be forgotten by the world, including the community in Long Pasia, as soon as stories behind the structures are no longer shared among the people.
For many years, the village of about 1,000 mostly Lundayeh people, has been doing well due to eco-tourism packages which attracted tourists and researchers from Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Among these were those from the Danish royal family. Between March 17 and 19, 2002, Queen Margrethe II and her husband, Prince Henri De Laborde de Monzepat, visited several sites there.
Baszley said the small village is racing against time when it comes to conserving prehistoric artefacts, which could potentially be elevated as a World Heritage site in the cultural and archaeological category.
“Several authorities have been approached for it (the gazettement), but there are several limitations including the remoteness of the site and existing agricultural activities, among others,” he added.