Thursday, October 21, 2010

Amazing Roots, and Ancient Burials in Borneo

 One morning on a long hike in the Danum Valley, a primary growth rainforest in Borneo, we went to an ancient burial site.  Supposedly the indigenous rainforest people of the past were animists who believed that the higher you are placed, the easier you will get to heaven.  At the top of a peak there was a wall of rock.  From the top of the rock, tree roots grew down - at least 30 feet.  I've taken a photo of the roots looking up from the ground as well as one looking down from near the top.  Photos can't capture it, but it was a very cool tree.

Near the tree, on top of the rock, there were some ancient burial caskets.  Bornean Ironwood (a very hard wood) logs were hollowed out, and inside the body was placed along with weapons - the blow dart used for poison dart hunting.  Supposedly the higher the casket was placed the higher in the society a leader was placed.  We saw the remains of one casket on which the carving was still evident, and the tools were still visable inside.  However, the body was no longer there - supposedly the casket rolled down from above at some point and no one knows what happened to the contents.  According to our guide, it would have taken at least 50 men to carry the casket up through the forest to where it had been, the highest point in the forest.  Since it was not an easy climb, I didn't envy that experience.

It was a beautiful place, to live and to die.  Whoever that warrior leader was, long ago, he obviously got quite a sendoff.  I could only imagine the life he led in that forest, as I stood surrounded by trees so old, they might have been already growing when he was alive.

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