The cave is an important prehistorical site where human remains dating to 40,000 years have been found. This is the oldest recorded human settlement in East Malaysia. Painted Cave, situated in a much smaller limestone block of its own, some 150 meters from the Great Cave block's south eastern tip, has rock paintings dated as 1,200 years old. The caves are also well known for the birds' nest (Swiftlet) industry. It is a popular tourist destination in Sarawak.
Research was pioneered by Tom Harrisson in the 1950/60s. Since then local universities and foreign scientists have continued the archaeological research, and many articles have been published in the Sarawak Museum Journal. The site has been re-excavated (1999-2003+) by a joint British-Malaysian expedition to determine the accuracy of Harrisson's work.
Items found at Niah Cave include Pleistocene chopping tools and flakes, Neolithic axes, adzes, pottery, shell jewellery, boats, mats, then iron tools and ceramics and glass beads dating to the Iron Age. The most famous find is the human skull dated at around 38,000 years. Painted Cave has paintings and wooden coffin 'death ships'.
Niah National Park was 31.4 km² when it was gazetted in 1974.
Chronicle of a Foreseeable Tragedy: Birds' Nests Management in the Niah Caves (Sarawak).(ABSTRACTS)(Brief Article)(Book Review)
Jan 01, 2004; Gausset, Quentin, 2004, Chronicle of a Foreseeable Tragedy: Birds' Nests Management in the Niah Caves (Sarawak), Human Ecology,...
Journal of Archaeological Science: The Chemistry of Tree Resins and Ancient Rock Paintings in the Niah Caves, Sarawak (Borneo): Some Evidence of Rain Forest Management by Early Human Populations.(ABSTRACTS)
Jan 01, 2005; 2005, The Chemistry of Tree Resins and Ancient Rock Paintings in the Niah Caves, Sarawak (Borneo): Some Evidence of Rain Forest...