A 2300 yr record of sago and rice use from the southern Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo

Samantha Elsie Jones, Chris Hunt, Paula Reimer

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Rice and sago are today important staples for many subsistence farmers and nomadic hunter-gatherers living in interior Borneo, but the cultural antiquity of these staples remains poorly understood. This study examines a 2300 yr sedimentary record from a palaeochannel near the village of Pa’Dalih in the southern Kelabit Highlands. Pollen and phytolith evidence indicate significant use of the sago palm Eugeissona near the channel during this period. Oryza phytoliths likely belonging to domesticated rice varieties are also recorded, although rice may have been used to a lesser extent than the sago palms. A rise in cultural activity takes place between c. 1715 and 1600 cal. BP, shown by increased frequency of fires.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-720
Number of pages13
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number5
Early online date6 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - May 2013



  • cultural
  • Eugeissona
  • Kelabit Highlands
  • late Holocene
  • Oryza sativa
  • Pa'Dalih
  • rice
  • sago palms

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