Skip to main content
In Brief

66 Ancient Skeletons Found in Indonesian Cave

Simanjuntak and Javanese axe
Professor Truman Simanjuntak holding an exact replica of an ancient stone hand axe excavated from East Java. (Image credit: University of Wollongong)

Talk about your archaeological jackpots: Researchers in Indonesia have reportedly discovered the 3,000-year-old remains of 66 people in a cave in Sumatra.

"Sixty-six is very strange," Truman Simanjuntak of Jakarta's National Research and Development Center for Archaeology said in a statement. He and his colleagues have never before found that many remains in a single cave, Simanjuntak added. 

The cave is known as Harimaru or Tiger Cave, and also contains chicken, dog and pig remains. Thousands of years ago, the Tiger Cave and other limestone caverns nearby were occupied by Indonesia's first farmers. They used the caves to bury their dead, explaining the 3,000-year-old cemetery unearthed by Simanjuntak's team. The ancient farmers also manufactured tools in the caves. 

And they apparently made art. Tiger Cave contains the first evidence of rock art from Sumatra, Simanjuntak said. And the cave is only partially excavated. 

"There are still occupation traces deeper and deeper in the cave, where we have not excavated yet," he said. "So it means the cave is very promising." 

The dates of the discoveries so far peg the cave's occupation to a time when the Earth's entire population was only about 50 million. The Zhou dynasty ruled China, and ancient Egypt's prosperous New Kingdom era, during which Tutankamun riegned, was nearing its end. Though a first for Sumatra, the newly discovered rock art is brand-new by archaeological standards: The oldest rock art known is found in France and dates back 37,000 years.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+

Stephanie Pappas
Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science. She covers the world of human and animal behavior, as well as paleontology and other science topics. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has ducked under a glacier in Switzerland and poked hot lava with a stick in Hawaii. Stephanie hails from East Tennessee, the global center for salamander diversity. Follow Stephanie on Google+.