Agop Batu Tulug

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Kinabatangan Sabah Malaysia May 9, 2016 : Carved coffin made from belian tree believed to be about 500-690 years old at ancient burial cave Agop Batu Tulug in Kinabatangan Sabah.; Shutterstock ID 419637439; Your name (First / Last): Lauren Vastine; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial; Full Product or Project name including edition: BiA Imagery

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This hill, 2km north of the Batuh Putih bridge, features three caves housing the ancestors of local Orang Sungai (People of the River). Because the Kinabatangan has a habit of frequently flooding, the final resting place of the dead has traditionally been located in cave complexes. Nine-hundred-year-old ironwood coffins are interred in the Batu Tulug caves with spears, knives, gongs, bells and Chinese curios, making the hill one of the most important archaeological sites in Sabah.

Steep wooden staircases snake up the 40m hill to the caves. Of the three caves, two are open to the public. Agop Lintanga, the larger cave, has the largest coffin collection, though they are unadorned, suggesting they were used for interring the bodies of common people. Smaller Agop Sawat, accessible from the lookout on top of the hill, has five carved log coffins, decorated with ox heads – more elaborate coffins reserved for chieftains. From the viewpoint you'll be rewarded with a 360-degree view of palm-oil plantations encroaching on the secondary forest and the Kinabatangan River.

Halfway to the top, a small museum details the history of cave burials in the Kinbatangan area and showcases some funereal objects found in the caves, as well as a splendid example of an ornate ironwood coffin.

The easiest way to get here is to include the caves in your package tour of the Kinabatangan. If you've got your own vehicle, look for signs indicating the turn-off to the Batu Caves, 18km south of the Sukau junction.