Mortuary caves and the dammar trade in the Towuti-Routa region, Sulawesi, in an island southeast Asian context
Archaeological evidence from survey and cave excavation in the Towuti-Routa region of Sulawesi suggests the following sequence of late Holocene cultural change. Settled communities whose subsistence included an agricultural component had established themselves by the early centuries a.d. and began the use of caves for mortuary purposes. Extended inhumations are the oldest attested mortuary practice, overlapping in time with secondary burials in large earthenware jars dated to around a.d. 1000. The third, ethnohistorically described practice involved the surface disposal of the deceased, including the use of imported martavans for the elite, between approximately a.d. 1500 and 1900. This sequence of mortuary practices has not been documented elsewhere in Island Southeast Asia, although each practice has multiple parallels. The Towuti-Routa dammar trade, which was at its peak at the time of European contact, can perhaps account for the quantity of exotic items imported to the region but not the specifics of the mortuary practices.