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May 20, 2015

They are there, but hard to see…

Tom McLaughlin

Santubong, Malaysian Borneo – She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Hawaii who came here to study rock art. We became fast friends and she helped us to see the images drawn on the stones many hundreds of years ago.

The rocks are in Santubong, a small beach resort about 24 km from Kuching. The huge stones lie in the estuary within a river which is fed by the South China Sea. They are half submerged at high tide. She took us there on Sunday morning, when the seas were low and calm.

She will make known to the western world about 127 images carved on these rocks – carved about 2,000 years ago. Not ancient by any means, but still a major contribution the hazy, foggy history of the Santubong area.

The first image she showed us was what she said was ancient writing. Mind you, these are all preliminary opinions without the benefit of research. My wife saw them immediately followed by another person but I was blind as a bat."

Where," I said" There they replied. Damn if I could see them. I took off my sunglasses and studied the area again.

"Nope," I replied. Patiently, she showed me the lines and they came into startling focus. "Oh, those lines," I said.

The lines formed right angles and meant nothing to me as I studied what was thought to be an ancient language. They would go right, then left and back over themselves. I had never seen anything like them. I took many pictures.

The next images were of spirals. I could see those. They started tightly wound in the middle and went out in mathematical proportion until they stopped. There were two of them, side by side. I did not have an iota of an opinion of what they could mean.

"How about those boats up there," she said.

My wife replied: "Oh, they are wonderful."

I looked and looked, but I still could not see them.

"Where," I asked.

"Up there," my wife answered.

All I saw was rock. The graduate student looked at me as if a sudden case of blindness had hit me. She climbed on top of the rock and bent over to outline the ships.

"Oh, now I see them," as she used the patience of Job to help me.

...Life is good. . . . .


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