skip to content

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology






South Lecture Room


The Cultured Rainforest tells the story of the rainforest on the island of 
Borneo and the people for whom it has been home, today and in the past. The 
exhibition overturns the idea that rainforests are the last virgin landscapes
 of the world and shows that these supposed natural wildernesses have in fact 
been shaped by humans for 50,000 years. We explore how the people of the
 rainforest have made it their home: a world full of meaning and surprise, with 
its own rich histories unfolding over thousands of years.

An international team of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historical 
ecologists conducted research in the Kelabit highlands of Borneo from 2007-
2010 to study how people have transformed rainforests and vice versa by working
 closely with local Kelabit and Penan people.

The Cultured Rainforest brings the results of this cutting-edge research to a
 British audience. Built around a full-scale reconstruction of a hearth from a
 longhouse, the centre of Kelabit domestic life, the exhibition features 
photographs and film from the project team and 360 degree panoramas that bring
 the sights and sounds of the rainforest. It also draws on MAA’s rich collection
of artefacts from the region, many of which were donated by Charles Hose, 
zoologist, botanist, ethnographer and colonial administrator for the Brooke Raj
in Sarawak from 1884 to 1916.

The Cultured Rainforest is a product of a collaborative research project between 
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, the Sarawak Museum and the Universities of
 Cambridge, Leicester, Oxford, Sussex and Queens University Belfast. It is 
funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Interactive panoramas of the rainforest, produced by Douglas Cape of z360, can 
be found online at

Two million years of human history. One million artefacts. Countless astonishing stories.