The Dayaks Are From Nowhere Else But Borneo According to Prehistoric Research, Carbon Dating, Inscriptions, and Artifacts


People of the Lundayeh Dayak, North Kalimantan. In North Kalimantan, especially in Krayan, Nunukan Regency, many artifacts, inscriptions, and historical sites have been discovered. Documentation: Bibliopedia

The Dayak did not originate from anywhere. Not from Yunan, let alone from other parts of the world.

The indigenous Dayak people are both the custodians and heirs of Borneo, the third-largest island in the world, covering an area of 743,330 km².

The claim that Dayak people come from Yunan, made by three authors, is difficult to substantiate. It lacks historical evidence, artifacts, and inscriptions.

We can pose the following questions to them:

  1. What was the name of the Yunan person who first landed in Borneo at that time?
  2. Where is the evidence of artifacts?
  3. Where is the Chinese village/Chinatown that indicates the first landing and settlement, as well as its continuity?
  4. How did migrants from Yunan come to the island, which was later referred to as “Varuna-dvipa” during the influence of Hindu-India in the 5th century AD?

If questions 1-4 cannot be answered and convincingly proven academically, then it is not history but merely limited to folklore and myths.

Characteristics of immigrants from China: there is always a Chinatown, monuments, and artifacts. Examples include Singkawang, Sanggau, Pemangkat, Monterado, Budok, and Rara (Bengkayang). At least there is a distinctive Chinese dialect place name, such as Hakka in Bengkayang, Monterado, and Sanggau. If these characteristics are not present, then it is merely a fairy tale!

For instance, Singkawang is known for its vibrant Cap Go Meh celebration, while Pemangkat has architecture and monuments reflecting cultural diversity. Monterado in Bengkayang and Budok are other examples of areas reflecting cultural uniqueness and the history of Chinese immigrants.

It is important to remember that each community has its own unique characteristics. Some areas may have Hakka or other Chinese dialect influences, while others may have different historical richness. Even if not all areas have the described characteristics, it does not mean that the story or history is mere fiction. The cultural diversity and history of Chinese immigrants in Indonesia can vary in different locations, and the stories of each community remain valuable.

If it is history, then it should be able to answer: Who was the first Chinese migrant to set foot on the island of Borneo? In what year did immigrants from Yunan land in Borneo? Where did they land? What were the events? Where is the site now?

Ask them these questions. They will likely struggle to answer, especially to provide convincing proof. If the four historical requisites cannot be scientifically proven based on historical evidence, then it is nothing more than a fairy tale, legend, or bedtime story!

Carbon dating: Dayaks have been present for 40,000 years
Scientific carbon dating (C-5) reveals that the Dayak have been present on the island of Borneo for 40,000 years.

Research by Blust on prehistory states that before deforestation, Borneo already had inhabitants later referred to as “Dayak.”

There is no doubt that Niah Cave is evidence of the existence of human inhabitants of Borneo 40,000 years ago. Niah Cave is sufficient evidence both scientifically (carbon dating) and historiographically that the original inhabitants of Borneo were Dayaks from nowhere else (Masri, 2022).

Niah cave: The residence and settlement of the indigenous people of Borneo, the ancestors of the Dayak people. Image source: Charles Tyler (1993)

The illustration below shows Niah Cave. A historical locus proving that the ancestors of the Dayak ethnic group were the original inhabitants of the island of Borneo. Today, the inhabitants of Niah Cave belong to the Iban ethnic group.

Then there is Edwin Gomes, Evans H.N. Ivor, King, Hogendorp as historical supporting references. The Dayak have inhabited Borneo for 40,000 years.

Since when have the Dayak been known to the world as an ethnic group?

The first labeling as “Dajak”
The answer to that question varies, depending on the milestone used as a reference.

From various historical milestones, it seems that we agree that the formation of the first identity of the native inhabitants of Varuna-dvipa, later referred to by European travelers and writers as “Borneo,” occurred in 1757.

The term “Dajak” was first coined by the controller Banjarmasin, J.A. Hogendorf in 1757 to collectively refer to the native people of Borneo. 

The term corresponds to the Dutch vocabulary “binnenland,” which means: the indigenous people here in this place since ancient times, as opposed to newcomers.

Later, the native inhabitants of Borneo were referred to as “binnenlander,” referring to the upstream people, living in the interior rather than the coast, rural people, or the inhabitants of Borneo since ancient times.

That was the initial sense of Dayak. An actual description. Namely, a labeling that leads to the classification of ethnic groups on the third-largest island in the world after Greenland and Papua.

Dayaks are not from anywhere. Not from Yunan. Let alone from other parts of the world. The Dayak are the indigenous inhabitants of Borneo. The claim that three authors make, stating that Dayaks are from Yunan, is doubtful to be proven: Where is the Chinese village/Chinatown? Who was the first Chinese migrant to set foot on the island of Borneo? In what year did immigrants from Yunan land in Borneo?

We can continue with other labels about the Dayak. David Jenkins and Guy Sacerdoty in the Far Eastern Economic Review (1978) describe the Dayak people as “the legendary wild man of Borneo.”

Meanwhile, Jan Ave and Victor King (1985) depict the native inhabitants of Borneo as “the people of the weaving forest.” This is indeed a depiction of that era that can be quite frustrating if the Dayak people were as they are today, already proficient in reading and writing besides being literate.

Labeling: From Curse to Blessing
Now, the forests of Borneo provide life and livelihood, the largest contribution to the world, including Ave and King’s home country.

Then, Carl Bock, a Norwegian naturalist and explorer, labeled the Dayak people as “head hunters of Borneo” in 1881.

In certain parts of his book, we see that what Bock labeled is actually part of the true labeling. It might even be the first labeling in the history of Dayak until today.

Borneo’s Forests Give Life
Bock’s book, written based on prejudice and a Western perspective, became the beginning of the portrayal of the Dayak that spread worldwide.

Today, we can label contemporary Dayak people as inhabitants of an island created by God, smiling, beautiful in its time, pushed to the land when rivers and coasts became centers of culture and economy in the kingdom era, and during the plantation and mining era, they became wealthy thanks to labels, specifically what I call “ascription” as: inland, rural, upriver people, binnenlander; and various ascriptions from the past that were minor but are now blessings.

If, in the past, the Dayak did not settle on land, how could they have such abundant ancestral land, including customary land? At the very least, a Dayak family in villages owns 2 hectares of land!

History can then take a turn. What was once a curse is now a blessing. What was once demeaning is now a source of pride. Being inland, rural, making the indigenous people of Borneo own extensive land—customary land—before Indonesia’s independence. What was once labeling, with a tone of insult, should not even be attempted now.

Praise for Its Population
The global Dayak population, with about 600 sub-tribes (not just 405 according to past researchers), is no less than 8 million people.

During the New Order era, the central government’s Transmigration Program imposed political power. At that time, the Dayak had no power to refuse, unlike today when they can protest.

As a program, Transmigration was only beneficial for 10% of the population. Just imagine! Facilities were provided for transmigrants. Land was given certificates. Meanwhile, the native population was not treated the same way.

Furthermore, the Transmigration Program further marginalized the Dayak. For example, in East Kalimantan, the majority of the population is non-Dayak. This has had extraordinary effects on politics, economics, society, and the foundations of life. This is the gradual impact.

Majority is a Must
Thus, in terms of population, the Dayak must be the majority in their ancestral land that has been preserved for tens of thousands of years. The Family Planning Program has increasingly dwarfed the Dayak ethnicity. While in Bogor, for example, not far from Jakarta, one couple can have more than 3 children.

Tracing the history of Kalimantan over the years is truly fascinating. The third-largest island in the world, Borneo has a rich and complex history reflected in its various names used over time.

One interesting early historical reference is Poerbatjaraka’s notes, where Tanjungpura takes the spotlight. However, the island’s historical footprint extends far beyond that.

Over time, Kalimantan has become a center of civilization, trade, and exploration.

According to the Sumpah Palapa, part of the Carita Parahyangan manuscript containing promises from Prabu Hayam Wuruk, the Majapahit king in the 14th century, there is a reference to Kalimantan: “… Tanjungpura as well.” This indicates that Tanjungpura played a significant role in the geopolitical context at that time.

In the past, Varuna-dvipa became a magnet for explorers, traders, and colonizers from various parts of the world.

Its natural wealth, such as spices and forest products, made it an attractive destination for European powers in their colonial expansion. Various countries such as the Netherlands, England, and the Brunei Kingdom were involved in competition to control the region and its resources.

Variations in the Name Kalimantan
The dynamics of the island of Kalimantan are also reflected in the variations of names attached to it. Names like Borneo, commonly used today, come from historical and geographical terms used by European colonizers and sailors.

Previous names, including Kalimantan and Tanjungpura, carry deeper meanings, referring to the rich cultural and historical heritage of the island.

As time passes, Kalimantan continues to undergo transformation. Population growth, urbanization, and environmental changes have significantly shaped the face of the island.

Modern industries, such as mining and palm oil plantations, have had a significant impact on the environment and local communities. However, awareness of the importance of sustainability and the preservation of cultural heritage is increasing, creating a movement to maintain the integrity of the island amidst the changing times.

In observing the dynamics of Kalimantan over the years, we not only witness the physical and social changes of the island. But we also witness how its historical legacy continues to live on in names, cultures, and identities.

This island, inviting curiosity and admiration, continues to call us. To understand its long journey filled with meaning and value.

Prehistory of Borneo: Blust’s Research and Contribution

Blust, a historian and scientist, played a key role in early prehistoric research on Borneo.

His primary focus involved the first humans inhabiting Borneo, the topography of the region, the role of iron ore (as a key element in civilization development), and its connection to linguistic studies.

In investigating the first humans in Borneo, Blust attempted to unravel the mysteries of the island’s early history. By understanding human interactions with their environment, he detailed the crucial role of Borneo’s topography in shaping migration patterns and societal development on the island.

Borneo Island, the third-largest island in the world, has tilted over time. Illustration: special.

History of iron use in the Austronesian world has long been a puzzle. While archaeological evidence for iron processing is not older than 200-500 BCE (Bellwood 1997: 28), comparative linguistic data suggests much older knowledge of iron (Blust 1976).

As noted by Blust (1999), the discrepancy between these two lines of evidence cannot be fully explained because knowledge of iron does not always equate to knowledge of iron processing.

Blust examined loanwords reflecting significant changes in the use of iron by Austronesian societies in southwest Borneo during the first two or three centuries BCE. Although the specific area of “southwest Borneo” is not precisely defined, it is believed to be related to the spread of Malayo-Chamic languages between the Sarawak and Kapuas Rivers, extending to Tanjung Puting or its vicinity.

It’s important to note that Blust’s attention to iron ore goes beyond its technological aspects to its impact as a milestone in civilization. In this context, Blust investigated how knowledge of iron and its usage shaped the development of Borneo’s society, laying the foundation for further exploration into technology and economic development on the island.

Furthermore, Blust brought a linguistic dimension into the context of prehistoric Borneo. Through language and loanword studies, he provided profound insights into the relationship between linguistic changes and cultural development in Borneo.

This understanding allows us to appreciate not only the material life but also the intellectual and linguistic heritage left by prehistoric Borneo’s people.

With his comprehensive research and interdisciplinary approach, Blust made valuable contributions to depicting the historical and cultural landscape of prehistoric Borneo. His works have become a crucial foundation for further research and a deeper understanding of the long journey of humanity and civilization on this island.

Borneo is Older than Formosa (Taiwan)
The history of iron use by Austronesian societies in Taiwan around 3500-4000 BCE has long been a mystery. Although archaeological evidence indicates that iron processing began around 200-500 BCE, linguistic data suggests much older knowledge of iron.

Borneo, with its potential significant role in the transition from iron knowledge to iron processing, raises interesting questions. The exceptional quality of iron ore in Borneo, as acknowledged by English colonial writers in the 1830s, provides a unique context for the development of iron technology.

The use of “Red Jackets” as symbolism reflects the possibility of earlier iron processing technology innovation in Borneo compared to other regions in the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Archaeological Evidence
Archaeological evidence for pre-iron processing activities, especially around Santubong in the Sarawak River delta from the 10th to 13th centuries, presents a question mark. Although these sites were previously considered places for extracting local materials by colonial writers, this interpretation is challenged by Christie (1988), who sees them as practices consistent with the native Dayak population.

However, the main challenge is the lack of archaeological data on the early iron production period in Borneo.

Linguistic data provides an impressive picture, connecting pre-iron processing technology innovation in the southwest Borneo region with specific linguistic communities in the first two or three centuries BCE.

Thus, history and linguistics together create a narrative of the long journey from knowledge of iron to iron processing expertise in Borneo, a trace that should not be forgotten.

Book Unveiling the Veil of Hindu-Indian Colony History in Varunadvipa (Kalimantan).

This book, although brief, extensively discusses Hindu Indian colonization in Borneo. It notes the traces of Hindu-Indian influence that named Kalimantan, before it was called Borneo by Westerners, as Varunadvipa.

Data about this book: ISBN: 9789383142347, 9383142340 Page count: 420 Format: Paperback Publisher: Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad Language: English.

Varunadvipa is called so because it is an island surrounded by a thousand rivers and abundantly rich. It is guarded and maintained by the noble water goddess.

Borneo, home to the Dayak ethnic group with a population of no less than 8 million, has historical traces of Hindu-Indian influence in Muara Kaman, East Kalimantan, dating back to around the 4th or 5th century CE.

One intriguing aspect of Borneo’s history is the Hindu colonization that influenced the region since ancient times.

Varuna-dvipa: Borneo during Hindu Indian Influence
An interesting aspect of Hindu history in Borneo is the use of the name Varunadvipa to refer to the island.

Varunadvipa is a Sanskrit term that can be translated as “Island of Varuna.”

This name reflects the strong Hindu cultural influence in this region in the past. Ancient inscriptions reveal the use of this name, indicating the significance of Hindu identity in the island’s history.

The earliest evidence of Hindu colonization in Borneo is found in ancient inscriptions dating around 400 CE. These inscriptions provide valuable information about the social and political structure at that time, as well as the religious practices of Hindu society in Borneo.

One example of these inscriptions refers to King Mula-varman, the son of Asva-varman and the grandson of King Kundunga. 

The inscriptions note that Mula-varman performed many Hindu sacrifices, emphasizing the importance of Hinduism in Borneo’s society at that time. These inscriptions also provide clues about the political organization and governance system in the region.

The inscription of Yupa reads as follows:

srimatah sri-narendrasya; kundungasya
mahatmanah; putro svavarmmo vikhyatah;
vansakartta yathansuman; tasya putra
mahatmanah; trayas traya ivagnayah; tesan
trayanam pravarah; tapo-bala-damanvitah;
sri mulavarmma rajendro; yastva
bahusuvarnnakam; tasya yajnasya yupo
yam; dvijendrais samprakalpitah.

The son of the Noble King Sri-narendra Kundungasya, renowned as Svavarmma, a founder of the famous Suman dynasty, and the son of their great ancestors, who established thirty-three lineages, distinguished and powerful in self-purification. This is the yupa of the noble yajna established by prominent Brahmins.

Hinduism not only influenced the religious aspects of Brunei in the past but also shaped its culture and identity. One prominent example is the use of the title “Seri Bhagwan” by the Sultan of Brunei, meaning “Almighty God.”

This title reflects the influence of Hinduism on the power structure and political authority in Brunei. It is a concrete example of how Hinduism impacted important institutions in the country.

In addition, Hindu art and architecture also strongly influence the art and culture of Brunei. Ancient Hindu temples and their reliefs, still found in several places in Brunei, are tangible evidence of this heritage. They depict epic stories from Hindu mythology and illustrate how deeply this religion has permeated the daily lives of Brunei’s people in the past.

Although Hinduism is no longer the majority religion in Brunei, and many of its people now practice Islam, the influence of Hinduism is still felt in various aspects of daily life.

Place names, specific traditions, and even some religious practices still have roots in the Hindu heritage. This is evidence of the continued influence of this religion over the centuries.

The Hindu colonization of Borneo, or Varunadvipa, is an important part of Brunei’s history that is often overlooked. Archaeological evidence and ancient inscriptions reveal the strong influence of Hinduism in shaping the culture and identity of Brunei in the past. Although this religion is no longer the majority in the country, its influence is still felt to this day.

In the book, the author emphasizes the importance of understanding the cultural and scientific contributions of India to world history. In the context of Hindu colonization in Borneo, we can see an important example of how Indian culture and Hinduism have made significant contributions to shaping the history and identity of a region. The most detailed discussion about Varunadvipa, the name for Kalimantan before it became Borneo, is found on page 298 of this book.

It is important for us to appreciate and understand this complex history. Understanding the influence of Hinduism on the island, which later, during the colonial era, was called “Borneo,” helps us appreciate the cultural and religious diversity on the world’s largest island. It also reveals a part of its history that is often forgotten.

High-level cultural politics Carbon dating results, inscribed stones, and Yupa inscriptions are historical evidence that supports the general statement (common truth) of this narrative. On the contrary, the statement that the Dayaks who left the island are considered non-Dayaks shows a nuance of “cultural politics” aimed at building the opinion that the origins of the Dayak ethnic group are not native to Borneo.

It is important to remember that the history and ethnic identity can have varying interpretations, and this view may reflect a specific perspective. The tendency to emphasize cultural continuity as an element of ethnic identity can be a common theme in history and anthropology.

It is important to note that the concept of ethnic identity is complex and often involves various factors, including history, culture, language, and social experiences.

Debates about origins and ethnic identity often reflect the complexity of relationships between human groups in various regions.

Now, most historians, scholars, academics, researchers, and writers agree with the title of this narrative: Dayaks are not from anywhere else but native to Borneo.

Be cautious with framing and post-truth As a closing statement: Be cautious with framing or claims that state, “Dayaks are from Yunan.”

Over time, this misleading statement (although it cannot be proven scientifically, for example: who were the figures/migrants? where exactly did they come from? in which year? where did they land? where is their Chinatown? what were the events?) may become a post-truth: So don’t say you (Dayaks) are indigenous, indigenous people, legitimate heirs, of the Borneo island! You are also newcomers, just like us!”

Is that what you want? Don’t let history lose! So: Dayaks must write from within!

(Masri Sareb Putra, M.A. –based on the results of literature research, document studies, and two weeks of delving into books and studying hundreds of references related to the topic at the National Library, Jalan Medan Merdeka, Jakarta. This article was previously published on

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