Published: Friday July 23, 2010 MYT 7:34:00 PM
Bujang Valley to be nominated as a world heritage site
KUALA LUMPUR: Within the next year or two, the latest archeological site discovered at Bujang Valley in Kedah, the evidence of the earliest civilisation in Southeast Asia, will be nominated to be a world heritage site.
Universiti Sains Malaysia's (USM) Global Archeological Research Centre Director (PPAG) Director Prof Dr Mohd Mokhtar Saidin said Malaysians should be proud with this newest discovery as it provided strong evidence of an earlier civilisation complete with a structured social strata plus the advanced know-how.
He said the discovery, a joint effort by USM and Information Communication and Culture Ministry, discovered artefacts and sites of earlier civilisation at Sungai Batu in the valley.
At 10 of the 87 sites excavated, researchers discovered two iron-smelting furnaces, three jetties built near the river and a still-intact building believed to be used for rituals apart from several other structures that included the remnants of a store and hall.
Dr Mohd Mokhtar said this at the recent International Conference on Bujang Valley and Early Civilisation in Southeast Asia here.
"In terms of geology, there was a lot of iron at the foot of Gunung Jerai. Hence the people at that time carried the iron ore for some 2.0 km to Sungai Batu to be smelted.
"Among people in the society (in the earlier civilisation), there were miners and labourers who worked at the smelting furnaces apart from constructing the buildings. If there was construction then there were also architects as the buildings were properly built.
"This indicated a well-structured society. There must have been a headman and engineers to be able to build such structures. Just imagine that these were already available during the first century and the people had advanced technology (at that time)," he said.
According to Dr Mohd Mokhtar, after he received a proposal from the ministry, he devised a method to measure the ancient sea, river and lake water level in order to determine the existence of the early civilisation there.
Dr Mohd Mokhtar's research revealed that in the first, second and third centuries, the higher sea level had submerged sites of the earlier civilisation.
"And I discovered that the earliest site is at Sungai Batu and I went there. I was right as there were bricks in the soil surface at the oil palm estate there. "We made an exploration and we found (artefacts) that dated back to the early first century. In all, there are 87 sites within four square km," he said.
Dr Mohd Mokhtar and his excavation team comprising students and staff of USM's PPAG began the excavation on Feb 1, 2009 after receiving RM5 million grant from the National Heritage Department and Higher Education Ministry.
They began digging and their exploration work involved 87 sites where excavation at 10 spots was completed.
Dr Mohd Mokhtar said to verify and 'validate' the discovery, foreign experts were invited to view for themselves the artefacts and archeological sites.
"We have brought the conference's participants to visit the site on July 4 and they were indeed surprised to know that Malaysia has evidence of the earliest civilisation in Southeast Asia".
He said findings at the 10 excavated sites showed that the structure found were used for religious rituals.
At that time, the civilisation was believed to have practised animism and worshipped Gunung Jerai as the structure was built facing the mountain.
"In the first, second and third centuries, they (did not have religion) and worshipped the surroundings or practise animism.
“From there onwards we can see the development, before the arrival of Hinduism and Buddhism. Then in the fourth and fifth centuries, they embraced Hinduism and Buddhism.
"Finally in the ninth century, the locals became Muslims," he said.
BUJANG VALLEY CIVILISATION
"However in the Bujang Valley civilisation, the society there had reached civilisation and they already acquired garments, education apart from a social structure," he said.
Dr Mohd Mokhtar said members of the archeological and excavation team would continue with their research to look for other evidence of civilisation there.
"We have only excavated 10 sites, we are looking for other evidence (like) where are the graves? When we find the graves and excavate them, then we will know how the people were.
"We are also looking for their settlement...like how big was their village and whether the people had lived separately from their leaders and so forth".
The International Conference on Bujang Valley and Early Civilisation in Southeast Asia was held on July 5-7.
Some 100 participants including archealogists from 11 countries India, United States, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, Myanmar and United Kingdom attended the conference.
A total of 28 working papers on the early civilisation in Southeast Asia, India and China were discussed during the three-day conference. - Bernama