Saturday, 8 March 2014

Ancient Kedah Revisited - Part 1

"Lets meet up. Johnny Rockets @ Curve at 12pm" was the Whatsapp message I received from Azrin Zizal, the Media Officer of The Menteri Besar of Kedah (Chief Executive for the state government of Kedah), one of the northernmost states in the Peninsula of Malaysia. To cut a long story short, that 2 hour lunch meeting (over juicy burgers and choc smoothies) resulted in Azrin preparing a brilliant idea of promoting Sungai Batu in Merbok, Kedah not only as an ancient and historical site, but he also came up with a special programme for visitors to have hands-on experience of being an archaeologist. The green light was given by the Menteri Besar and invitations were sent to the mainstream media practitioners. I was privileged to be chosen as the only social media practitioner invited.

Sungai Batu is only one of the many archaeological sites within the Lembah Bujang (Bujang Valley) ancient city. Lembah Bujang sprawls across a 1,000 sq/km area and is the most expansive and oldest known civilization in the South East Asia. Recent findings have proven that the civilization started way back in the 5th century BC, or, in an easier to imagine description, more than 2,500 years old!

Ninety seven archaeological sites have been mapped by the Global Archaeological Research Centre of USM (Science University of Malaysia), the official body tasked to conduct research, excavation and preservation works at the location. Led by Prof. Dato’ Dr. Mokhtar Saidin, director of the research centre, excavation projects in Lembah Bujang has, thus far, uncovered 46 sites that comprise of iron smelting industry site, a trading port with 10 jetties, ritual sites and administration buildings.

On the said date, I reached the Sungai Batu archaeological complex at 4.30pm, got myself registered, had some refreshment and mingled with a few media friends. There were already some 100 odd information management undergraduate students from the nearby UITM Kedah campus that made up the most number of participants for the program. Azrin Zizal, being the director of the Early Kedah Civilisation Research Secretariat was also there to welcome the participants.

By 5.30pm, when most of the participants had registered and assembled themselves, Azrin Zizal made a short welcoming speech, followed by Prof. Dato’ Dr. Mokhtar Saidin’s brief on the history of Sungai Batu and introductions to the technical aspects of the ‘Jom Cari Kedah Tua’ program. Ending the briefing, we were told to convene at the same place the next day to start the excavation works at a totally new excavation site, saved exclusively for us! Now, that’s news. Site number 47 was about to be officially opened for excavation by a bunch of rookies! How’s that for an experience?

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