By ANNE HASLAM
SUNGAI PETANI: The significance of the recently unearthed prehistoric buildings in Sungai Batu in Bujang Valley has been boosted by findings of ancient writings, which proved that a civilisation existed here from as early as the first century.
Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said Sanskrit Pallava inscriptions found on bricks indicated that the civilisation and buildings in Sungai Batu pre-dated other prominent ancient monuments like the Borobudur and Angkor Wat, which were built in the 8th and 12th centuries respectively.
“The Sungai Batu excavation site comprises an area for religious ceremonies, a jetty and a smelting factory, which had been in existence before other ancient monuments in South-East Asia came up, making this of greater historical importance to both the country and the world.
“There are indications that the site was not only used for religious purposes but also for commercial activities like iron smelting. The jetty, used for transportation, also warrants further research,” he added.
Dr Rais said all authorities should embark on a more concerted app-roach to conserving and carrying out in-depth studies on the site in light of the findings, and the tremendous research and tourism potential these offered.
He said Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre of Global Archaelogical Research, which was conducting the excavation with the National Heri-tage Department and other local and foreign experts, would be consulted on plans to develop the area.
A government committee would also be formed to come up with the plans, he told reporters after visiting the excavation sites in Sungai Batu I and Sungai Batu II covering three sq km in an oil palm plantation in Jalan Lencongan Merbok.
Plantation owner Teoh Guang Huat, 79, was present to greet the minister.
Dr Rais said he would also bring up the matter of further funding with the Prime Minister.
Excavation work began on Feb 1 last year with an approved grant of RM2.3mil by the ministry. The site has yet to be gazetted as the Bujang Valley Heritage Park.
The Bujang Valley consists of almost 300sq km of land from Gunung Jerai to Sungai Muda.
Captain James Low first identified the Bujang Valley civilisation after discovering more than 20 temples in Kampung Bujang in 1840.
Research and excavation activities found that Bujang Valley was the main port in South-East Asia from the 5th century to the 13th century A.D.