Neolithic nuggets: Prof Mokhtar (left) getting help to carefully wrap the archaeological finds at the site in Guar Kepah, Kepala Batas, on the Penang mainland.
GEORGE TOWN: Construction of the Guar Kepah Archaeological Gallery in Guar Kepah, Kepala Batas, has been stopped indefinitely following the discovery of human skeletons, pottery items and shells believed to be from the Neolithic period at the site.
Contractors conducting the earthworks at the site discovered the skeletons at about 11am on Monday.
Archaeologist Prof Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin from the Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Global Archaeological Research (PPAG) said the backhoe of the excavator ‘touched’ less than 5% of the skeletons during the earthworks.
“Overall, the skeletons are still in good order. We found the top of a skull, ribs and a femur. Apart from that, we also found pottery items and shells.
“The discovery suggest that the finds are from of the Neolithic period. The pottery and shells were used as part of a burial ceremony,” he told a press conference at Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s office in Komtar yesterday.
Prof Mokhtar believed that the skeletons belonged to three individuals.
“According to the archaeological record in the 1840s, there were three layers of shell mound and was about 18m high in total.
“What we discovered now is the lowest layer of the shell mound, where the femur was found, just 70cm below ground,” he said, adding that the shell mound was no longer there when PPAG went to the site in 2010.
A team of USM researchers led by Prof Mokhtar will be conducting the research and excavation of the artefacts and skeletons over the next two weeks.
“The discovery can provide an insight into the Neolithic communities from about 5,000 years ago in Guar Kepah,” Prof Mokhtar said.
Lim said that earthworks to build the gallery would be stopped until further notice for PPAG to continue with the excavation of the artefacts.
“The state is concern and serious in preserving the archaeological finds. We have to ensure that the finds are well-protected.”
He added that the state had approved a RM20,000 allocation for the researchers to buy excavation tools and conduct an analysis of the site.
The state has given possession of the 0.96ha archaeological site to Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI), and allocated RM830,000 for the building of the Guar Kepah Archaeological Gallery.
It was reported that the gallery would be used to showcase the human settlements in Penang during the Stone Age.
In 2010, the state gave permission to PPAG to conduct their research at the site.
A contractor has been appointed via open tender to construct the gallery and initial works began at the site on March 14.
The contractor and PPAG started earthworks to build the gallery on Monday, when the artefacts and skeletons were found.