ALOR SETAR: Archaeologists have unearthed wrecks of ancient ships embedded in the mud of an ancient river which once flowed through the historical site of 'Kedah Tua', thousands of years ago.
The discovery was made at the Sungai Batu archaeological site, which appears to be the oldest civilisation in Southeast Asia.
Religious, Siamese Community Affairs, Tourism and Heritage, Public Works Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Rawi Abdul Hamid revealed the discovery in a recent interview.
"The archaeologists stumbled on between five and seven ancient ships or barges. The masts (of the ships) were still visible. The ancient ships or barges measure 40 to 50 feet in length.
"All this while, the archaeologists were conducting mangrove research in coastal areas, but with the use of satellite technology, were able to identify the exact location of the ancient river," he said.
Mohd Rawi said the ancient ships were discovered about a year ago but the researchers did not announce it.
The Sungai Batu archaeological site is located in an oil palm plantation near Sungai Petani, where researchers since 2009 had discovered various relics over 1,900 years old.
The site has been verified to be an older civilisation than Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Borobodur Temple in Indonesia, which were built in the ninth and 12th century, respectively.
According to Mohd Rawi, the wrecks of the ancient ships were found embedded in a swampy and muddy area at the archaeological site, which thousands of years ago was a deep and wide river.
On efforts to retrieve the ships, he said discussions should be held between the state and federal Governments, as well as agencies involved due to its expected high cost.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Global Archaeological Research Centre director Profesor Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin when contacted, confirmed the discovery of the ancient ships.
"We discovered the remnants of the ancient ships when conducting the geophysics analysis (in the Sungai Batu archaeological site). However, we need to do more research and analyses before a final decision can be reached," he said.
He did not rule out the ships to likely be the same age as the Sungai Batu civilisation itself.
Several archaeologists at the site described the discovery as among the most important historical finding so far.
Previously, the USM archaeological team had made some important discoveries such as iron smelting activities, port jetties and administrative buildings.
Nevertheless, the most important discovery was the circle-shaped monument which probably used for worship dating back to 110 AD or 1,900 years ago, by using the optically stimulated luminescence technique. - Bernama