Don: Turn prehistoric site into museum to draw tourists

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  • Saturday, 05 Dec 2015

Participants taking closer look at the marine shells found scattering in Guar Kepah village, Seberang Prai, signalling coastal habitation during the mid-Holocene, around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.

AN ARCHAEOLOGIST of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) has proposed that Guar Kepah village, the state’s only prehistoric site in Seberang Prai, be turned into a tourist attraction.

Prof Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin said the state could set up a Guar Kepah Archaeological Museum to house the artefacts recovered from the site for the benefit of Penangites and tourists.

He said the site contained ancient shell middens or mounds sitting on sandy ridges, mollusc shells, stone tools, pottery, food remains and human bones.

The mounds of shells are believed to be ancient Neolithic burial sites.

He said studies, conducted since 1851 by both foreign and local researchers, had exposed significant evidence of coastal habitation during the mid-Holocene, around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.

“Since Guar Kepah is the first excavation site in the state, the village, measuring about 1sq km, is an ideal location for an archaeological museum to be set up.

“It is also recommended that human skeletal remains, which are currently kept in Leiden, Netherlands, be returned and housed in this museum,

“However, there is still a lot of paperwork to be done,” he said during the 1st IMT-GT (Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle) Archaeology Workshop at the site on Tuesday.

The director of USM’s Centre for Global Archaeological Research said archaeological evidence suggested that there were early communities in Seberang Prai before the arrival of Francis Light in 1786.

He said the evidence of early Neolithic communities dating between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago had been unearthed at the site.

“They lived by the sea which at that time, was five metres higher than the ground of the present-day level.

“They collected seashells, and were involved in hunting and gathering plants such as betels.

“They also used pottery and obtained fresh water from the Muda River and its tributaries,” he said.

Interestingly, Guar Kepah is also less than 10km from the Sungai Batu Archaeological Site in Kedah, where ancient shipwrecks buried in a swamp that was a river about 2,500 years ago were recently found.

Dr Mokhtar had earlier suggested that Guar Kepah, together with the George Town heritage enclave and the Sungai Batu Archaeological Site, could be formed as an archaeo-tourism product for the country.

He said Sungai Batu used to be an iron- smelting industry where iron ore, furnace, tuyere, iron slag and ingots from 535BC until the 17th century were found in over 10 sites.

They also discovered ancient shipwrecks, a port with 10 jetties, a ritual site for worship and administration structures near the jetties at the site.

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