Digging into Kedah’s past


Delegates having a closer look at the ancient furnace used to smelt iron at the site.

COME and try your hand at smelting iron or making bricks, using 2,000-year techniques.

The technology may be basic now but in ancient times, raising furnace temperatures up to 1,200@ Celcius was very ‘high-tech’.

The Old Kedah Festival at the Sungai Batu archaeology site 15km from Sungai Petani in Kedah will give people a glimpse of an ancient civilisation.

The festival runs from now till Monday, 8am to 5.30pm, and a carnival atmosphere has descended on this usually quiet site.

There are also opportunities for visitors to try archaeological excavations, drilling and geophysics mapping.

“There was once a river flowing through here that was about 200m wide and there were 12 brick jetties where merchants came to buy iron smelted in the numerous furnaces here,” said archaeologist Prof Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin.

Kedah Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Rawi Abdul Hamid, who launched the festival, said the state government would write to the Cabinet to seek the RM1mil needed to excavate the remains of a shipwreck trapped 15m underground in the site’s paleo river.

“The archaeology team managed to unearth only a 5.5m masthead and several iron nails 20cm long.

“Because of the swampy earth and high water table of the paleo river, we will need extensive civil engineering work,” he said.

Mohd Rawi also announced that the state would make the festival an annual affair.

“While Malaysia is rich in heritage as a whole, Kedah is proud to have a large piece of proto-history.

“A civilisation existed here long before our forefathers appeared and we are proud to be the ones to preserve the remnants.”

The Old Kedah International Conference, an assembly of more than 20 of the top archaeologists in the world, is also happening in Sungai Petani in conjunction with the festival.

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