Don: Grim future for local archaeology grads

THOSE with a master’s degree or PhD in Archaeology tend to have limited job prospects in Malaysia despite the country’s wealth of archaeological sites and related scientific labs.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Global Archaeology Research Centre director Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Mokhtar Saidin said Malaysia had uncovered a lot of archaeological sites over the years but career prospects for archaeologists remained dim.

“We have the sites, we have a first-rate scientific lab and we have the expertise.

“The public, especially the young, has also shown growing interest in archaeology.

“However, where can archaeologists go after they graduate?” Dr Mohd Mokhtar told a press conference after his public lecture at Dewan Budaya USM recently.

His colleague Prof Dr Stephen Chia Ming Soon from the same research centre agreed with him.

Dr Chia said laws that protect historically vital sites in other countries were stricter compared with Malaysia.

“If we can make our laws stricter, especially in areas of archaeological heritage such as Lembah Bujang and Lenggong, it would be great.

“The Heritage Department in Japan has a master plan, which we do not have in Malaysia.

“The master plan is important so that all archaeological sites in the country can be listed. This is crucial for developers to know if their sites are cleared for development.

“In developed countries, archaeologists are needed to approve development plans after vetting through the areas planned for development.

“This helps to enhance the role of archaeologists in protecting our heritage,” he said.

Dr Mokhtar said USM was pushing for the concept of ‘archaeo-tourism’ to promote domestic archaeological sites.

“The Borobudur temple, Angkor Wat and the Machu Pichu are tourism products. We want our archaeological sites to be tourism products as well.

“However, site management which includes conservation and preservation is important,” he said.

Dr Chia said archaeo-tourism could help increase the job prospects of archaeologists.

“We can train them and employ them to be guides at these sites,” he said.

In the public lecture, Dr Mokhtar spoke on the meteorite strike 1.83 million years ago at Bukit Bunuh near Lenggong, Perak, and the uniqueness of Sungai Batu in Lembah Bujang, Kedah, believed to be the earliest civilisation in South-East Asia.

Dr Chia presented a paper on the development of archaeology in Malaysia, as well as the challenges and future of archaeology.