Unearthing ancient treasures in Kota Tinggi


Kota Tinggi is known as a historical district in Johor as it was the location of the old Johor Sultanate known as Johor Lama.

Collector basks in artefacts found in forests, on riverbanks at site of old Johor Sultanate

IF YOU happen to be in Kota Tinggi, take a good look at your surroundings as you may find lost treasure right under your nose.

The largest district in Johor has always been known as a historical area where if you are lucky, you may come across some rare artefacts.

ALSO READ: Keeper of Johor’s rich culture and heritage

Mohd Faris Johari is a collector who has spent most of his life looking for items connected to Johor’s history.

“I have amassed more than 10,000 historical items, including artefacts, mostly from Kota Tinggi where I was born.

Some of the artefacts and items displayed at Galeri Sejarah Johor located in Johor Baru city centre.Some of the artefacts and items displayed at Galeri Sejarah Johor located in Johor Baru city centre.

“Kota Tinggi is a special place for collectors because it is where Johor’s history started almost 500 years ago,” he told StarMetro.

Mohd Faris, who is also Johor chapter of the Malaysia History Association committee member, added that the old Johor Sultanate was founded there.

“After the fall of the Melaka Sultanate, Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II relocated to Johor Lama, Kota Tinggi, which marked the start of the old Johor Sultanate in 1527.

“With the fall of Melaka to the Portuguese, Kota Tinggi became an important area as it had a fort to protect itself against the major powers and was also known as a trading hub.”

Mohd Faris said when the old Johor Sultanate ended, Kota Tinggi remained important.

“Johor’s first modern ruler, Almarhum Sultan Sir Abu Bakar, maintained Kota Tinggi as a trading area.

Mohd Faris showing a gold coin exhibited at his Johor Baru city centre gallery, which also features gadgets including old typewriters (below).Mohd Faris showing a gold coin exhibited at his Johor Baru city centre gallery, which also features gadgets including old typewriters (below).

“Back then, Johor was known throughout the world for producing gambir and black pepper with huge demand from Europe.

“Knowing this, Sultan Abu Bakar appointed an official in Pulau Tanjung Surat to oversee the trade in these two items,” he added.

Mohd Faris said Pulau Tanjung Surat’s strategic location near Singapore made it easier for Johor to export gambir and black pepper.

He added that Kota Tinggi was an important battleground during World War II and many remnants could still be found in the area.

“People can still see bunkers along the road.

“In fact, during one of my trips to Pengerang last month, we found a 2km-long underground tunnel that might have been used by British forces,” he added.

Mohd Faris said because of its historical significance, the Kota Tinggi district still had a lot of treasures waiting to be unearthed.

He added that he found many artefacts in Kota Tinggi, especially along the riverbanks of Sungai Johor, from cannonballs dating over 500 years to gold coins and porcelain.

“I have a team of five, including a member who is an expert in reading old maps.

“Usually, local villagers will tell us when they find something of historical value.”

Mohd Faris added that his team would go into a forest or walk along riverbanks looking for evidence that the area previously had a settlement.

Mohd Faris holding a centuries-old cannonball he found in Sungai Johor, Kota TinggiMohd Faris holding a centuries-old cannonball he found in Sungai Johor, Kota Tinggi

“We look for proof such as pieces of pottery on the ground or oddly shaped rocks.

“Most of the time, we find something of interest,” he said, adding that his team also worked closely with public universities and related agencies.

“My focus is finding artefacts and items related to Johor as it is easier to get information on their origins,” he said.

He sends items to be verified either to the National Archives (Arkib Negara) or Muzium Negara.

Excavated items that are valuable or of historical value would be kept by the authorities.

Porcelain found in a Kota Tinggi forest hints to the area being a former settlement.Porcelain found in a Kota Tinggi forest hints to the area being a former settlement.

“The ones in my possession are what museums do not want,” he said.

Mohd Faris added that he opened Galeri Sejarah Johor last year in Johor Baru to display artefacts to the public.

Most visitors to the gallery, situated at a city centre shopping complex, comprise foreign tourists and schoolchildren who are keen to learn more about Johor’s history.

“I will display items that I found myself or those I bought from other collectors.

“Besides historical artefacts, I also have old gadgets such as camera, radio and even toys.”

Mohd Faris said there was no fee to enter his gallery as he wanted to educate people, especially the younger generation, that learning history was not only through books but could be through items as well.

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artefacts , Kota Tinggi , history , Johor , World War II

   

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