KOTA TINGGI: He has gone on many excavations along the Johor River to unearth artefacts but the search for the mysterious lost city of Johor has become a life’s mission for Kamarudin Abdul Razak because, if found, it would be of great pride to his home state.
“It is a mission for me because Johor has never been considered a truly historical state, especially in having an early beginning, unlike other states like Kedah.
“And Johor will become important in the country's history if this lost city is found. I want to prove that this city existed before the Malacca Sultanate as mentioned in the Sejarah Melayu,” said the Johor Heritage Foundation (Yayasan Warisan Johor) museum division head in an interview.
Independent researcher Raimy Che Ross believes he may have located the lost city of Kota Gelanggi through studying old Malay manuscripts, aerial photographs and a preliminary ground search.
Kamarudin said he had read Raimy’s article about Kota Gelanggi’s possible location published in the latest issue of the Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.
Once the foundation verified the possible location, it would put together a ground expedition in collaboration with other relevant authorities, Kamarudin said.
Kamarudin, who hails from Muar, quit his job at the Department of Museums and Antiquities and joined the foundation in 1995. He holds a degree in archaeology from Universiti Udayana in Bali and earned his Master's from Universiti Malaya.
Kamarudin said he decided to return to Johor because he wanted to develop archaeology in the state as it was uncharteed territory.
Since his return, he and archaeologist Prof Datuk Dr Nik Hassan Suhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman and others from the foundation have gone on archaeological digs along the Johor River at Panchur, Johor Lama and Sayong Pinang, among others.
“The first expedition I took was to survey (the area) from the mouth of the river right up to Sayong Pinang. We identified 14 sites but have only excavated three so far. Our team usually has about 15 to 20 people. Sometimes, UKM (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) students and officers from other state museums also come along.
“There are times when we employ locals to help us,” he said.
Among the artefacts that have been found are porcelain items from the Chinese dynasties like the Soong, Ming and Qing, and from Thailand, Khmer and Vietnam.
Earthenware with carvings believed to be from the 11th century have also been located.
“But we need to carry out more tests to verify this. We hope to find sites that are dated earlier, and if we find Klang Kiu it will be 'the project.' I am excited about it,” he said.
On the artefacts, he said the sites where they were found were possibly small settlements where ships anchored.
“The artefacts prove that there was contact with the outside world and we have Chinese porcelain ware, which are of 'high quality' meaning that the foreigners had presented them to the local leaders,” he added.
Of his excavations, he said the most memorable thing that happened was having local villagers tell him off because they thought he was looking for sites to ask for “lucky numbers.”
“They thought I wanted to get nombor ekor (betting numbers) from these sites, especially when I start asking about gravesites. They tell me to leave the area, but I usually keep my cool and tell them of my intentions, which is to carry out a dig.
“When they understand this, they will usually take me to the place,” he added.
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