SUNGAI PETANI: The ancient ruins used by iron smelters and exporters who thrived in Bujang Valley between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago will be nominated for listing as a Unesco archaeological heritage site.
If successful, this would lead to a heritage park portraying an ancient civilisation that dominated South-east Asia about 1,000 years before the earliest sultans shaped the territories that formed present-day Malaysian states.
Heritage Commissioner Dr Zainah Ibrahim announced that a working committee would be formed to produce the nomination dossier to raise the Sungai Batu Archaeology Site to an international level.
“Chronometric dating suggests that Sungai Batu saw the earliest civilisation in South-east Asia, laid on the foundation of the iron smelting trade.
“With carbon dating evidence showing that the iron smelters had existed since 535BC, this puts the civilisation on par with the Roman era of 753BC to 420BC.
“Taking note that Borobudur in Indonesia was founded in 8AD and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat in 12AD, it points to Sungai Batu as the cradle of the South-east Asian civilisation,” she announced at the Old Kedah International Conference here yesterday.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz hailed the proposed nomination as the creation of a valuable archaeo-tourism product for Malaysia.
“After over 170 years of research from colonial times and by our Malaysian researchers, this is the time to introduce Bujang Valley, especially Sungai Batu, at the international level to give more input to world history,” he said in his speech which was read out by his deputy Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin.
State Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Rawi Abdul Hamid, who was present, said the listing, if successful, would include a 81ha buffer zone around Sungai Batu.
“The site proves that Kedah reached its heyday not only during the Hindu-Buddhist and Islam periods. Most Kedahans are not familiar with the pre-sultanate past but today we are proud to share this heritage,” he added.
Attended by about 300 participants, the conference which would end today saw 29 archaeologists and historians from 16 countries presenting papers that analysed Sungai Batu’s proto-history.
The papers covered 10 topics including the history of iron smelting to architecture and religion.