ALOR SETAR: Two near-perfect statues and an ancient inscription in Pallava have been discovered during an archaeological excavation at the Bukit Choras Archaeological Site in Yan here.
The discovery by the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Centre for Global Archaeological Research (CGAR) and the National Heritage Department (NHD) took place during excavation and research works at the summit of Bukit Choras between Aug 28 and Sept 12.
USM CGAR senior lecturer Dr Nasha Rodziadi Khaw, who led the excavation works, said the finds from the temple site could date back to around the eighth or ninth century AD, which is the same as most of the temple sites in the Bujang Valley, and the development period of the Srivijaya Empire.
Pallava refers to a dynasty of south India, flourishing around the sixth to eighth century AD. It also had a writing system which spawned almost all the language scripts in South-East Asia.
"The uniqueness of the temple at this archaeological site is firstly how it has been preserved, we can see that the condition of the walls in the north, west and south areas are well-preserved.
"Secondly, we found two human-sized structures made out of stucco... and the discovery of stucco has not been reported in the Bujang Valley but only in Sumatra and Java," Nasha said at a press conference on Friday (Sept 22).
The Bukit Choras Archaeological Site, which was designated as a heritage site under the National Heritage Act 2005 in December 2016, has now proven its historical significance beyond doubt.
This collaborative project, initiated following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NHD and public universities, has brought to light previously hidden treasures.
Nasha said based on preliminary research, there is a similarity between the temple architecture in Bukit Choras and that of temples in West Java and Sumatra, at the same time raising questions about the cultural relationship between Kedah Tua and other sites in South-East Asia.
He said the temple is estimated to measure nine square metres but the actual size can only be confirmed after the excavation work is done, which is currently at 40% completion.
He said the Bukit Choras Archaeological Site is considered to be special due to its isolated position north of Gunung Jerai, whereas the other archaeological sites in the Bujang Valley are mostly situated south of Gunung Jerai in the areas around Sungai Merbok and Sungai Muda.
He, however, said his team still needed time to do more research, perhaps over several years, and this must be done on-site before any conclusion can be made about the ancient site.
He also hoped his team can provide more information and data to add value to the history of Kedah Tua.
He added that the temple is also the biggest ever found in the Bujang Valley and it had interesting architecture.
USM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Mohamed said the university would continue working with NHD to carry out more excavation works at archaeological sites to further expand archaeo-tourism products.
He said the research team had been conducting excavations at the sites in Bujang Valley since 10 years ago with funds from the Higher Education Ministry.