Evidence for iron smelting discovered in Malaysia

New discoveries from the Bujang Valley, an hour away from Penang. While the news seems to stress on the 300 CE date of the Bujang Valley complex, this news isn’t actually new – what is significant about the find is the presence of apparently non-religious structures, particularly one used for metalworking. Until now, there has been little evidence for local metalworking in Malaysia for this period. This current investigation is part of a larger project to turn the bujang Valley into a heritage park. Oh, and there’s been a name change: the Centre for Archaeology Research, Malaysia is now the Global Centre for Archaeology Research.

Archaeologists find prehistoric building
Bernama, 04 March 2009

Civilisation dating back 300 A.D. found

The Sun, 04 March 2009

More sites of Bujang Kingdom
New Straits Times, 05 March 2009

After a month-long excavation, the archaeological team from the Universiti sains Malaysia Centre for Global Archaeological Research (PPAG) which was led by its director, Prof Dr Mokhtar Saidin, established that the sites were a building and an iron smelting site.

The team also proved that the sites existed in the 3rd century AD.

A sample of coal dug from the iron smelting site was dated to that time by the United States-based laboratory, Beta Analytic Inc in Florida, using carbon dating technology.
“We believe we have uncovered the other components of the Lembah Bujang kingdom, after the discovery of Hindu and Buddhist worshipping sites in the 1890s,” Mokhtar said at the site yesterday.

He said the first site could be a building, suggesting that it might have been a housing or an administration centre, while the iron smelting site established that industrial activity existed in early Lembah Bujang history.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

7 thoughts on “Evidence for iron smelting discovered in Malaysia”

  1. Why the name change from Centre for Archaeology Research, Malaysia to the Global Centre for Archaeology Research???
    Are they branching out to world archaeology?

  2. From what i know, they were saying that the centre now is so-called “global” because it contributes to global archaeology as a whole, especially with the supposed finding of the 1.8 million years old hand axe. it doesnt mean that the centre will now be conducting research worldwide.

    that’s as far as i know;) and this doesnt necessarily mean that i agree with the whole name upgrade thing.

  3. This is maybe only indirectly connected. Anyway, some of you may have heard of a Bengali prince named Buddhagupta (also titled “Mahanavika”, meaning “Great Mariner”) who founded an ancient kingdom in northern Malaya which he named Raktamarittika (Red Earth) after his hometown. The Chinese then called it Chi Tu. This Chi Tu (Tanah Merah) is believed to have been located either in Kedah, Southern Thailand or Kelantan. Or maybe he founded 3 kingdoms in 3 places n named them all with the same name. Not impossible.

    Anyway, I have recently come across info leading me to suspect that this Prince Buddhagupta could possibly have been King Buddhagupta-raja, who another scholar (Indian) believes is a title of Skandagupta, among the bravest n most successful kings of the Gupta dynasty in the Magadha-Bengal region around the mid 5th century AD.

    Your comment?

  4. Buddhagupta was a trader not a Prince and did not establish any state in Malay peninsular. It’s a wishful thinking but definitely does not base on any facts. Malay has a very long history and chain of Kings in all over the IndoChina, Sri Lanka even in south India. Buddhagupta was not known in any of Malay tradition. Malay has long establish ancient Malay ruling class and various Malay city states taht thrives on trading with the rest of the world. Not limited to India and China but went as far as Africa (Madagascar & Egypt) and also Russia & Japan. Read the discovery of ancient keris in Okinawa and also the discovery of submerged pyramid near Okinawa which has incsriptions bearing the ancient Malay scripts and ancient Malay language. The inscription actually to commemorate his thanksgiving having a safe journey to Malay city state in Malay Peninsular. A Sailendra Malay dynasty Maharaja actually instructed the workers in Nalanda University to inscript his name, very proudly as King, and his dynasty on a copper plate with Nalanda University official emblem as a memorial in a foreign land.

  5. Buddha-Gupta Inscription

    Period: 4th-5th Century CE
    Found in: Seberang Perai, Malaysia
    Material: Stone
    Present Location: National Museum, Calcutta, India

    This stone was set up in Seberang Prai, Malaysia around 400 CE by an Indian Merchant, Buddha Gupta, as an expression of gratitude for his safe arrival after a voyage from India. The Buddha-Gupta stone inscription in Sanskrit using Pallava script is important evidence of the existence of Indian trade relations with Southeast Asia during the 4th to 5th Centuries CE.

    This inscription mentions a sea captain (mahanavika in Sanskrit) named Buddha-Gupta. The inscription prays for a safe voyage from the Red Earth Land (Raktamrttika). Chinese sources refer to this kingdom as Chi-tu, possibly located on the east coast of peninsular Thailand.

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