[Talk] The Enigma Of Hindu-Buddhist Art In Ancient Kedah

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Readers in Kuala Lumpur may be interested in this talk about the Bujang Valley archaeological sites by Dr Nasha bin Rodziadi Khaw on 22 September. The talk will be held at ILHAM, a public art gallery.

The Bujang Valley has seen the discovery of archaeological remains that are believed to be related to the port of Ancient Kedah. Historical accounts and archaeological discoveries show that the area functioned as a trading point as well as a centre for iron production from the 2nd to 14th Century C.E. A significant number of artefacts relevant to Hindu-Buddhist art were also found, such as sculptures, shrines and inscriptions. Issues regarding the cultural origin of those remains, and questions of whether or not they were commissioned and made locally remain ambiguous. This presentation by Nasha Khaw will discuss the form and function of Hindu-Buddhist remains from Ancient Kedah, past opinions by scholars on their cultural origin, and present theories based on recent scholarship.

Source: The Enigma Of Hindu-Buddhist Art In Ancient Kedah: A Historical Discourse | ILHAM Kuala Lumpur

Orang asli barricades taken down, leaving forest open to logging

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Forestry Deparment Officer dismantle a Kalge blockade in the Gua Musang forests at Kuala Betis, Gua Musang Kelantan on August 27,2018.The Malaysian Insight/Afif Abd Halim

via The Malaysian Insight, 28 August 2018: Orang Asli (the original native peoples of Malaysia) in Kelantan lose a legal battle over recognition of traditional land rights, which will pave the way for logging and the destruction of the Orang Asli’s source of food.

Forestry Deparment Officer dismantle a Kalge blockade in the Gua Musang forests at Kuala Betis, Gua Musang Kelantan on August 27,2018.The Malaysian Insight/Afif Abd Halim

Forestry Deparment Officer dismantle a Kalge blockade in the Gua Musang forests at Kuala Betis, Gua Musang Kelantan on August 27,2018.The Malaysian Insight/Afif Abd Halim

As the nation counts down to Merdeka, the Orang Asli in Gua Musang do not feel like they are equal citizens despite being the oldest residents of the land that is now called Malaysia.

This is because their claims to tribal lands that they have used for generations are still not recognised by the Kelantan government.

Yesterday, they were dealt another blow to that fight for their rights when the blockades they erected to protect their land claims were destroyed by state government agencies.

After being up for close to eight months, the barricades they built and maintained were dismantled as they watched on with silent tears and heavy hearts.

Now, there is nothing to prevent plantations companies and loggers from entering and further destroying the communal jungles they have depended on for generations for sustenance.

Source: Tears of tribal land | The Malaysian Insight

Megaliths of the Kelabit Highlands

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Batu Kalong

via Kuching In and Out:

Batu Kalong

Highlands is possibly an ancient and, at the same time, a continuous one. Recent archaeological research suggests that some of the earliest stone mounds were constructed as early as around 2,500 years ago. Excavations conducted at a number of megalithic sites in the Kelabit Highlands have also found an array of artefacts such as cremated bones, stone and glass beads, local earthenware and trade ceramics, and metal objects belonging to different time periods between 2,000 and a few hundred years ago. Among the Kelabit, megalithic practices were observed until around 1950, when the tradition ceased owing to modernisation and the people’s conversion to Christianity. Traditionally, megaliths were built during irau (‘feast’) as part of elaborate funerary rites of elite members of the Kelabit society. The batuh nangan and the lungun batuh, for example, were burial monuments where the bones of the deceased were placed in a secondary burial event known as burak nulang. The batuh senuped, on the other hand, commemorated the deceased or marked the location of the grave. The perupun, besides functioning as memorials, are also said to be the final repositories for the valuable properties (beads, gongs and jars) of heirless elites.

Source: Kuching In & Out | Documenting Our Culture, Food & Lifestyle – MEGALITHS OF THE KELABIT HIGHLANDS

Sombre KLIA ceremony marks repatriation of 27 Kiwi soldiers’ remains

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Malaysia Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu at repatriation ceremony. Source: Yahoo News, 20 August 2018

via Yahoo News, 20 August 2018: Remains of 27 New Zealand soldiers who died in wartime operations in Malaysia are repatriated after a year-long operation to identify and recover their remains.

A disinterment team of 588 bio-archaeologists, forensic anthropologists and other experts started work on March 21 last year, led by Major-General Datuk Dr Haji Mohd Ilham Haji Haron who is a forensic odontology expert at the Defence Ministry’s hospital.
Experts from New Zealand; the Army Museum Port Dickson; the Health Ministry; the Malaysian Nuclear Agency, the Centre for Global Archaeological Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia; the Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation; and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s experts in medicine, odontology and forensic biology also assisted in the victim identification and verification process.

Source: Sombre KLIA ceremony marks repatriation of 27 Kiwi soldiers’ remains

RM30 million allocation to develop infrastructure at Sungai Batu archaeological site

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via Kosmo, 17 August 2018: The Malaysian Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture announced a RM30 million (approximately US$7.3 million) allocation to improve tourist infrastructure at the Sungai Batu archaeological site in Kedah. Article is in Bahasa Malaysia.

SUNGAI PETANI – Kementerian Pelancongan, Seni dan Budaya akan membangunkan kemudahan infrastruktur yang lengkap bernilai RM30 juta di Kompleks Arkeologi Sungai Batu, Lembah Bjuang di sini yang merupakan tapak tamadun tertua di rantau ini berusia 2,200 tahun.

Source: Pembangunan infrastruktur Kompleks Arkeologi Sungai Batu bernilai RM30 juta

UK investigates fresh reports of looting of sunken navy ships

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via The Guardian, 19 August 2018: UK Government investigating the looting of sunken navy ships in Malaysian and Indonesian waters.

Infographic on shipwrecks in Malaysian and Indoensian waters from the Daily Mail, 18 August 2018

Infographic on shipwrecks in Malaysian and Indoensian waters from the Daily Mail, 18 August 2018

Gavin Williamson says UK will work closely with Indonesia and Malaysia over claims Second World War ships have been plundered

Source: UK investigates fresh reports of looting of sunken navy ships

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Arguing against Malays’ ‘Sundaland origins’

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via the Malay Mail, 12 August 2018: An editorial from The Malay Mail weighing in on the ludicrous and racist claims by Zaharah Sulaiman on the origins of the Malays as the progenitor of a good portion of modern human populations. There is fringe and pseudo-archaeology, and then there is factually inaccurate archaeology that has very dangerous consequences on society if not enough people speak up about it.

Regardless, proponents of the “Malays Out of Sundaland” hypothesis completely ignored the fact that the “Malay” term frequently used in Malaysia is but a social construct: solely defined in the Constitution as Muslim natives who practise the Malay culture.

This definition has since been used to justify various affirmative action policies and special positions, and eventually but unfortunately, racism against others who should be afforded the same status as citizens following the formation of Malaysia.

The “Malays” is not a distinct race uniquely different from the others, but if taken as a general term would include a melange of ethnicities and backgrounds from the Malay lands.

And the eventual stinging rebuttal from five academics who worked on human population genetics, archaeology and history against Zaharah’s “Malay genes oldest” claim only serves to undermine the hypothesis.

Source: Arguing against Malays’ ‘Sundaland origins’ | Malay Mail

Negeri Sembilan’s rainbow cave dig

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via Seremban Online, 06 August 2018: The archaeology team from Universiti Sains Malaysia is currently excavating a cave site called Gua Pelangi in Negri Sembilan.

It’s not easy being the Prof, but you can tell from his smile he wouldn’t have it any other way. Squatting six feet underground, at the bottom of a carefully measured square plot in the confines of a steamy, humid cave near Kuala Pilah, Prof Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin sweeps away some dirt with a soft brush, scratches his head, leans against the muddy wall, then for three or four minutes makes some notes and draws some simple diagrams-it’s not the most glamorous part of the job done by USM Global Archaeology Research Centre director professor Mokhtar but it is exciting.

Source: Negeri Sembilan’s rainbow cave dig | serembanonline

Rebutting the myth that Malays have the second oldest genes in the world

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Malaysia has a complex history of ethnonationalism, in which people who are identified as Malay (but more accurately native Malaysians) are given special privileges over other ethnic groups in the country. This has led to a number of social, economic and political problems but the one that I want to highlight here is the misuse of science and archaeological research to advance this agenda. Last week, a historian speaking at the ominously named “The Origins of the Malay” forum “quoted” the work of the Human Genome Organisation and said that after the Africans, the Malays have the second oldest genetic lineages in the world, even going so far as to imply that the Malays were ultimately responsible for establishing the Chinese and Greek civilizations.

DNA strand. Image by Caroline Davis2010

Image by Caroline Davis2010

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Resort plans put Jerejak heritage status in doubt

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via Free Malaysia Today, 22 July 2018: Jerejak Island in Penang, Malaysia is a former leper colony that was planned for nomination in Unesco World Heritage. This plan is now in question as the state government has okayed plans for a large luxury resort to be developed on the island.

Deputy tourism minister to write to Penang chief minister about plans for luxury development on former leper colony island.

Source: Resort plans put Jerejak heritage status in doubt

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