Mysteries of an ancient migration from India

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Source: Fountain Ink 20190219

via Fountain Ink, 02 Feb 2019: Bujang Valley and Sungai Batu in Malaysia’s northern Kedah state contain some spectacular archaeological remains that hint of Indian influence in this region.

ungai Batu is just a crow’s flight from the far better known Bujang Valley, first discovered by Lt Colonel James Low, colonial administrator of the neighbouring Penang Straits Settlement, in the 1830s. Systematic excavation of the earliest sites, however, began only just before World War I by H.G. Quaritch Wales and his wife Dorothy. Bujang Valley is variously named in literary sources as Kalagam, Kilagam, Kadaram and Kataha by Tamils in India, by the Chinese as Chieh-Cha, Chia-Cha, Chi-to, Chi-ta and Kie-tcha, and by the Persians as Kalah. These names are directly linked to its iron industry because those words mean iron in different languages.

Over the decades as the work progressed, it was definitively identified as an early culture with Indic features. The name Bujang, for instance, is believed to be a variant of Sanskrit “Bhujanga”, serpent. In other words, it is Serpent Valley. More significantly, the large number of old temples (called candi) that dot the area establish its Hindu-Buddhist provenance. Finally, its location makes it highly likely that the original founders of the site were Indians, and from the south at that.

The Bujang complex lies six degrees north of the equator, the same latitude as Sri Lanka (known to Rome as Serendivis, Arabs as Serandib, and Persians as Serendip). So it was in a direct line east from Chola and Pallava country in modern Tamil Nadu. These two kingdoms have had a profound influence upon the history of Southeast Asia and in turn been influenced by it.

Source: Mysteries of an ancient migration from India | Fountain Ink

RM10mil for ancient secrets

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Source: The Star, 20190104

via The Star, 04 January 2019: The Malaysia federal government has approved a RM$10 million budget for more work at the Sungai Batu site in Kedah.

The race is on to uncover more secrets from the ruins of the oldest known civilisation in South-East Asia – the Sungai Batu archaeological site in Kedah.

The federal government has approved RM10mil to conduct consultation, conservation and restoration works as well as an archaeological museum.

“The funds were approved under the recent federal budget. It is only for the first phase. The total needed is RM30mil,” said Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik.

However, Muhammad Bakhtiar said the ministry needed the Kedah government’s assistance to gazette a special area plan for Sungai Batu to ensure that it would be protected.

Source: RM10mil for ancient secrets – Nation | The Star Online

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Malaysia mulls partnership with Aga Khan Trust to develop Old Kedah for tourism

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via Travel Wire News, 09 October 2018: Malaysia is looking to work with the Aga Khan Trust to create a tourism plan for the archaeological sites in Kedah, which include the Bujang Valley, Sungai Batu and Guah Kepar sites.

Putrajaya is planning to sign an agreement with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, through Think City Sdn Bhd, to develop Kedah Tua as an archaeotourism site, said Tourism, Culture and Arts Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik.

He said Kedah Tua is a network of old civilisation linking Lembah Bujang to Sungai Batu to Sik in Kedah and Guar Kepah in Seberang Perai here that can be promoted as one large site.

“We plan to sign a memorandum of understanding with Aga Khan Trust to develop the Kedah Tua project,” he told reporters after the opening of a National Archaeological Seminar here.

Source: Putrajaya mulls partnership with Aga Khan Trust to develop Kedah Tua for tourism | World News | Travel Wire News

[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

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

[New Paper] Revisiting the Bujang Valley: A Southeast Asian entrepôt complex on the maritime trade route

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New paper on the Bujang Valley by Stephen Murphy:

In the early 1830s and 1840s, a British colonial official by the name of Colonel James Low uncovered evidence for an early culture with Indic traits in a river system known as the Bujang Valley. On the west coast of the Thai-Malay peninsula, the Bujang Valley is today located in the Malaysian state of Kedah. However, it wasn’t until just before World War II that excavations took place, conducted by H. G. Quaritch Wales and his wife Dorothy. Their discoveries and subsequent publications led to the first real attempts to explain the origins and extent of this civilisation and its place within the larger South and Southeast Asian world. In the intervening years between Quaritch Wales’s excavations and the present day, considerably more research has taken place within the Bujang Valley, though this has not been without controversy. Recently claims and counter-claims regarding the antiquity of Hinduism and Buddhism at the site have arisen in some quarters within Malaysia. It therefore seems pertinent that this material be re-evaluated in light of new scholarship and discoveries as well as the prevailing paradigms of interactions between South and Southeast Asia. This paper presents an updated reading of this material and argues that the Bujang Valley should be seen as a cosmopolitan trading port with substantive evidence for the presence of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Source: Revisiting the Bujang Valley: A Southeast Asian entrepôt complex on the maritime trade route | Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society | Cambridge Core
https://doi.org/10.1017/S1356186317000505

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Old-new history of ancient Kedah

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via New Straits Times, 11 November 2017: Archaeoturism at the Sungei Batu site.

If you’re now thinking that this is a recently discovered lost civilisation in the dense tropical jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula or South America, built by either the fearsome Mayans or Aztecs, well think again. This latest ground-breaking discovery predating many well-known ancient civilisations is found right here in our very own backyard. To be exact, it’s located in Malaysia’s northern state of Kedah.

Armed with these tantalising facts related to me recently by a friend, I make my way to the main entrance of the Sungai Batu archaeological site. I’m excited and ready to see for myself the many amazing discoveries that are set to rewrite history textbooks in the near future.

Acting on my friend’s advice, I quickly sign up for a guided tour that costs only RM10 for locals. The tour, conducted by graduate students of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), allows visitors access into many key areas within the excavation complex which currently houses nearly 100 excavated sites. Be forewarned that most of these important sites are off-limits to those who opt for free access to the area.

Source: Old-new history of ancient Kedah | New Straits Times | Malaysia General Business Sports and Lifestyle News

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When the Malay cannons boomed

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via New Straits Times, 23 July 2017: A feature on the cannons of Kota Kuala Kedah in northern Malaysia.

Cannons were already in common use in Europe by the mid 14th century. During that same time the Arabs began using cannons as effective siege machines during their assaults on Spain. By the time Lopez D’Sequeira visited Melaka in 1509, the Malay sultanate was said to have around 8,000 pieces of this type of artillery in its possession.

After conquering Melaka in 1511, Alfonso D’Albuquerque reported that one third of the Malay cannons were made of iron while the rest were cast from brass. He was reported to have said that the workmanship of the cannons he confiscated couldn’t be excelled even back home in Portugal.

Among those captured by the Portuguese were large cannons or meriam. However, their numbers paled in comparison with the more common long pieces called lela.

Source: When the Malay cannons boomed | New Straits Times | Malaysia General Business Sports and Lifestyle News

Archaeologists search for a king in Sungai Batu

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Malay Mail, 09 June 2017: Given the evidence of intense iron smelting activity in Kedah, archaeologists are now turning their focus to finding evidence of how people lived there and the nature of the settlement.

Tucked between plantations along a quiet country road near Merbok, Kedah, a team of archaeologists and students are busily excavating at a site that is known as South-east Asia’s oldest civilisation.

This is Kedah Tua in Sungai Batu, an ancient civilisation that dates back to 535 BC, earlier even than Borobudur in Java (9th century AD) and Angkor Wat, Cambodia (12th century AD).

That’s not all… this kingdom was a major iron exporter at the time, complete with mines, a smelting factory, a port and administrative buildings to support the industry.

What is missing are remnants of a palace, its thriving city and the burial sites of its people

Source: Archaeologists search for a king in Sungai Batu

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Calls for Malaysian history books to include references to Old Kedah

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History advocates in Malaysia are campaigning for the inclusion of references to Old Kedah, discovered through archaeological excavations, into history textbooks.

Call to include Old Kedah civilisation in history textbooks
Free Malaysia Today, 05 July 2016

New facts on Old Kedah, which has been declared as the earliest and oldest civilisation in Southeast Asia, should be immediately included in history books used as textbooks in schools.

Chairman of the Malaysian Historical Society Kedah branch, Prof Dr Wan Shamsuddin Mohd Yusof said the information was necessary so the young generation could be aware of the existence of the more than 2,000 year-old treasure at the Sungai Batu Archaeology Complex.

“This is history, not a myth, or merely a legend, but something that should be the pride of Malaysians, that we have the oldest civilisation in Southeast Asia,” he told Bernama.

On May 23, the Sungai Batu Archaeology Complex was declared the earliest and oldest civilisation in this region and five archaeologists, representing five main civilisations in the world, namely Mesopotamia, Indus, Mesoamerica, China and Greek-Rome, signed the declaration plaque.

Full story here.

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