A legendary royal site demolished

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Bukit Marak, a hill in the northern Malaysian state of Kelantan is associated with the Puteri Saadong, one of the state’s 17th century queens. Today, the hill is in danger of disappearing as earth and stone are being illegally carted off and sold.

Residents erasing Bukit Marak history
The Star, 05 August 2009

Museum wants Bukit Marak saved
The Star, 10 August 2009
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In memoriam: Gale Sieveking 1925-2007

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Gale Sieveking was an archaeologist who worked in Malaya from the 1950s and onwards. He is best known for his excavation of Gua Cha in Kelantan, where over 30 humain remains have been found, buried in two distinct time frames, the Hoabinhian and the Neolithic. This tribute was published in the Newsletter of the Society of Antiquarians in London. Special thanks to Dr Ian Glover for this bit of news.

Memories of Gale Sieveking (1925–2007)

The call, in the last issue of Salon, for further reminiscences concerning our late Fellow Gale Sieveking produced a fruitful bounty of information. Since Gale played such an important part in the development of archaeology as a discipline and in our understanding of prehistory, these valuable insights into his life and work are worth recording in full.

Our Fellow Ann Sieveking has generously provided a copy of the address that she gave at her late husband’s funeral. We are also very grateful to our Fellows Juliet Clutton-Brock, Michael Thompson, Michael Kerney and Phil Harding for their accounts of the lasting impression that Gale made on them, and to Professor Rory Mortimore, now Head of Civil Engineering and Geology at the University of Brighton, who provides an account of Gale’s ability to build multi-disciplinary teams around the study of flints and prehistoric technology.

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Digging for the truth in Kelantan?

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22 June 2007 (The Star) – Which is the birthplace of Malay civilisation – Kelantan or Perak? That is what the state of Kelantan wants to find out, through analysis of archaeological material found in the Nenggiri Ulu Valley. The aim is to shed light on the origin of a pre-Islamic, prehistoric even, civilisation in Kelantan. So far, the earliest known evidence of human habitation is in Perak (see the article by Liz Price and the Perak Man podcast).

But I’m not sure if the research is looking that far back in prehistoric time (after all, the Perak Man is only one skeleton), or if they are looking for actual “kingdoms” or evidence for civilisations. I wonder why there was no mention of Chitu or Langkasuka, which were most probably pre-Islamic and also was probably situated in the Kelantan region.

Still, if there are any researchers wanting a shot to read the archaeological material, here’s your chance!

Kelantan inviting archaeological researchers

Kelantan is inviting researchers to ascertain archaeological findings that claim that the oldest form of civilisation in Malaysia, besides the oldest human fossils and artefacts, were located in the state.

This will put to rest ongoing debates over where civilisation originated from in the country, state museum board chairman Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said.

“Some say the Perak Man is the oldest (10,000 years-old) but we have research evidence to indicate that civilisation began here (Ulu Kelantan) some 12,000 years ago,” he said after opening a month-long archaelogical exhibition of the Nenggiri Ulu Valley, which is a Masters research study of National Museum and Antiquities Department director-general Datuk Dr Adi Haji Taha here.

He said the state would welcome input from all, including international researchers and historians to ascertain the claims.

Nenggiri Ulu, which is part of Ulu Kelantan, now called Gua Musang, has a cave system where evidence of neolithic life has been found and the present orang asli community are said to be their descendents.

According to Takiyuddin, research done has unveiled strong suspicions that there was a a pre-Islamic Malay Kingdom in Ulu Kelantan from where the legendary Princess Ruler of Kelantan – “Puteri Saadon” – originated from.

Read more about the invitation to research Kelantan.

Books about the archaeology of Malaysia:
Early History (The Encyclopedia of Malaysia) by Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman (Ed)

The Many Places of Singapura – Part 2

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We saw in the first installment of The Many Places of Singapura that the ‘Lion City’ (Singha-Pura) first existed in central Vietnam from the 4th to 9th century. In this installment, we’ll talk about two other “potential” places. We’ll call them potential for now because while they were identified in the email discussion, I haven’t been able to find any explicit evidence of Singapura/Singhapura in the literature that I have. These two places were the kingdom of Chi Tu in 7th century Malay Peninsula, and in 14th-15th century Western and Northern Java which is likely to be the kingdom of Pajajaran. So with the lack of any direct references to “Lion Cities”, let’s get two know more about these two kingdoms:

Chi Tu, 7th century

Chi Tu

Not much is known about this kingdom of Chi Tu, and even its location is subject to conjecture. Chi Tu is mentioned in the annals of the Chinese Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD), and from its description the kingdom lay on the eastern side of the Thai-Malay peninsula, anywhere between Songkhla in Thailand down to Pahang in Malaysia. The general consensus is that it lay in the region of Kelantan. The name literally Chi Tu refers to ‘red earth’, presumably used to describe the kingdom’s terrain. A 5th century Sanskrit inscription found in Kedah also mentions a land called Raktamrtikka, meaning the same red earth, and are both thought to refer to the same place.

Pajajaran, 14th century

Pajajaran

Fast-forwarding 700 years, the next potential Singapura is said to be in the vicinity of Cirebon, in northern Java during the 14th century. At this time, Cirebon was represented the easternmost boundary of the kingdom of Pajajaran, which was founded in 1333. This Sundanese kingdom controlled much of what was Western and Northern Java during the 14th and 16thcenturies, and was a next-door neighbour to the Majapahit. The Pararaton (the Javanese book of kings describing the rulers of the Majapahit kingdom) mentions an episode about the King of Sunda – equated with Pajajaran – and a botched attempt of a political marriage which led to bloodshed.

Could the kingdoms of Chi Tu and Pajajaran both have cities or places named Singapura? We can’t know for sure – for now. But let me say for now that both kingdoms followed a syncretic mix of Hinduism and Buddhism. In Chi Tu, it was noted that the Buddha was worshipped, but Brahmans were held in high regard. Portuguese accounts of Pajajaran in the 16th century noted that the religion was a mix of Hindu and Buddhist. Thus, a locale named “Singha-pura” would not be out of place.

That’s enough conjecture for now, there is one more Singapura to go – and this time it’s a real place still in existence (that’s a no-brainer giveaway!) But you’ll have to wait for part 3 of The Many Places of Singapura…

Related Books:
Two main books I referred to for this post –
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
– And the chapters on “Classical cultures of Indonesia” and “Early Maritime Polities” in Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by I. Glover and P. S. Bellwood (Eds)

Filming Of Perak Man Documentary To Kick Off In November

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13 September 2006 (Bernama) – A documentary on the Perak Man is in the works! – and expected to be out on HD no less, in Novemeber. The documentary will also feature other stone-age sites like Gua Cha and Tingkayu.

Filming Of Perak Man Documentary To Kick Off In November

The filming of a documentary on the 11,000 year-old Perak Man, Peninsular Malaysia’s oldest inhabitant, will begin in November.

Novista Sdn Bhd managing director Harun Rahman said the company was in the final stage of discussions with the National Film Corporation (Finas) on the script and the filming of the documentary titled “Perak Man”, in High Definition TV.

The company had held talks with the Heritage Commissioner of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry, Prof Datuk Dr Zuraina Majid, who led the archaeological team that found the complete skeleton of the homo sapien, Harun told Bernama here.

Novista is a local documentary specialist established in 1992, which among others has been involved in natural history, culture, heritage and adventure videos.

It has been appointed by the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry to do a documentary on the Perak Man as a move to preserve the national heritage of the country for the benefit of the future generations.