Restoring the Malacca Fort

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02 June 2007 (New Straits Times) – The New Straits Times has a weekend focus on the restoration works of the Malacca Fort, first built by the Portuguese after their conquest of Malacca, and then later occupied by the Dutch. Much of the fort was destroyed by the British colonialists and thought lost forever until parts of the fort’s bastion was discovered last year.

20070603 New Straits Times

Rise of the Great Fort

Following the discovery, the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry proposed to reconstruct the Malacca Fort, for which the Cabinet approved a fund of RM12.8 million three months ago.

Rui and Nordin are part of a team of local and foreign experts comprising historians, archaeologists, architects, geologists and conservationists put together by the Department of National Heritage to oversee the fort’s reconstruction.

Heading the team is Heritage Commissioner Datuk Professor Zuraina Majid.

“We are not aiming to rebuild the whole fort, only about 50 per cent of the original.

“What is of primary concern is the authenticity of our reconstruction,” says Zuraina.

With only the foundations to work with, her team will have to rely heavily on historic documents by authors like Tome Pires and Emanuel Godinho de Eredia, drawings, paintings, as well as consultation with experts familiar with the architecture of that era.

Read more about the Malacca Fort, the Fortaleza D’Malacca also known as A’Famosa.

Spotlight on Sabah's stone age culture

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22 April 2007 (New Straits Times) – Today’s NST features a special spotlight on the stone age culture – past and ethnographic present. The first story is about the prehistory ceramics industrial site at Bukit Tengkorak (Tengkorak Hill).

New Straits Times, 22 Apr 2007

SpotLight: Stone Age Potters

Tampi villagers today don’t think twice about using clay from the foot of Bukit Tengkorak and nearby areas in southeastern Sabah for their pottery, digging wells for fresh water, burning wood for fuel and eating a wide range of fish, shellfish and molluscs.

But most of them are unaware that from about 3,000 until 2,000 years ago, people at the summit of the 600-foot hill did the same–when the Semporna peninsula was a late Stone Age population hub and craft centre.

Experts from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), the Sabah Museum Department and the Department of Natural Heritage have found millions of sherds which show that the site about five kilometres from Semporna town was one of the largest, if not the largest, pottery making sites in Island Southeast Asia (SEA) and the Pacific during the Neolithic era (the last part of the Stone Age, beginning 8,000 BC).

Their findings have overturned some theories about how prehistoric people lived and traded in the region.

Until the excavations here, archaeologists believed that long-distance sea trade and migration of people in insular SEA and the Pacific moved east from Melanesia (near Papua New Guinea) to Polynesia, leaving behind what is known as the “Lapita culture” of pottery, stone tools and ornaments.

“Our research at Bukit Tengkorak shows that 3,000 years ago, people were not only moving east towards New Britain in Melanesia but also westwards towards Sabah,” explains Dr Stephen Chia of USM’s Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia, who based his PhD thesis on the site.

“This is one of the longest trading routes in the world during the Neolithic period,” says the archeochemist who found obsidian (a volcanic glass used to make tools) at the site and traced it chemically to Talasea in New Britain, 3500 kilometres away. His fieldwork in Southeast Asia also found stone tools and pottery similar to Bukit Tengkorak in the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu Archipelago and Sulawesi.

The second story covers the Bajau people who live in the vicinity of Bukit Tengkorak on the Semporna peninsula of Sabah – the clay stoves produced by the Bajau are remarkably similar to the 3,000-year-old stoves unearthed nearby, implying an unbroken ceramics manufacturing tradition.

New Straits Times, 22 Apr 2007

Bajaus carrying on a long tradition

The finished handiwork of this Bajau woman in Sabah’s southeastern Semporna peninsula looks exactly like the 3,000-year-old stove unearthed at nearby Bukit Tengkorak.

“Pottery has been made like this for hundreds of years,” says Rogayah. “Each house has a stove to grill fish or satay and cook rice.”

“The way of life of the Bajaus today and the food they eat are similar to what we found on site,” says Dr Stephen Chia of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia.

“We think that the nomadic Bajau Laut may have landed here to trade, mend their nets, dry fish and bury their dead, but it was the settled coastal Bajaus who made the pottery.”
However, he cautions: “The people of Bukit Tengkorak could also be a totally different group of maritime people who shifted here and then moved on.”


Related Books:
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)
Man’s conquest of the Pacific: The prehistory of Southeast Asia and Oceania by P. Bellwood

Tracing back Malaysia's stone-age man in Lenggong

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17 March 2007 (The Brunei Times) – Liz Price’s feature in the Brunei Times about the archaeolgical finds in Lenggong, Perak, including the Perak Man, Kota Tampan site, Gua Gunung Runtuh and Gua Harimau.

The Brunei Times, 17 Mar 2007

Tracing back Malaysia’s stone-age man in Lenggong

PERAK Man, Peninsular Malaysia’s oldest inhabitant, is well travelled despite his great age of 11,000 years. A few years ago he went to Japan for an exhibition, and in 2001 and again in 2006 he visited Kuala Lumpur where he starred in his own exhibition called Perak Man. Now he is having a well deserved rest and is back in his native Perak, where he is residing in the new Lenggong Museum. He is, after all, one of the most important inhabitants to have lived in Malaysia, because his bones survived to tell the tale. Perak Man, found in 1991, is the only complete human skeleton found in Malaysia. The cave which was his final resting place is called Gua Gunung Runtuh and is situated in Bukit Kepala Gajah in the Lenggong Valley in Ulu Perak. The skeleton, found by Prof Zuraini Majid and her team from Universiti Sains Malaysia, has been dated about 11,000 years, which makes him a Stone Age man, from the Palaeolithic period. It is believed Perak Man was an important member of his tribe judging by the way he was buried, in a foetal position, and accompanied by stone tools. He was about 157cm tall and probably aged between 40-50 when he died. He had an atrophied left hand and one finger was deformed. The skeleton, remnants of tools and food such as shells and animal bones were found in the cave as well. The first time I went up to the Lenggong area, I visited Gua Gunung Runtuh. Although there was nothing to see except for the pits dug in the floor by the archaeological researchers, it was easy to get the imagination going, and to reflect on how Perak Man and his fellow humans had used that cave as a shelter. The Lenggong valley is one of Peninsular Malaysia’s most important areas for archaeology, as excavations have revealed many traces of Malaysia’s prehistory. The town of Lenggong is situated some 100km north of Ipoh on the Kuala Kangsar to Grik road.

A’Famosa to be rebuilt

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1 February 2007 (The Star) – The 16th century Portuguese fort of Malacca, A’Famosa, is slated for rebuilding, following the discovery of the Middlesburgh bastion late last year.

A’Famosa to be rebuilt

The Star, 1 Feb 2007

Portions of the buried ruins of Fortaleza D’Malacca or the mighty A’Famosa fortress built in 1512 will be brought to “life” for the world to see. About 350m of the buried walls of the fortress will be reconstructed stone by stone to its original dimensions of 8m by 5m, said Commissioner of Heritage Prof Datuk Dr Siti Zuraina Abdul Majid. She said the completed structure would encompass the city’s 11.3ha heritage site in Bandar Hilir.

Presently, the department is using documents and paintings of the fort dating back to 1512 to determine its dimensions and design, but may require further documents from overseas sources.

“We might study the Galle Fort, which is fully intact in Sri Lanka, as it is a good example of how the fort would look like because they both share a similar history,” she added.

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.

Heritage that is 'very much alive'

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14 August 2006 (New Straits Times) – An interview with Malaysia’s heritage commissioner – and archaeologist – Prof. Dutuk Zuraina Majid, who talks about recovering prehistoric skeletons and the preservation of Malaysian heritage.

Heritage that is ‘very much alive’

Early next year, Heritage Commissioner Prof Datuk Dr Zuraina Majid will go abroad — her destination is top secret. Her mission is to bring back an integral part of the country’s past — 10 boxes of prehistoric skeletons excavated from Gua Cha, Kelantan, in the 1950s. Next month, two graves of important historical personalities from Perak who died in exile will also be moved back to the country from abroad. Zuraina, well-known for discovering the Perak Man, the oldest human skeleton found in the country, explains that heritage is more than just old buildings and mansions.

Placing right value on our heritage

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29 May 2006 (New Straits Times) – I must say it is to Malaysia’s credit that they are planning to set up a heritage register for their country. Oh why are the other countries so slow!

Placing right value on our heritage

Under the Act, sweeping changes will be introduced.

Besides recognising intangible items as having heritage value, it will also see a master list of heritage items and sites created.

A Department of National Heritage has been set up and a commissioner appointed…

She is Prof Datuk Dr Zuraina Majid from Universiti Sains Malaysia. She is an expert in archaeology.