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.
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.
via Free Malaysia Today, 09 October 2018: A new museum is planned for the Bujang Valley complex.
via Free Malaysia Today 20181009
The government is looking to pique world interest in the Bujang Valley and Sungai Batu, collectively known as “Kedah Tua”, by building a new museum showcasing findings there over the years.
Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said plans were being made for an “archaeotourism” site at Kedah Tua which extends from Lembah Bujang to Sungai Batu up to Penang’s mainland border of Guar Kepah, near Penaga, for international visitors.
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.
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.
Archaeology fans can get their hands dirty and dig up ancient artefacts at actual excavation sites in Perak and Kedah or at a mock excavation site at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
USM recently launched its archaeotourism package, especially aimed at students and visitors interested in archaeology, for a hands-on tour of actual archaeological sites in Sungai Batu and Lenggong Valley. There is also an USM Archaeology Gallery within the USM compound in Penang that details all of the archaeological sites in Malaysia, with exhibits of artefacts dug up in those excavations.
Old Kedah, or Kedah Tua in Malay, and the archaeological findings of the Bujang Valley in northern Peninsular Malaysia were the focus of a local festival held last month. The events included an international conference, and from the news reports two themes seem apparent: the disagreement on whether the ruins of the Bujang Valley represent an animist or Hindu-Buddhist tradition, and the news that the remains of the Hindu temples that have previously been uncovered in the valley will not be nominated and protected under Unesco World Heritage. There’s a lot of subtext to read between the news reports, but it seems there is an attempt to downplay the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Bujang Valley sites.
A Malaysian archaeologist has proposed that the Sungei Batu site in Kedah, Malaysia should be made into a cultural gallery. Archaeological evidence from Sungei Batu is thought to be the site of an important iron-smelting port since 2,500 years ago.
Sungei Batu site in Kedah, Malaysia. Source: The Star 20151202
Archaeologists in Malaysia working at the Sungei Batu archaeological site have reportedly discovered the remains of several shipwrecks, but funds are lacking to investigate further. The finds are consistent with previous work at the site which has uncovered the presence of jetties and the former river in the area.
Sungei Batu Archaeological Site
Ancient Ships Discovered At Sungai Batu Archaeological Site
Bernama, 31 August 2015
Using ground penetrating radar, archaelogists have discovered outlines of more than five ships between 5m and 10m underground at the Sungai Batu Archaelogical Site, near Semeling, about 20km from here.
“This was once an ancient river with a width of about 100m and a depth of 30m. Now it is a swampy wetland,” said archaelogical team member Azman Abdullah.
Signs of the first shipwreck was unearthed in 2011 not far from the ruins of a jetty made of flattish square bricks.
“We dug until we found a 2m-long mast head lying horizontally. The wood had softened but it was still miraculously well preserved.
“We were excited and dug through the wet mud every day,” said Azman, 54. To the team’s horror, the excavation pit collapsed in 2012 after they reached a depth of 5m.