Malaysian Archaeologists Unearths Evidence Of 3rd Century AD Iron Industry

LEMBAH BUJANG, 4 March. – Researchers from the Centre for Global Archaeological Research (PPAG) Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) have once again created history by discovering the remains of an iron smelting site, dating back to the 3rd Century AD, at Sungai Batu, Lembah Bujang, Kedah.

The discovery adds on to the important historical facts about Southeast Asia, and simultaneously proving that early human civilization in Lembah Bujang was far more advanced than was first believed.

The Director of PPAG, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mokhtar Saidin said that the excavation at the Sungai Batu site began in early February and has succeeded in not only discovering the site but also tools that indicated that the site was used for iron smelting.

He said that a sample of coal from the site was sent to Beta Analytic Inc., Florida for radiocarbon dating and it was dated back to 1700+/- 40 BP or 3-4th Century AD.

Other evidence gathered from the site included tools to pump in oxygen into the iron smelting process, rooftops of buildings, beads, pots and others.

“This is the first discovery of the earliest iron industry in Lembah Bujang and has been dated conclusively. This date also adds on to the facts and data on the early history of Southeast Asia," he explained.

He said this at a press conference after escorting the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak on a tour of the excavation site here, today.

He added that apart from the discovery of the iron smelting site, researchers from PPAG discovered another site in an area nearby. The site uncovered bricks used for a building structure, believed to function as an administrative centre or a port complex.

"This evidence had not been found before, and in historical studies, previous researchers had only discovered temples where early man had worshipped,” he said.

Mokhtar said that his team will conduct further studies and link it to the present historical site (Candi Lembah Bujang) and the latest site with building structures and an iron smelting area.

“However, what is certain is that the stone structure that was discovered is not related to the place of worship like the temple because the construction and bricks used are very different,” he explained.

He added that PPAG will submit a proposal to the Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage to develop a 3 by 3 sq. km building plan of the historical site.

Among the proposals that will be put forward include a ‘historical tourism’ package that will link Sungai Batu to the present site in Lembah Bujang and an ‘in-situ’ exhibition gallery.

Mokhtar went on to explain that, in short, all the discoveries prove that human civilization in Lembah Bujang existed much earlier, was advanced and that the site was probably an entrepot for exporting iron in the 3rd Century.

Meanwhile, Dzulkifli said that PPAG, which has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting archaeological studies at the site, will immediately start drawing up the building plans in the area named Lembah Bujang Heritage Park.

He said that it will be implemented with an injection of RM 2.3 million by the Ministry to subsidize all the work processes, including excavating, preparing information and GIS data, geophysics and creative arts in Lembah Bujang.

“More than 70 members, including staff and students from PPAG, the staff of the Lembah Bujang Archaeological Museum, and the local community are involved in the excavation. USM is looking into the possibility of increasing the number of workers at the site according to the current needs.

“USM is committed to carrying out its responsibilities and this is an important research process that will have a huge impact especially for new discoveries in the history of Southeast Asia,” he explained.

Published: 04 Mar 2009

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