Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Historical remains show Kg Sungai Mas was a trading centre


After nine phases of excavation works in Kampung Sungai Mas since 1993, local archaeologists are convinced that the area was a trading port in ancient times.
The excavation project was undertaken by the Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum and the Museum and Antiquities Department in collaboration with the history department of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Malaya.
The artefacts unearthed at the site showed that it was a trading port in ancient times, excavation project head Kamarudin Zakaria said.
He said the findings made at the site in Kuala Muda district have had an important bearing on history in the region.
"The discovery of the site in 1980 has significantly changed the face of history not only in Kedah but also Southeast Asia," he said.
Kamarudin said among the important findings were ceramics with intricate designs, some believed to have originated from China during the Tang and Sung dynasties and West Asia.
"They are different from the Bujang Valley ceramics which mostly do not have motifs," he said.
The project has also led to one of the biggest discoveries of ancient beads in Southeast Asia apart from the one made in Kuala Selingsing, Perak.
The finely crafted beads bearing certain designs were made of glass, precious stones, bones and gold. Kamarudin said some of the beads were believed to have been produced at the settlement itself. "We also found some unfinished beads and the raw materials for making beads," he said.

Other findings like ruins of buildings and wave breakers also strengthened the belief that Sungai Mas was a trading port, he said. "We believe Kampung Sungai Mas was an active entrepot in the 5th century. Its present location of some 10km from Pantai Merdeka (the nearest beach) may have been caused by movements of the earth surface," he said. He said the ongoing 10th phase excavation, which will end this month, involved 40 students from UKM.

"This round of excavation work is mainly to verify the researches done by UKM lecturers using the satellite-based geo-physic method," he said. This method reportedly can detect building structures buried up to six metres deep. He said the excavation project might extend beyond the 25 years originally envisaged because the 100.2ha Sungai Mas was a huge area to be covered. "After almost 10 years of intensive excavation, only one hectare has been explored. The lack of manpower and other problems like financial constraints may delay the completion of the project," he said. "This undertaking can be described as a mega excavation project. Apart from the high costs, observations, studies and preparation of reports also take up a lot of time," he said. There are plans to develop Sungai Mas for "archaeo-tourism" based on the in situ concept of preserving the building ruins and other historical remains in their original state for tourists to see.

"An agreement on this has been reached with several parties like the Kedah state government, Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry, representatives of nearby resorts and other agencies. It will be an integrated project," he said.
However, he said this project might only be completed in the year 2010.
"If it cannot be fully completed, we hope the half-way mark would be good enough for a start. There are many matters to be worked out," he said.
The idea was to let the villagers go about their usual activities and develop the site without destroying its historical remains, he said.

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