Tuesday 30 March 2010

Bujang Valley yields ancient monument

Malaysian archaeologists have unearthed a 1,900 year old monument built with detailed geometrical precision possibly for sun worshipping by a lost civilisation of the Bujang Valley.

Awe-inspiring... An aerial photograph of the mysterious Sungai Batu  Monument shows the precise geometrical patterns in its layers of  circles and squares, designed and constructed by the ancient  civilisation of the

The astonishing find at a oil palm estate in Sungai Batu, Kedah, is the oldest man-made structure to be recorded in Southeast Asia.

The discovery, by a team from the Centre for Global Archaeological Research (CGAR) of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), was made within a three sq km area where fresh excavations are being made of the old Bujang Valley port settlement, now believed to have existed long before neighbouring empires like Sri Vijaya (700AD) and Majapahit (1200AD).

CGAR director, Assoc Prof Dr Mokhtar Saidin, told theSun his team was taken aback by the magnitude and significance of the find.

Made of clay bricks, the monument, which was built before 110AD, is bound to rewrite current understanding of the region's early history, as it points to an advanced culture pre-dating many Indianised kingdoms in Southeast Asia.

"I was doing geo-physical scanning on the surface of a mound when I detected something round-shaped underneath," Mokhtar recalled in an interview at the site.

"When we excavated, we were stunned at what we saw. We never thought that the technology and architecture here so far back in history was so exact.

"The precision suggests that the management system of the civilisation that lived here was very advanced," he added.

With its layers of perfect squares and circles, the "Sungai Batu Monument" labelled "SB1B" appears to be a sundial.

Mokhtar noted that it was built to point in the direction of Gunung Jerai (Kedah Peak), the highest mountain in northern Malaysia, where many Bujang valley artefacts, more recent in age, have been found over the last 40 years.

"The monument seems to have been a central focus of the ancient society, with the other structures that we have found here located peripherally around it," Mokhtar said.

The nine other structures already unearthed in Sungai Batu over the past year include two ancient jetties and two iron smelting workshops.

Although the monument's design is distinctive, it seems to suggest cosmological worship similar to what is seen in structures such as the Incan sun temple in Machu Picchu, Peru, the Mayan temples of central America, and Stonehenge in England, Mokhtar said.

Its age was recently determined through the Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) technique conducted separately at the University of Washington, University of Oxford and Korea's Conservation Science Lab, he added.

Also found with the monument were various pottery placed ceremoniously around, and a Buddhist tablet with Pallava-Sanskrit inscriptions that are likely to have been made later in the 5th century AD, said Mokhtar.

CGAR is now working on excavating many other mounds in the area, believed to house more structures that may include burial grounds.

Information, Communications, and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Utama Rais Yatim had visited Sungai Batu on March 6 to announce that the archaeological zone would be conserved for research and tourism.

The Sun Daily

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