Tourism, Culture and Arts Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik speaks at the 2018 National Archeology Seminar in George Town October 9, 2018. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
GEORGE TOWN, Oct 9 — 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.
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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.
Muhammad Bakhtiar said these different sites are all linked and if the stories linking these sites can be told, it will generate a lot of interest internationally.
“I have also mentioned to the Kedah mentri besar to gazette the Kedah Tua area and come up with a Special Area Plan for the area,” he said.
He said Lembah Bujang is a gazetted heritage site but it would still need a special area plan (SAP) to manage its development and all around the Kedah Tua area.
This is to ensure that developers would not construct projects in these sensitive sites, he explained.
Muhammad Bakhtiar said the government has set aside funding to build an archaeological museum in Sungai Batu in Merbok, Kedah.
“This museum will be an information centre for visitors to learn where they can find the Seberang Perai woman in Guar Kepah, where to find the iron furnace in Sik and learn about the ancient civilisation in Sungai Batu and Lembah Bujang,” he said.
He said the Kedah state government has been very positive about this and even the Kedah Sultan has expressed a strong interest in developing Lembah Bujang.
“The Sultan has allocated some funds to develop Lembah Bujang because he has a strong passion for the site,” Muhammad Bakhtiar said.
As for Guar Kepah, where parts of a pre-historic female skeleton were uncovered, Muhammad Bakhtiar said the federal government is ready to work with the state government on developing the site.
“The state government has written to me to work with the state in developing Guar Kepah,” he said.
The pre-historic skeleton of a woman, dating back some 5,710 years, was discovered by the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Centre for Global Archaeological Research (CGAR) in an excavation last year.
The skeleton was the first and only remaining Neolithic skeleton found in a shell midden in Malaysia.
The skeleton was discovered almost fully intact though her legs were partially destroyed by the backhoe’s digging works.
Her arms were folded and she was surrounded by pottery, stone tools and several different types of shells.
There were three shell middens in Guar Kepah and British archaeologists had excavated a total 41 skeletons from the site between 1851 and 1934, with those skeletons now in the National Natuurhistorisch Museum in Leiden, Holland.
Shell middens refer to mounds of kitchen debris consisting mostly of shells and other food remnants. It is indicative of ancient human settlement and were sometimes used as burial sites.