Questions were raised by the public about missing ceramics and other artefacts at the Bujang Valley archeological site in Kedah during a ‘Penang Story’ talk yesterday evening.
This is serious as the Bujang Valley is a national treasure. As one of the earliest, if not the earliest, civilisations in the region, the site could potentially become a source of much knowledge about the region besides becoming a major draw for visitors.
The talk yesterday was presented by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Global Archaeological Research director Associate Professor Dr Mokhtar Saidi, who leads the archeological dig that has discovered monuments dating back to the first century AD at the sprawling site in the northern region.
I didn’t get the chance to attend the talk at the Wawasan Open University but a couple of those who did told me that one question from the floor was about missing Chinese ceramics.
Another told me he had noticed statuettes that were no longer at the museum/site after a number of years.
Each time questions like these were raised the audience smirked or laughed knowingly, said one of my sources. In fact, the talk was filled with laughter! “They seemed to take it in good humour,” said the first source.
Mokhtar himself said the preservation and conservation of artefacts and inventories comes under the museum department, the source told me.
He also conceded there was little protection of archaeological sites apart from tents covering the digs.
The museum department must tell us where all these artefacts are being stored and provide us with a full list of the inventories over the years.
Questions were also raised about the meaning of Sanskrit inscriptions on artefacts and other relics, but apparently not all of these have been translated. One would imagine it wouldn’t be too difficult to find experts in ancient Sanskrit to descipher the inscriptions.
The Bujang Valley site is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, civilisation in the region.
Some of the discussion centred on whether other discoveries at the site were Buddhist or actually something of local origin.