MALAYSIA - Every year, thousands of Malaysian tourists throng Angkor Wat in Cambodia. But it is safe to say that many of them have not even heard of an equally historic Hindu temple site right at their doorstep - Candi No 11 in Lembah Bujang, Kedah.
Last week, the demolition of the remains of the 1,200-year-old tomb temple to make way for a housing project would have gone unnoticed if not for heritage NGO Bujang Valley Study Circle chairman and researcher Datuk V. Nadarajan, who lodged a police report after conducting a study at the site and finding it destroyed.
The news reports that ensued led to a nationwide uproar, forcing the developer who demolished the candi to halt work at the historical site.
All Malaysians need to play a role in the preservation of the country's heritage, urges Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Centre for Global Archaeological Research (CGAR) director Prof Dr Mokhtar Saidin.
It is not only to prevent a similar incident happening to another local heritage site, but also to encourage more archaeological discoveries in the country.
In Sungai Batu alone, there is so much more archaeology material to be discovered, Prof Mokhtar shares.
His archaeology team, for one, has unearthed valuable economic evidence in the area, which is believed to have been a full-fledged kingdom in its heyday.
"Right now, we have a more solid interpretation of Lembah Bujang. Before this, it was only known for its candi," says Prof Mokhtar.
The USM team, he says, has been working at 46 excavation sites, which are dated between the 5th century BC and 17th century AD, out of the 184 listed sites in Sungai Batu. Ninety-seven sites are listed under USM.
"From the 46 sites that we have excavated, we found ritual sites, evidence of an iron smelting industry, eight river jetties and the remains of an administrative building. This shows that there was a multi-function civilisation in Lembah Bujang that thrived on the iron industry.