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The Development of Kedah's Early History Based on Archeological Finds

By Adi Haji Taha, National Museum
(Translation by Haji Hashim bin Samin)

A variety of glass fragments found in Bujang Valley.

A variety of beads founds in the Bujang Valley.

The development of Kedah's early history as in other states in Peninsular Malaysia was caused by its strategic geographical location. From the point of prehistory Peninsular Malaysia was at least regarded as a bridge or a highway upon which man had to pass in their migration from the north to the south and on to South East Asia and the Pacific. Later, when the development maritime trade was at its height, the Peninsula once again played an important part because of its position between two of the largest trade centres, i.e. India and other Arab countries to the west and China to the east. At a time when shipping movement depended on the monsoons, there was a time when traders needed to wait out for the monsoon to change in order to make their return journey, and the Peninsula not only provided the necessary shelter, but the opportunity to trade among themselves.

Based on the above point, we would find that Kedah had its on special position, which indirectly contributed to its uniqueness in the development of its history. Many limestone caves, which offered both shelter and homes to prehistoric communities, could be found in the districts of Kubang Pasu, Kota Setar and Baling. What is even more interesting is the existence of a majestic mountain along its shores believed to be a landmark for sailors plying the Indian Ocean in ancient times. Besides, Kedah was easily assessable via land routes to states in the East Coast of the Peninsular (Wheatley 1961 : xxvi ; Braddle 1980).

All the above factors pointed to a history full of glory for Kedah in particular and Peninsular Malaysia in general.

Archeological research in Kedah could be divided into two general sectors, that is early prehistory which included Bujang Valley. The importance of archeological research in Bujang Valley is never in dispute, so much so that the popularity of its research had dimmed researches of other prehistoric communities of a much earlier period in Kedah history. So, in this paper I feel it would be better for me to go into prehistoric periods in this State and later go into discussion on the development of its early history based on present archeological finds.

Archeological research into Kedah's prehistoric period is limited to cave sites, although some artifacts could be found albeit unintentionally, in open grounds. H.D. Collings was the first person to reveal the existence of some prehistoric archeological sites in Kedah based on his research in Baling Mountain. Diggings were made in two caves; Gua Debu and Gua Kelawar (Collings 1936). Among the artifacts found were stone axes of the Hoabinhian period, stone axes and adzes of the Neolithic period, sharpening stones, stone pounders and pottery. River snails were the main remains of food items found on the site while bones of animals were found in less significant quantities.

What is interesting about the research was the remains of pottery (Neolithic period) found in the same level of earth which contained artifacts from Hoabinhian period and according to Collings (1936:10) there was no sign that that level of earth was ever disturbed. So, based on these findings, two conclusions could be derived from the connection between the Hoabinhian and the Neolithic period. They are:

  • Two communities with different cultures but living as neighbours who interacted between one and the other, or

  • One community living in transition from the Hoabinhian period into the Neolithic period as this involved the use of tools both old and new. is
presented by:

Kedah State Public
Library Corporation

Funded by:
Demonstrator Applications Grant Scheme (DAGS) of the National IT Council (NITC) Malaysia

Supported by:
Kedah State Government

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