Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kota Batu archaeological site tells of Brunei's advanced civilisation

By James Kon

The findings from the archaeological site of Kota Batu have revealed that the country had a higher and advanced civilisation that used stones to construct buildings.

The historical site has educational value for the younger generation to learn about the country's advanced civilisation and also has commercial value in attracting tourists.

Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hazair bin Hj Abdullah, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, yesterday said this during a working visit to assess Kota Batu's archaeological site as it will be open to the public and tourists in the near future.

The minister spoke to the media during the presentation on the Kota Batu archaeological site by saying, "From the findings, we know that our ancient civilisation was able to construct buildings with stones. It shows that they belonged to an advanced civilisation."

"The site," he said, "will have a huge educational value for the younger generation to learn about the old civilisation and also has commercial value in drawing tourists once it's officially open for visitors."

The significance of the Kota Batu archaeological site was highlighted by Pengiran Dr Karim bin Pengiran Hj Osman, Acting Director of Brunei Museums in his presentation.

The acting director said, "The Kota Batu archaeological site situated near the Brunei Museum is an important site for the country because of its historical and archaeological value since the 14th century. The area also has an attractive natural environment and it's located close to the three major museums of the country.

"The 120-acre Kota Batu archaeological site is spread from the jetty of Brunei River to Kota Batu hill. The area is gazetted under the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Act Amendment 2001."

The acting director described the significant historical value of Kota Batu by saying, "Kota Batu was the capital of old Brunei in the 14th to 17th century. It is believed that Kota Batu was open for trade during the reign of the first Sultan of Brunei who was the late Sultan Mohammad Shah (1360-1402). During the reign of Sultan Sharif Ali, a castle and a mosque were built with stones. While in the reign of fifth Sultan of Brunei, who was Sultan Bolkiah (1485-1524), the kingdom was at its peak whereby the area under Brunei comprised Borneo Island as well as south of Philippines.

"In the reign of Sultan Saiful Rizal (1533-1581), Brunei's seventh sultan, the late sultan ordered the start of coin smithing in Kota Batu. While under Sultan Shah, Brunei started its own factory to make cannons," he said.

Kota Batu also played a role as the centre of trade within and outside the country during ancient time. According to a Spanish report in the 16th century, the cosmopolitan capital had people from various races including from China, Siam, Cambodia, Indo-China, Philippines, Patani, Pahang, Jawa, Sumatra, Aceh, Muluku, Sulawesi and also Mindanao.

Pigafetta recorded that Brunei was a peaceful and prosperous country. The capital was big and had as many as 25,000 people. The royal palace was on land and very luxuriously decorated with silver, gold and precious stones.

He revealed that Kota Batu also experienced many good and bad times. Among them was the war against Spaniard intruders at the end of the 16th century when Pengiran Bendahara Sakam led a group of fighters to defeat the intruders in the Castille War in 1578.

Kota Batu also saw a civil war between Sultan Abd Mubin and Sultan Muhyiddin which lasted for 12 years that brought its downfall. It moved to Tumasik and then to the Water Village that stands now.

Pengiran Dr Karim also said, "The first excavation done in Kota Batu was in 1951/1952. The excavation was led by Tom Harrison on 417 plots that unearthed various artefacts and building structures. The success of the excavation encouraged the establishment of the Museums Department in 1965."

Under the eighth National Development Plan, $500,000 was used in Phase I to build pathway, bridges and information centre, as well as car park. A total of $11,963.17 was used for topo survey and soil investigation and $30,000 to bring in an expert consultant from Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Phase II, which has a budget of $2 million from the ninth National Development Plan, will see the construction of a pathway connecting to the old pathway, the construction of huts along the pathway, building of causeway, as well as a bridge connecting Pulau Terindak. The budget will also be used for the reconstruction of KBI, hut for KBII and also shelter for the old gravesite.

Pengiran Dr Karim also mentioned about building a site office, safety shelter, drainage system, signboard, zebra crossing, monorail, more walkways and others under the allocation in the 10th National Development Plan.

The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports also toured part of the Kota Batu archaeological site and made a number of suggestions for the pathway and walkway. He also advised the officials to make sure that the archaeological site will not sustain any damages from the influx of visitors when the site is open for visitors.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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