Words and photos by Phuah Ken Lin
Antiquity tour guide is taking on a new meaning with graduate students at the School of Archaeology at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang.
These students found themselves acting as tour guides to visitors at the three galleries in the school in the campus ground.
With expert knowledge of Kedah Tua Kingdom, they add a personal touch in their narrative so that they can connect visitors to the stories of our ancient forefathers.
Visitors get to relive the daily chore of stone-age humans in ancient civilisation; taking on the daily chore with the use of stone tools as chopper and cutter to cut tree branches, and to hunt for food prior to preparing meals for their family.
Granted. Visitors can try out the traditional iron smelting process outdoor, in an open-air setting where our forefathers painstakingly hammer out the iron with basic tools under sweltering heat.
The graduate students gave a live demonstration to where2 recently on the basic ways to cut objects with sharp-pointed stone tools.
Sharing her perspective as a volunteer, Siti Faridah Hanimi Damsi, 31, says her objective is to make archaeology as lively as possible, and she has plenty of tips to do so and leading group participation as part of the package tour at the varsity’s School of Archaeology.
“My normal day starts when I compare modern day amenities with that of the Stone Age. I manage to stoke the curiosity among my visitors who are mainly secondary school students.
“I engage them by instilling interest in archaeology as a topic by letting them try out the hammering and cutting sessions using various stone tools like chopper and cutter,” she said.
The three USM galleries, completed recently, house a wide range of ancient items; the artefacts and remnants from Sungai Batu, Kedah and Lembah Lenggong, Perak. The galleries comprise archaeology, gallery orang asli (indigenous group) and gallery archaeo-biology.
Indonesian archaeology postgraduate student Wani Maler, 24, from Medan, is all fired up to study ancient tombstone where she has a chance to study relics unearthed from Lembah Lenggong, Sungai Baru, and other excavation sites.
“I am excited and many of us have come to USM all the way from Indonesia just to learn more about the mystifying relics from the lost Malay civilization,” she said.
The icing on the cake for the visitors is a rare opportunity for everyone to take part in the re-enactment in the making process of cookery pots, moulding of bricks and mortar as well as sieving pebbles at the excavation sites.
Visitors are able to try their hands on the blowpipes used by orang asli (indigenous people) and traditional techniques to hunt for wild animals.
Meanwhile, USM Global Archaeological Research Centre celebrated its milestone with much fanfare recently; three decades into its historic excavation of relics from ancient civilisation dated some 1.8 million years ago in Lenggong, Perak.
To mark the momentous occasion, the archaeological unit at the Apex university has gone the extra mile by introducing three archaeo-tourism packages to entice historians and enthusiasts to visit its three galleries in its main campus on the island.
USM School of Archaeology director for global archaeological Professor Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin said the centre had aimed to establish itself as a living culture gallery.
The packages were launched in May and visitors have to pay a token sum to check out the galleries on-site at the campus.
“Members of the public can come over to visit the galleries during office hours from Mondays and Fridays. Charges will apply for the Kedah Tua civilisation in Sungai Batu, Kedah (day trip) and Lenggong, Perak (overnight excursion),” he said.
On hand to launch the packages and to witness the 30th anniversary celebration was deputy vice-chancellor Professor Dr Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah.
“USM takes pride in becoming the reference point and training centre for archaeology excellence for South East Asia,” he said.
For more information, make your way to the School of Archaeological at USM or browse www.usm.my for the latest details on the packages.