You would think talking all day about thousand year old stones would be pretty boring but as participants in this weeks Megalith seminar in Seremban found out, this is far from the truth.
With more than 3,500 known stone megaliths found in the Kuala Pilah region alone, the time felt right to talk about these stone structures referred to by locals as Batu Hidup which translates to "Living Stones."
Official speakers included archaeologists, researchers and financial officers from various universities and government departments who had their say, presenting slides, documentaries and statistics about the megaliths.
The erection of these living stones, mostly in Negeri Sembilan and a small pocket in the northern part of Malacca, are generally thought to have emanated from early Minangkabau settlers who migrated to the region from Sumatra around the 14th and 15th centuries.
The state government wants to relocate some of the megaliths to the Pengkalan Kempas Historical Complex in Port Dickson as many are becoming derelict and uncared for, and are hoping to preserve these ancient stones and at the same time create a go-to place for domestic tourists, who are showing more interest in learning and seeing Negeri Sembilan's unique history.
Acting director of Negeri Sembilan museum Aziz Mohd Gorip wants to see the relocation of some of the megaliths to Pengkalan Kempas take place as they are part of an ancient custom and cultural history, that enriches Negeri Sembilan. He suggested most parties involved, including landowners, want the megaliths moved so crucial maintenance, respect of their cultural and heritage value, can help preserve these special historic stones.
Of the known 300 megalith sites in Negeri Sembilan approximately 70 sites are in the Kuala Pilah area so there was plenty of interest and questions from a large crowd full of clan leaders, villagers and University students to hear about the proposed outcome of the stones.
Two young students, one studying landscape architecture and the other researching "Early Proto-Malays usage of astral navigation" caught the attention of the presenters and guests as to their deep, knowledge, interest and questions in regards to the culture of the Living Stones, mostly pertaining to their integrity, ancient rituals, customs, and whether there was a quantifiable "value" placed on them
State finance officer Datuk Johani Hassan also reiterated that the majority of the sites in Negeri Sembilan are left unattended with a large amount on private land and this has raised questions as it is still unclear as to who is responsible for maintaining the special stones and surrounding areas.
He suggested that a central location like Pengkalan Kempas could establish a Megalithic Conservation Center at the historical complex (see link created above or click here) which could monetise and help fund the preservation of the megaliths.
The proposal to build a Conservation Centre in Pengkalan Kempas to educate and protect these unique megaliths comes after the suggestion that another centre, or museum style centre may be built near Jempol after the discovery of stone tools, artefacts and human habitation up 14,000 years old, is putting Negeri Sembilan on the path to becoming the go-to Eco-State for domestic and International tourists, with beaches and jungle activities galore on offer.
Of course the small area at Pengkalan Kempas cannot be home to all the stones so perhaps there may be some specialised tourism opportunities for locals to participate in showing visitors to the many sites around Terachi for example - time will tell.
“Besides serving as a source of information for the public to know more about megaliths, we believe that it will also help add more tourism products to the centre. We will look through the proposal at the state and federal level through the Department of National Heritage and the Department of Museums,” Hassan said.
Keep an eye out for more related stories on this subject soon.