Nation’s first archaeologist honoured by recognition

KUALA LUMPUR: Mention archaeologists and images of Indiana Jones or even Lara Croft from Tomb Raider may come to mind.

But those are fictional characters, while in Malaysia, there is Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Siti Zuraina Abdul Majid, 78, who is the real McCoy and, notably, the nation’s first ever archaeologist.

If you’re wondering what her discoveries were over the past 50 years, the answers lie in the textbooks you studied back in school.

In fact, Prof Siti Zuraina discovered the 74,000-year-old Palaeolithic stone tool site of Kota Tampan in Lenggong, Perak, alongside the world-famous Perak Man.

“I didn’t get to feel anything immediately as the whole discovery revealed itself slowly (as we understood and interpreted what we were seeing).

“Every day was a nice little surprise, and there were times when I knew the findings were a jackpot, as I knew what sort of problems such a discovery could solve for both South-East Asia and the world,” she said when recalling her experience of making significant discoveries in Malaysia’s prehistoric past.

She added that the recognition of Lenggong Valley as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) world heritage site was worth all the effort she had put in.

“I could sort of breathe and say that all those years of hard work have paid off with Malaysia having its first archaeological site inscribed as a world heritage site.

“It was an amazing feeling,” said Prof Siti Zuraina, who worked at the site for more than 20 years.

Lenggong Valley was declared a world heritage site on June 30, 2012.