On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

History just got exciting

This young man has certainly stirred great interest in the academic world, at
least among local historians, with his claim that there is a lost city known as
Kota Gelanggi in the jungles of Johor. His claims are based on references in
the Sejarah Melayu and on aerial photographs that show vegetation with unusual
patterns. Raimy has also offered to share his information and provide
assistance to the Department of Museums and Antiquities.

The ancient site, he theorises, could be at least 1,000
years old and even possibly older than Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobudur in
Indonesia. If indeed the site is that of the lost city, it is set to revise our
understanding of our region's historical landscape.

But Raimy is a cautious man. He chooses his words, either in conversation or in
his articles, carefully. He is aware that he has stumbled onto something big
but also realises that nothing is proven until a serious expedition

He has been open to admit that his first one-week expedition in 2003 did not
produce any results and that his team did not see any tracks, which could lead
to the lost city.

The orang asli who live around there talked of "ghosts and tigers" in the place
which they knew as Kota Batu Hitam.

Raimy doesn't quite fit the image of Indiana Jones, the archaeologist-adventurer
played by Harrison Ford – the Hollywood hero who is ever in search of lost
cities in jungles and deserts.

Nevertheless, he has stirred tremendous interest in Malay history. Students,
who used to find the subject a bore because their unimaginative teachers only
force them to copy notes, have been inspired by the more exciting treatment of
the subject by the media.

Like pioneers in all fields, Raimy is ready to take his share of pot shots.
There will be disputes and counter-claims. There will be triumphs and
frustrations. But that is supposed to be normal in all historical or scientific

Since The Star broke the story, there has been much interest in the subject.
Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim has said the
Federal Government will give top priority to the search for the lost city of
Kota Gelanggi in Johor and will provide the necessary funds to unveil what
could be the biggest historical find in the country.

On Monday, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said the state agreed
that there was a lost city in the state but it was disputing its name. They
claimed it was not known as Kota Gelanggi but was called Kota Klang Kiu or
Ganggayu, based on findings by the Yayasan Warisan Johor.

The Star had reported on Feb 4 that the Kota Gelanggi cave complex existed in
Pahang, a site known for its pre-historic links, about 30km from Jerantut. Six
years ago, a team of archaeologists unearthed artefacts there believed to be
more than 1,500 years old in one of the caves. The relics included pottery,
hunting tools, weapons and ornamental pieces.

In Sejarah Melayu, Tun Seri Lanang pinpointed the city, saying it was built of
blackstone and lay far in the upper reaches of Sungai Johor. He called it Kota Gelanggi
but others have said that the city could have been called Klang Kiew in the 9th
century AD.

The Malay rendition, as Raimy pointed out in his article, resembles the Siamese
word Khlang kaew (jewel) and could have been mispronounced as "klang kiu."
There has been suggestion that the word soon became "glang giu" or "gelanggi"
or even the more familiar "linggui."

Raimy's article in the Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic
Society is well written and well argued. Even if one may dispute his theories,
those interested in this subject must read his work before responding. This
would include politicians, researchers and journalists – who may be happy or
unhappy with his work for one reason or another.

He has, in fact, devoted a large section to the Kota Gelanggi cavern in Pahang,
providing details of the cave complex including the limestone formations.

It is good to know that the Johor Mentri Besar is showing great interest in the
issue but more importantly, there appears to be a consensus that there is a
lost city in the state, whichever name we call it.

In the search for the lost city, the nation needs the support of leaders like
Dr Rais, Ghani and historians like Prof Datuk Dr Nik Hassan Suhaimi Nik Abdul
Rahman of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and the Department of Museums
and Antiquities director-general Datuk Dr Adi Taha to lend their push and

We need to work together for the common interest of wanting to make our history
and heritage richer. This could well be the missing piece in the historical
mosaic of the South-East Asian region. As Dr Rais put it correctly, it is a
national priority. And who said history is boring?

n: This writer is deeply interested in the subject as he
studied political science, history and Malay literature at UKM.