The discovery of these old batu nisan in the vicinity of Masjid Jamek is incredibly exciting as it is clear, tangible and unarguable evidence of the historical timeline of the development of this city and its early Muslim settlement at the trading post which is now this modern metropolis. The fact that several other type of artefacts such as ceramic bowls, glass and other items have also been found makes it even more imperative that a proper and systematic methodology for detailed mapping of the ground below in the whole area surrounding the mosque be undertaken immediately, before the area is disturbed further. Publicly sharing all such recording and documentation by historians and archaeologists will provide a rich picture of the social and cultural lifestyle of these early settlers and ultimately help create a better understanding and appreciation of the many different people and communities which were the backbone on which this city was founded.
Whether the batu nisan were found is within or outside of the boundary of the gazetted National Heritage Site of Masjid Jamek, should not be an impediment because the National Heritage Act 2005 gives the Heritage Commissioner the authority to stop work if it is deemed that items of national heritage significance will lost or negatively affected by this work. The area where the batu nisan have been found is definitely within the larger historic enclave where the majority buildings have been gazetted on the National Heritage Register.
While completing a new water fountain feature within the River of Life project is clearly important to the aspirations of the city’s authorities, a comprehensive multi-disciplinary study of this site is even more important to the city and its citizens. In many parts of the world, showcasing historical and archaeological investigations at such urban sites provide a “crowd-pulling” platform for locals and visitors alike. Cordoning off this area will more than anything likely enhance the attraction of the site and its surrounds.
Badan Warisan Malaysia hopes that the National Heritage Department will step up to the mark and lead in this research to ensure that the heritage value of this site is given its due recognition.