18th-century gravestones dug up near historic KL mosque

The gravestones unearthed near Jamek Mosque (left) are made of granite, marble and sandstone (right). Workers have now been alerted to look out for more artefacts
The gravestones unearthed near Jamek Mosque (above) are made of granite, marble and sandstone. Workers have now been alerted to look out for more artefacts. PHOTOS: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
The gravestones unearthed near Jamek Mosque (left) are made of granite, marble and sandstone (right). Workers have now been alerted to look out for more artefacts
The gravestones unearthed near Jamek Mosque are made of granite, marble and sandstone (above). Workers have now been alerted to look out for more artefacts. PHOTOS: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR • More than 45 gravestones that are believed to be from the early 18th century have been discovered at a construction site near the historic Jamek Mosque.

These gravestones are mostly made of granite, with a few made of marble and sandstone, The Star newspaper reported yesterday.

The writing was still legible on some of the gravestones, which date back nearly 200 years and were unearthed between December last year and last month, the report added. The mosque's head administrator Mohd Faisal Tan Mutalib said: "These are exciting discoveries. Our knowledge of the area's history is limited, but what we do know is that there was a Muslim graveyard here in the early 18th century."

He added: "It is not surprising to find old gravestones in this area. Some are quite grand and beautiful. They need to be documented."

The gravestones that have been recovered have been tagged and will be studied, although it is not clear which party will be in charge of this study.

The construction works are part of the RM4.4 billion (S$1.5 billion) River of Life project announced in 2012 to turn the Klang River into a vibrant waterfront.

The Jamek Mosque area and its surroundings have been declared a National Heritage site by Malaysia's National Heritage Commission.

The entire river is being cleaned up, and beautification and development works are being carried out along a 10.7km stretch in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

The 108-year-old Jamek Mosque is also undergoing major upgrading works as part of the project.

The area had been the centre of commercial activity as early as the 18th century, and was inhabited by early settlers who did tin mining work for a living.

The Jamek Mosque area and its surroundings have been declared a National Heritage site by Malaysia's National Heritage Commission.

Workers who are now building a water fountain at the site have been alerted to look out for more artefacts that may emerge, and to report any new findings to the commission.

A consultant with construction firm Ekovest, one of the companies in charge of the River of Life project, said: "We have been finding all sorts of artefacts from the project site since late last year. First it was broken ceramic bowls, glasses, bottles, and pots."

"Some of the gravestones looked quite fancy, while others had Jawi scripts embossed on them," he added, referring to the Arabic alphabet which Malay was written in before it was romanised.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline '18th-century gravestones dug up near historic KL mosque'. Print Edition | Subscribe