GEORGE TOWN: The Sungai Batu Archaeological site in the Bujang Valley is now certified as dating back to 582 BC instead of 535 BC previously, making it by far the oldest recorded civilisation in the South East Asian region and among the oldest in Asia. This latest finding was revealed by the Centre For Global Archaeological Research of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) here. The centre's director Prof Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin said the scientific assessment was based on a laboratory analysis on carbon and soil testings. "It is now proven to be the oldest, without a doubt," said Mokhtar at the 23rd Suyanggae International symposium held at the Flamingo Hotel here. Present was Prof Yung – Jo Lee, who is the Institute of Korea Prehistory's president. Suyanggae in South Korea and Lenggong in Perak are two valleys with significant prehistoric evidence. In Sungai Batu, among the artefacts unearthed through a painstaking process were sunken ships and a base of an early human settlement, which would predate other archaeological treasures in the region, namely the Angkor Wat in Siam Reap, Cambodia and the Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Indonesia. Mokhtar acknowledged there are now serious efforts underway by the university and the Kedah government to conserve this find of the century in Sungai Batu, which is some 30km away from Sungai Petani, the industrial hub of southern Kedah. The centre has also received a grant allocation of RM19.2 million from the federal government last year. USM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Asma Ismail said that such work allows history to be rewritten and to unearth the real history behind myths and beliefs. Despite the discovery at Sungai Batu, Mokhtar concluded that there remains an acute shortage of archaeologists in USM and the country as a whole. USM only has eight postgraduate students in archaeology. To generate more interest, he said that USM is working with schools to train young students in the basic skills of unearthing artefacts.