Friday, November 16, 2007

Archaeology in Singapore

Who was Sang Nila Utama? What was life like in early, pre-colonial Singapore? It seems archaeology seems to attempt to answer some of these questions.

The Southeast Asian Archeology site is one of only a few that tracks archeological digs around Singapore. The sites explored include Fort Canning, Istana Kampong Glam, Fort Tanjong Katong, Palmer Road, Padang and St Andrew's Cathedral with the respective site reports found on each of these pages. Also appended is Miksic's "Recent archaeological excavations in Singapore" for a survey of what some of these digs have revealed about early Singapore. John Miksic is the patron saint of archaeology in Singapore. Hear what he has to say about local archeology, his own calling to this profession and his experiences. Or read more about the findings from some of the digs.

Another website by MA student Noel Tan - Southeast Asian Archaeology - updates readers on both local and other Southeast Asian archaeological excavations. His primer (Part 1 and Part 2) on the Srivijaya Kingdom lists an overview of the Buddhist empire that stretched from Java to Thailand spanning 600 years of rule. Consider his fascinating 3-part story - the many places of Singapore - of how Singapore (Simhapura) could have been a reference to other places besides this fine island. SheilaX gives an informative and articulate overview of the ancient history of the region and the comments that follow after her article are just as interesting.

We return to Sabrizain's Sejarah Melayu for a visual tapestry of this historical period, including the Buddhist and Hindu eras of the Malaya Archipelago.

The Srivijaya and Majapahit Kingdoms were centred in Sumatra and Java respectively and thus more detailed information of these early histories are generally found in websites concerning the early history of Indonesia. For example Indahnesia has a good number of articles covering these early kingdoms and more.

Ancient Singapore is invariably linked with the Singapore Stone of which little is left. For a detailed insight to this mysterious slab, check out the Wikipedia article on the Singapore Stone, the bulk of it written by Jack Lee.

However, Lim Chen Sian dispels the common perception that archaeology is about the distant past. He gives some insights to life as an archaeologist in his interview with RSI. But for the real deal, watch Invisible City, Tan Pin Pin's incredible documentary on Singapore's hidden side where Lim gives viewers a visual tour of his "office" and the work done there.

Keen to study more about Singapore's history and archaeology? Check out what NUS offers in its History and Culture section or visit the KaalaChakra exhibition on Indian influences in Southeast Asia, on at the National Library from 17 November to 16 May 2008.