Singapore archaeology needs a permanent home

Singapore archaeologists Lim Chen Sian and John Miksic. Source: Straits Times 20150727

I think the headline of the article is misleading – after all, archaeologists always need funds and resources, but the key point of the story is that archaeology in Singapore needs to be supported as a government funded agency or a university department, and not through volunteer labour and short term contract jobs as is the case today. This is not only to research the substantial backlog of material that has been unearthed thus far, but also assist in future heritage impact assessments and archaeological surveys.

As an Singaporean archaeologist (who is not working in Singapore) I can understand the pressures faced by my colleagues. Most archaeological work has been done by volunteers, who have done a great job in helping with excavations and sorting of material. However, other essential work such as the analysis of finds, organisation of collections and dissemination of research require more specialised expertise and resources, and such capacity is not available. This call for a professionalised archaeological unit is not new, but is as yet unresolved.

Singapore archaeologists Lim Chen Sian and John Miksic. Source: Straits Times 20150727
Singapore archaeologists Lim Chen Sian and John Miksic. Source: Straits Times 20150727

Archaeologists in need of funds and resources
The Straits Times, 27 July 2015

Singapore’s two archaeologists, dogged for years by lack of interest in the field and scant resources, are hoping the Government will pump “several million dollars” into the discipline, to pay for more staff and activities over the next 50 years.

Mr Lim Chen Sian, who led a recent Empress Place dig which yielded artefacts such as centuries-old Chinese imperial grade ceramics, is also creating a registry of archaeological sites so people can be alerted to their historical value before the wrecking balls descend.

The authorities are also keen for archaeology to play a bigger role in piecing together Singapore’s past.

Full story here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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