[Lecture] What More Can Archaeology Tell Us About Singapore’s Past?

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Recent excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Straits Times 20150221
Recent excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Straits Times 20150221
2015 excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Straits Times 20150221


Date : Tuesday, 29 January 2019
Time : 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Venue : ISEAS Seminar Room 2

About the Lecture

This month marks the 35th anniversary of Singapore’s first archaeological excavation and the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the British under Sir T.S. Raffles. Since then, over half a million artefacts have been recovered from Singapore. These cover two periods: the Temasek era (14th to 16th century) and the Singapore era (1819-present). The artefacts from these excavations have succeeded in proving that Singapore had a sophisticated multicultural society and complex economy before 1350. There are still important questions about Singapore’s history which further research, particularly laboratory analysis, may be able to answer. This seminar will address important questions over provenance of artefacts; ancient ecology and environment of Singapore; reconstruction of artefacts; statistical analysis of intrasite variation; and comparisons with other sites in the region.

About the Speaker

Professor John N. Miksic received his BA from Dartmouth College, MA from Ohio University, and PhD from Cornell University based on archaeological fieldwork on a trading port of the 11th-13th century in Sumatra. He has worked in Malaysia as a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher and agricultural extension worker, in Sumatra as a Rural Development Advisor under USAID, and at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, for six years under a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council. In 1987 he moved to the National University of Singapore, where he is professor in the Southeast Asian Studies Department. He has been affiliated with the Department of History, University Scholars Programme, and Asia Research Institute. He founded the Archaeology Unit at ISEAS. He received a Special Recognition Award and the Pingat Bakti Setia long service award from the government of Singapore, and the title Kanjeng Raden Harya Temenggung from the Susuhunan of Surakarta (Indonesia). His book Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea won the inaugural award for best book on Singapore history in 2018. His specialties are the historical archaeology of Southeast Asia, urbanization, trade, Buddhism, and ceramics.

To register, please write to nscevents@iseas.edu.sg

Preliminary Report on the Archaeological Investigations at the Victoria Concert Hall

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via the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre, a newly-published report on the excavations at the Victoria Concert Hall in Singapore.

In September 2010, the Victoria Concert Hall and Victoria Theatre were closed for major redevelopment amounting to the sum of $158,000,000. The construction project saw extensive demolition works and the compound within was impacted. An archaeological evaluation conducted in July 2010 revealed pockets of cultural deposits from both the colonial and pre-modern eras. This discovery of an in-situ archaeological reservoir led to a three-week large-scale rescue excavation in September 2011. While the excavations were restricted to only a small area of the construction impact zone, the archaeology team successfully recovered approximately 654 kg of artifacts and ecofacts. This preliminary site report details the excavation sequences conducted at the site.

Source: NSC Archaeological Reports – ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

New exhibition seeks to revisit Raffles’ other facets

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Source: Asian Civilisations Museum

via The Straits Times, 01 January 2019: Modern Singapore’s founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, is the focus of a new exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum starting next month.

To many, Sir Stamford Raffles is held in esteem as the founder of modern Singapore who initiated the setting up of a trading port here for the British East India company, following his arrival in 1819.

But a new exhibition opening next month at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) will seek to peel back the layers of who the Briton was, down to his callous side.

Mr Kennie Ting, the museum’s director, said the majority of Singaporeans “know” Raffles as a mythical, one-dimensional “founder figure”.

Source: New exhibition seeks to revisit Raffles’ other facets, Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Singapore before colonisation: from Temasek to Singapura, destruction, and flight to Melaka and Johor

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via South China Morning Post, 27 November 2018: A new book Studying Singapore before 1800 explores a less-known area of Singapore’s past.

The history of Singapore before the foundation of the modern version of the city by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 has been largely ignored.

This volume of 18 articles (with a wide range of original publication dates) looks to rectify this and show that Singapore, because of its strategic location on the shipping route between East and West, was heavily involved in pre-British waves of global trade and colonisation.

Co-editor Kwan Chong Guan explains why this matters: “The challenge for Singapore in the 20th century is to recognise the nature of the post-colonial or postmodern cycle of globalisation it is caught in, and to decide best how to respond to it. Looking at the impact of earlier cycles of globalisation on the maritime history of the Melaka Straits may provide Singaporeans with a better understanding of their city state’s vulnerabilities.”

Source: Singapore before colonisation: from Temasek to Singapura, destruction, and flight to Melaka and Johor | South China Morning Post

Asian Civilisations Museum to open 3 new galleries for Christian Art, Islamic Art, and Ancestors and Rituals

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via Straits Times, 27 November 2018: New galleries in the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore.

The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) will open three new permanent galleries for Christian Art, Islamic Art, and Ancestors and Rituals on Saturday (Dec 1).

These galleries, found on the second level of the museum, will show how systems of faith and belief spread across Asia, and how traditions of religious art adapted as a result.

Among the highlights are a 17th century sculpture of the Virgin Mary with possible Chinese, Filipino and Mexican influences; an ornate 19th century Quran made in Terengganu; and a hornbill carving by Sarawak’s Iban community.

Source: Asian Civilisations Museum to open 3 new galleries for Christian Art, Islamic Art, and Ancestors and Rituals, Arts News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau traces family links to Singapore at Fort Canning Park

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Source: Straits Times 20181115

via Straits Times, 15 November 2018: Fort Canning Park in Singapore is an archaeologically significant area, with both pre-colonial and colonial remains. One of the gravestones at Fort Canning belongs to an ancestor of the Canadian PM.

Source: Straits Times 20181115

Source: Straits Times 20181115

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau traces family links to Singapore at Fort Canning Park

Source: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau traces family links to Singapore at Fort Canning Park, Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Digging Fort Canning Park: Refreshed archaeological site, restored gardens to open by June 2019

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Invited archaeologist Dr John N. Miksic (centre) and volunteers working at the Archaeological dig exhibition at Fort Canning Park on Oct 28, 2018. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong/TODAY

via Today, 28 October 2018: The Fort Canning site is being re-excavated and refurbished as part of the Singapore Bicentenary celebrations next year. New finds include Sawankhalok ware from Thailand.

Invited archaeologist Dr John N. Miksic (centre) and volunteers working at the Archaeological dig exhibition at Fort Canning Park on Oct 28, 2018. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong/TODAY

Invited archaeologist Dr John N. Miksic (centre) and volunteers working at the Archaeological dig exhibition at Fort Canning Park on Oct 28, 2018. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong/TODAY

Several new attractions showcasing the rich history of Fort Canning Park will be ready by June next year, breathing fresh life into the 18-hectare site.

Three historical gardens that will be restored will be ready by then, in conjunction with the bicentennial exhibition that will be held at the Fort Canning Centre, said the National Parks Board (NParks) on Sunday (Oct 28).

A 17-year-old exhibition space that features an archaeological dig site will be closed from next month to June next year for improvement works. When it reopens, the space will be renamed Artisan’s Garden as it is believed to be the site of a 14th-century palace workshop.

Source: TODAYonline | Digging Fort Canning Park: Refreshed archaeological site, restored gardens to open by June 2019

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Singapore’s rich pre-colonial history to be showcased

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National Museum of Singapore by saiko3p/Shutterstock

via The Straits Times, 22 October 2018: A new exhibition focusing on Singapore’s pre-colonial history from the 17th century (try to wrap your head around that!) will open next year at the National Museum of Singapore. Unfortunately, the linked article is behind a paywall.

National Museum of Singapore by saiko3p/Shutterstock

National Museum of Singapore by saiko3p/Shutterstock

“The National Museum of Singapore will roll out a key exhibition showcasing the country’s rich historical heritage to commemorate the bicentennial next year.

The exhibition – tentatively titled “An Old New World: From the East Indies to the Founding of Singapore, 1600-1819″ – will be staged at the museum’s Stamford Road location in the second half of next year.

Among other things, it aims to shed light on how Singapore was already well connected to the region and world prior to the arrival of the British East India Company.

The National Museum said the exhibition seeks to expand on Singapore’s history by looking at a longer narrative starting from the 1600s, as well as a broader geographical region – the East Indies, of which Singapore was a part.

The East Indies comprises the Malay Peninsula and Indonesian Archipelago, the centre of the spice trade that was highly sought after in Europe. This resulted in the establishment of the East India Company in 1600 and the Dutch Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie in 1602.”

Source: Singapore’s rich pre-colonial history to be showcased, Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Call for Applications – Asian Civilisations Museum Research Fellowship 2019

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Postdoc opportunity from the Asian Civilisations Museum! Deadline is 15 December 2018.

Organizing institution(s): Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore
Deadline: 15 December 2018
Location: Singapore
Description: The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore invites post-doctoral scholars to apply for fellowships in Material studies, Material culture studies, Museological studies, Trade, Singapore community heritage, Peranakan / Mixed heritage research, Cities/Urban studies, Intangible cultural heritage.

For more details and to download the application form, please visit https://www.acm.org.sg/research. To know more about the ACM’s collections, please go to http://roots.sg/learn/collections

For enquiries not answered in the information sheet, please contact: Secretariat, ACM Research Fellowship, nhb_acm_rpu@nhb.gov.sg

Singapore once named as ‘tricky place to stay’

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via Straits Times, 10 October 2018: More behind Singapore’s name, according to old records!

Singapore River. Source: Straits Times

Singapore River. Source: Straits Times

Singapura, as explained by some Portuguese authors in the 16th century, is translated from its original language in Malay into Portuguese as falsa demora, which means the wrong or tricky place to stay.

Meanwhile, the name Barxingapara, which appeared in maps in the early 1500s, can be broken down as follows: “bar” means a kingdom of a coastal region, “xin” means “China” and “gopara” or “gapura” is the word for “gateway”.

Dr Borschberg’s talk is part of the ongoing Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre’s lecture series called 1819 and Before: Singapore’s Pasts, organised in the lead-up to the bicentennial next year. The first lecture in the series took place in July.

Source: Singapore once named as ‘tricky place to stay’, Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Categories: Singapore

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