Interview with a Singaporean archaeologist

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8 May 2007 (Radio Singapore International) – RSI’s series Discovering Singapore, features an interview with Singaporean archaeologist Lim Chen Sian, about what archaeologists do, and what’s there to find in Singapore.

Archaeology in Singapore

Would you believe that beneath the concrete jungles of cosmopolitan Singapore, we can find white sand dating back to the republic’s early days of Sang Nila Utama? Or even the discovery of forts that probably existed during the British colonial era?

Just some of the unusual discoveries by Singapore’s rare breed of archaeologists like Lim Chen Sian. With their trusty digging tools, these archaeologists attempt to uncover more behind Singapore’s rich historical past.

But what does an archaeologist in Singapore really do? And are there really that many treasures to dig up in the republic?

Read and listen to the interview here.

Related Books:
Early Singapore 1300s – 1819: Evidence in Maps, Text and Artefacts by J. N. Miksic and C. Low (Eds)

Podcast: Archaeology beneath the Sea

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The public lecture held at the Australian National University was mentioned before in an earlier post, and the recording of the lecture by Dr. Eusebio Dizon has been uploaded on the ANU website. You can download and listen in to the half-hour lecture by Dr Dizon. A pity that one can’t see the accompanying pictures. Note: this isn’t a SEAArch podcast – although one is currently in the making!

For more than 20 years, the National Museum of the Philippines has been conducting underwater archaeology in Philippine waters with international collaborators. In this lecture, Dr Eusebio Dizon discusses the shipwrecks uncovered by the museum, includin the fifteenth century Pandanan wreck, with its cargo of Chinese ceramics, which was accidentally discovered by a pearl farm diver off the coast of Pandanan Island in the southern Philippines. Another key discovery discussed is the wreck of the San Diego, a Spanish warship that sank off the waters of Fortune Island during a battle with a Dutch ship, the Mauritius in 1600.

Dr Eusebio Dizon is Head of the Underwater Archaeology Section and Curator I in the Archaeology Division, National Museum, Manila, Philippines. He has undertaken extensive fieldwork in both land and underwater archaeological exploration and excavation in the Philippines, United States, India and Southeast Asia.

Dr Dizon is also a Director of the Archaeological Studies Program in the University of the Philippines and a Professorial Lecturer at Ateneo de Manila and Santo Tomas Universities. He was awarded his PhD by the University of Pennsylvania in 1988.

This lecture was presented by the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.


Related Books:
Lost at Sea: The Strange Route of the Lena Shoal Junk
Shipwrecks and Sunken Treasure in Southeast Asia by T. Wells

Podcast: Treasures of the South China Sea

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It’s the first SEAArch podcast! We go on-location to the Aquaria @ KLCC, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to bring you a first-hand look at the Treasures of the South China Sea exhibition, on now until the end of this month. Please leave comments and feedback!

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Transcript

It’s a hazy day in Kuala Lumpur, and we are on our way to the KLCC where the famous Petronas towers are standing. The Petronas towers are currently the tallest buildings in the world, but we’re not going up the towers today, instead we are heading underground and back in time.

The Treasures of the South China Sea exhibition at the Aquaria is a rare chance to get up close and personal with artefacts dating as far back as one thousand years. Organised by Nanhai Marine Archaeology and supported by the Malaysia Department of Museums, the exhibition showcases artefacts retrieved from ten shipwrecks found in the waters of Malaysia.

In chronological order, the ten shipwrecks are: The Tanjung Simpang, Turiang, Nanyang, Longquan, Royal Nanhai, Xuande, Singtai, Wanli, Anantes and Desaru. The wrecks are named arbitrarily, sometimes named after their present locations and at other times named after some characteristic feature. They date from the 10th century right up to the 19th century and cover the Chinese dynasties of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing.

Most of the pieces in the exhibition are on sale and collectors interested in owning a piece of history might be interested in buying a gong, a bowl or a pair of spoons from the Desaru shipwreck. For my part – and my meagre budget – I got a miniature celadon jarlet retrieved from the Royal Nanhai wreck that dates to around 1450. I also bought a book on Malaysian Shipwrecks.

The company behind the retrieval of these artefacts, Nanhai Marine Archaeology, works very closely with the Malaysian Department of Museums. Sten Sjostrand, the principle investigator and founder of the company sees himself as a marine archaeologist rather than a treasure hunter or antique dealer. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to speak with him when I was there, but from what I hear, he’s really passionate about his work and so hopefully we can hear from him in another podcast.

The Museums Department gets its choice of artefacts and 30% of the retrieved finds, and the remaining 70% are sold by the company. The money raised is used to fund future marine expeditions. This exhibition is special, however, because it may be one of the last ever and so if you have the time, you should make the trip down because Mr Sjostrand is said to be retiring.

The Treasures of the South China Sea Exhibition is on at the Aquaria at KLCC until the end of October. For more information, you can visit Nanhai Marine Archaeology’s website at www.mingwrecks.com and don’t forget to visit the SEAArch website at S-E-double A-R-C-H dot wordpress dot com for a full transcript of this podcast and more news and resources on the archaeology of Southeast Asia.

Music for this podcast was by Gamelan Nyai Saraswati from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can send your comments, feedback and suggestions to seaarch@gmail.com. Until next time, this is Noel signing off for the SEAArch podcast.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Related Books:
Shipwrecks and Sunken Treasure in Southeast Asia by T. Wells
Oriental trade ceramics in Southeast Asia, 10th to 16th century: Selected from Australian collections, including the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Bodor Collection by J. Guy

Searching for the First Malayo-Polynesians: Research on the Taiwan and Philippine Neolithic

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12 October 2006 (Australian National University) – Public lecture at the ANU on Wednesday, 18 October by Dr. Peter Bellwood.

Searching for the First Malayo-Polynesians: Research on the Taiwan and Philippine Neolithic

Linguistic, archaeological and genetic evidence indicate that Taiwan was a major origin region for the Austronesian-speaking peoples. Their major branch, that of the speakers of Malayo-Polynesian languages, has spread more than half way around the world, and today has over 350 million members. The archaeological roots of this dispersal can be traced in Neolithic cultures in Taiwan and the northern Philippines (Batanes Islands and northern Luzon) dating between 5000 and 3000 years ago.

Archaeological excavations in Taiwan and the Batanes Islands by ANU archaeologists (inter alia) will be discussed, as well as new sourcing research by Taiwan geochemists on Taiwan nephrite, a mineral that travelled about 2,000 years ago over huge areas of SE Asia (to Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia).