The excavations at Empress Place have ended, and the artefacts are now at ISEAS being sorted and tagged. These follow-up stories show the kinds of work that needs to be done, as well as some of the more interesting finds from the site.
Empress Place excavation. Source: AsiaOne 20150510
Racing against time to salvage old Singapore
AsiaOne, 10 May 2015
When archaeology volunteer Margaret Wong pulled large ceramic pieces from the soil at an Empress Place excavation site near the Singapore River, she knew by their weight and smooth texture that they were centuries-old jade green fragments of high quality.
But the enormity of her find sunk in only after Chinese porcelain expert Tai Yew Seng, who had been digging nearby, recognised the fragments as imperial-grade ceramics produced between 1368 and 1398.
The pieces, which formed a 34cm diameter platter, turned out to be one of the most significant artefacts unearthed from the two-month dig that wrapped up last month.
Archaeological discoveries keep confirming that there was a thriving community here long before Stamford Raffles “created” Singapore in the 19th century. The latest evidence suggests that Temasek, or ancient Singapore, could have had an established government with a head ruler or chieftain way back in the late 14th century.
In unearthing this evidence during a dig at Empress Place, archaeologists have shed light on gaps in knowledge of the past. Singapore’s history was supposed to have begun with the providential role of colonials who made it a functional landing post. The evidence suggests otherwise. In digging it up, the archaeological team has provided additional proof of Singapore’s international provenance as well. It has discovered Chinese imperial-grade ceramics produced between 1375 and 1425. These had been bestowed by the Ming Dynasty emperor Hongwu on overseas leaders. Although Raffles undoubtedly gave Singapore a new lease of life as a commercial city, one that lasts to this day, he was not the originator of Singapore. To say that it had flourished before him does not detract from his importance but places it in historical perspective.
It’s rare to see some archaeology from my home country – right now the largest excavation is underway at Empress Place, right in the middle of downtown Singapore, and over the areas that would have been to original settlement of Singapore. It’s a rescue excavation ahead of some construction in the area and the yield have been quite promising – hopefully they will be displayed to be public at some stage.
Excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Today 20150213