Sarawak sets up special budget to preserve relics from war

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The state of Sarawak is setting up a special budget to help document the relics and history of World War II in the state, particularly in the interior where access can be a problem. However, the article makes it sound as if the senior citizens are the ones being called the relics!

Special budget to recover, preserve war relics in Sarawak
Borneo Post, 26 March 2012

Promoting World War II relics as state’s tourism product in the offing — Liwan
Borneo Post, 27 March 2012

Ministry to fund efforts to discover and preserve state’s wartime relics
The Star, 27 March 2012
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Public Lecture: Archaeology of Your Family

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Budding archaeologists in Singapore might look no further than in your very own storeroom! Catch Archaeologist Lim Chen Sian this Saturday at the Singapore National Library about the Archaeology of Your Family. Register at this website.

Date/Time: Saturday Jul 4, 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Venue: The Plaza in National Library Building

Remember that moth eaten battered suitcase that used to sit under the bed? How about that ceramic dish with tacky floral prints? Recall that toothpaste did not always come in a tube? Was toothpaste the preferred oral cleaning agent in the first place? Strange as it may seem, but in a relatively short period of a decade or quarter century has removed much from the living memory, yet there are many when prompted who will still vividly recall the not so distance past.

Join archaeologist Lim Chen Sian as he takes you on a trail of discovering artifacts, the past and lost memories of your own family! Grandmother’s Storeroom is a fun filled workshop for the anyone (particular the parent and child) to explore and uncover their own family history through the artifacts found beneath the dust in the family (or Grandmother’s) storeroom. Archaeology isn’t just for crusty old fogies poking about in dirt, be enthralled as you investigate the odd curios and bits found within your own home!

Workshop includes a slide lecture on archaeological research, archaeological recording sheets, “Storeroom Archaeology Booklet”, instructor’s demonstration kits/trunks.

Military relics reveals life and death of the Sandakan Death Marches

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Archaeology doesn’t necessarily have to go way back thousands of years to understand the lives and times of people who lived before – sometimes it’s as recent as World War II, as revealed by a cache of Australian military relics unearthed in Sabah. They are the grim remnants of the infamous Sandakan Death Marches, which led to the death of some 6,000 military personnel and civilians.

Unearthed: a final message from Sandakan’s doomed soldiers
Sydney Morning Herald, 22 September 2008
Photo gallery
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Construction in Jakarta destroys artefacts

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14 July 2007 (Jakarta Post) – 18th century artefacts from Indonesia’s Dutch colonial have been destroyed due to construction work in the Old Town area of Jakarta.

Old Town site excavation ruins artifacts

Excavation during the construction of a pedestrian tunnel in Old Town, West Jakarta, has destroyed artifacts and hampered historical analysis, an archaeologist said Thursday.

“The cultural and museum agency should have been informed about the excavation at the Old Town site… a permit should have been sought before the project began,” University of Indonesia professor of archaeology Mundardjito said.

“Digging beneath a historical site without an excavation permit is illegal,” he said.

Late last year, workers who were excavating at the Old Town site — to make way for a western entrance to the pedestrian tunnel in front of Bank Mandiri Museum — found an old tram track, timber poles, terra-cotta pipes and a thick brick and andesite wall.

A preliminary analysis carried out by the agency’s archaeological team revealed the wall position did not match that of the old city wall.

Read more about the excavations at Old Town.

A rare photograph of Fort Tanjong Katong

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Last month, The Wellcome Trust released their image archives for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license in a new website, Wellcome Images. While this online picture library primarily specialises in medical history and the biomedical sciences, there are also a few gems from its historical collection, such as this, a picture of Fort Tanjong Katong, highlighted to me by acroamatic.

This is quite an exciting find because until now, there hasn’t been a photograph of Fort Tanjong Katong available, particularly since the site was excavated a few years ago.

Fort Tanjong Katong was built in Singapore in 1879 as a response to perceived gap in the defence grid on the eastern part of Singapore Town. By erecting a battery at the mouth of the Kallang River, Fort Tanjong Katong placated the fears of the local merchant community fearful of an enemy ship sailing into the Kallang River and lobbying shells into the city.

Initially armed with three 7-inch cannons, these were soon rendered obsolete because of improvements in ship armour. Later in 1886, the fort was refitted with two 8-inch breach-loading guns, better than its predecessors, but far below the two 9-inch and one 10-inch cannon that were initially requested for the upgrade. Worse still, the land on which the fort was built was sandy and unstable, making it necessary for the gunners to reclibrate their weapons after every shot. Needless to say, the fort was not effective as a weapons platform as much as it was a psychological placation to the local community. In the early 1900s, it was decided that the fort was to be abandoned, presumably razed, and the site was converted into a public park.

In 2002, the fort was “rediscovered” by a local who lived opposite the park who noticed a difference in the colour of grass, showing the outline of a structure underneath. Excavations of the fort in 2004 and 2005 revealed portions of the moat, fortification wall, drawbridge structure and bastions. (You can download a copy of the Fort Tanjong Katong site report here.) Excavations were aided by copies of the fort’s 1886 plan that were available at the Public Records Office in the UK, but were hampered by the a lack of any photograph of what the fort looked like when it was sanding. In fact, most modern artists impressions of the fort looked like this:

NParks artist’s impression

Which brings us back to the Wellcome Trust picture, which was taken by John Edmund Taylor in 1880. The picture throws up more questions than answers:

What part of the fort is shown in the picture?
According to the Wellcome Trust, the picture was taken in 1880, which was a year after the fort was erected and would be armed with the three 7-inch guns. Judging from the walls, it would look like this picture was taken from the interior of the fort which would lead us to question 2…

Which angle was the picture taken from?
While the prospect of the cannons resting atop the two “hills” are tantalisingly intriguing, the lack of cannons and the palm trees in the background would seem to imply that we are facing inland. The bent wall structure also betrays no clues about which part of the fort this could be – it does not match any of the shape of the walls that were unearthed during the 2004-2005 excavation.

So what did Fort Tanjong Katong really look like?
Taylor’s picture certainly throws an interesting light to what (part of) the fort looked like in its heyday and it has thrown some assumptions out of the window. Perhaps it is too early to say “we’ll never know…” and some other photographic archive might shed some more light to this issue.

13 July 2007 update: After speaking with archaeologist Lim Chen Sian, he agrees that the layout looks like the interior of the fort, with the doorway to the left probably leading to the shell store, while the other door leading to the artillery store. He believes that the sand ramp in the middle of the two “hills” leads to the gun emplacement, which would mean that this picture was taken facing the sea, although it still doesn’t explain the coconut trees in the background.

Restoring the Malacca Fort

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02 June 2007 (New Straits Times) – The New Straits Times has a weekend focus on the restoration works of the Malacca Fort, first built by the Portuguese after their conquest of Malacca, and then later occupied by the Dutch. Much of the fort was destroyed by the British colonialists and thought lost forever until parts of the fort’s bastion was discovered last year.

20070603 New Straits Times

Rise of the Great Fort

Following the discovery, the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry proposed to reconstruct the Malacca Fort, for which the Cabinet approved a fund of RM12.8 million three months ago.

Rui and Nordin are part of a team of local and foreign experts comprising historians, archaeologists, architects, geologists and conservationists put together by the Department of National Heritage to oversee the fort’s reconstruction.

Heading the team is Heritage Commissioner Datuk Professor Zuraina Majid.

“We are not aiming to rebuild the whole fort, only about 50 per cent of the original.

“What is of primary concern is the authenticity of our reconstruction,” says Zuraina.

With only the foundations to work with, her team will have to rely heavily on historic documents by authors like Tome Pires and Emanuel Godinho de Eredia, drawings, paintings, as well as consultation with experts familiar with the architecture of that era.

Read more about the Malacca Fort, the Fortaleza D’Malacca also known as A’Famosa.

Govt allocates RM12.8m to reconstruct A'Famosa fort

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18 February 2007 (The Star)

Govt allocates RM12.8m to reconstruct A’Famosa fort

The federal government has approved a RM12.8 million allocation for the reconstruction of Fortaleza D’Malacca or the mighty A’Famosa fort built during the Portuguese or Dutch colonial era in Bandar Hilir here.

Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said said the first phase of the rebuilding work was expected to begin in April or May.

Speaking to reporters after attending a dinner hosted by the Malacca state Wanita Umno on Saturday, he said the Cabinet had agreed for the National Heritage Department to quickly draw up the plan with the assistance of historians in Malacca and several archaeologists.

A’Famosa to be rebuilt


1 February 2007 (The Star) – The 16th century Portuguese fort of Malacca, A’Famosa, is slated for rebuilding, following the discovery of the Middlesburgh bastion late last year.

A’Famosa to be rebuilt

The Star, 1 Feb 2007

Portions of the buried ruins of Fortaleza D’Malacca or the mighty A’Famosa fortress built in 1512 will be brought to “life” for the world to see. About 350m of the buried walls of the fortress will be reconstructed stone by stone to its original dimensions of 8m by 5m, said Commissioner of Heritage Prof Datuk Dr Siti Zuraina Abdul Majid. She said the completed structure would encompass the city’s 11.3ha heritage site in Bandar Hilir.

Presently, the department is using documents and paintings of the fort dating back to 1512 to determine its dimensions and design, but may require further documents from overseas sources.

“We might study the Galle Fort, which is fully intact in Sri Lanka, as it is a good example of how the fort would look like because they both share a similar history,” she added.

Kota artifact part of old railway structure: Expert

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19 December 2006 (Jakarta Post) – Underground structure found in Old Jakarta might be part of an old Dutch railway structure.

Kota artifact part of old railway structure: Expert

An underground structure found by workers while digging a pedestrian tunnel in Jakarta’s Old Town district might have been part of the foundation for an old railway structure from the 19th century, a recent analysis reveals.

“We have compared old maps of the area and found that in the 1800s, there were three railway tracks intersecting at that point (where the structure was found),” tunnel project structural expert Josia Irwan Rastandi said.

The old map reveals that after the southern city fortress wall was demolished, the Dutch built two railway tracks running east to west and a tram track running north to south.

Underground wall worthy of further investigation, experts say

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12 December 2006 (Jakarta Post) – An underground wall has been uncovered in Jakarta, but the lack of legislative support and urban construction concerns mean prevent further archaeological investigation.

Underground wall worthy of further investigation, experts say

The discovery of an underground structure in a historic area of West Jakarta is only the beginning of the process of studying and understanding the site, experts say.

Last month, workers digging the western entrance of a pedestrian tunnel in the Old Town area uncovered the remnants of a stone wall, buried some three meters under the earth.

“The wall is likely to stretch farther along the north-south axis,” Josia Irwan Rastandi, a structural advisor to the contractor building the tunnel, Wijaya Karya, said last week.

The ongoing construction project makes it unlikely the city administration will permit a thorough on-site investigation, but archaeologists may be able to examine the ruins from another vantage point.

The stone structure, which stretches along a straight north-south axis, is intercepted by a 160-centimeter-thick brick wall, running east-west.

Heritage activists previously called for the construction project to be halted, in the belief that the findings were part of the Batavia city wall, which was built in the early 1600s.

However, preliminary archaeological studies carried out by the city’s cultural and museums agency have determined it is not part of the old fortress