This island nation was a port city in both ancient and modern times. Singapore is a city-state located on the southern tip of the Malayan peninsula. The former British colony was founded on the basis of its historical significance amongst the Malay kingdoms in the region, a significance that has since been proven through archaeology. Most of pre-colonial archaeology is centred around the civic district of Singapore such as Fort Canning and Empress Place. Historical archaeology is another area of frequent research.
The earliest evidence for a settlement or polity in Singapore dates to the 14th century, where it was identified in ancient times as Temasek or Tumasik in the Malay Annals and the Nagarakretagama, and also as Dam-Ma-Hsi in the Chinese Mao Kun map. Temasek was a port settlement in Singapore located on the banks of the Singapore River, with a possible palace site at present-day Fort Canning Hill. The settlement lost its prominence at the start of the 15th century, when the last ruler of Singapore Iskandar Shah fled to Malacca and established the Malacca Sultanate.
Singapore regained prominence at the start of the 19th century, when Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived to establish the British colony in 1819. Singapore’s strategic location eventually made it the seat of The Straits Settlements, an administrative body administered by the British government since 1826. The colony’s strategic location on the Strait of Malacca meant it was used as a supply base and lifeline between Britain and colonial possessions in India, China and the East Indies. After World War II, Singapore joined the Federation of Malaya (later Malaysia), but became its own independent nation in 1965.
The archaeology of Singapore is largely focused in two time periods : pre-colonial and colonial. Pre-colonial archaeology focuses on the 14th-century settlements of Singapore, while colonial archaeology covers the time period of 1819 to 1965. Systematic archaeological research in Singapore only began in 1984 under the pioneering work by Prof. John Miksic. Today, archaeological research in Singapore is largely undertaken by the Temasek History Research Centre and the National Heritage Board.
Densely populated and highly urbanised, there are not many surviving archaeological sites in Singapore – but that doesn’t mean there are none! Not all of these sites in this list are open to the public, and the locations marked on the map may not be exact. For more information about museums in Singapore, check out the museum page here.
There are a numerous books relevant to the archaeology and history of Singapore, and the list below is my personal recommendation based on what I have in my library or have read, and are easily available. There are some local-language publications that are not available in the internet, and newer books are higher up on the list. Some of these links are affiliate links and I may receive a commission if you click on them and make a purchase. For other sources of reliable academic information, you should also check out the books page for latest releases and the occassional free book, as well as the journals page for the latest scientific research.
Last update on 2023-09-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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