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Singapore archaeology is an extremely youthful discipline, where the first spade full of inaugural dirt was only excavated in 1984 by Dr.John Miksic (then with Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Sumatra, Indonesia) at Fort Canning Hill. Since then, periodic excavations had taken place around the colonial and civic quarter of Singapore City, with the most recent dig, at the Padang, Singapore Cricket Club this year in April 2003.

It is commonly believed that Singapore Island hosted nothing but an idyllic fishing village prior to the arrival of representatives from the East India Company, chiefly Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1819. Nineteen years of archaeological research revealed otherwise and pushed back the isle’s timeline to the 14th century, contemporary to the Yuan Dynasty in China and the Delhi Sultanate in India.

Archaeological research since 1984 has demonstrated that Singapore in the 14th century was the site of a complex urban society. The urban area stretched from the Singapore River to Stamford Road, from the former seashore on the edge of the Padang to the peak of Fort Canning Hill. Excavations at Fort Canning, the new Parliament House Complex, the old Parliament House, Colombo Court, and Empress Place, have yielded thousands of artifacts in undisturbed 14th-century contexts. These artifacts show that various types of industries included gold, copper, and bronze working, glass recycling, and pottery making were conducted at various sites on Fort Canning and along the Singapore River. The old Parliament House site, just across the road from the Singapore Cricket Club, yielded the first intact 14th-century objects found in Singapore: several caches of Chinese jars of a type known as “mercury jars” because of their presumed function. The concentration of these artifacts in one location suggests that a special type of industrial operation was being conducted there, but its nature has not been determined.

Books on Singapore

Archaeology in Singapore: A Must-Have Teacher's Guide - For Primary and Secondary Schools (by Chee Min Fui, Cheryl-Ann Low, Stephanie Ho, Lim Chen Sian, and Wong Hong Suen; Singapore History Museum)

Archaeological Research on the "Forbidden Hill" of Singapore: Excavations of Fort Canning, 1984 (by John M. Miksic; National Museum Singapore)

Early Singapore 1300s-1819: Evidence in Maps, Text, and Artefacts (Eds. John M. Miksic, Cheryl-Ann Low Mei Gek; Singapore History Museum)