What’s happening in Singapore archaeology? What are the latest finds and methods? What kinds of research questions are being asked? How are they answered? Are the historical narratives of Singapore and the region changing? How can these issues benefit young students?
Lloyd Yeo, a Master Teacher in History, from the Ministry of Education (MOE) attended “The Heritage of Ancient and Urban Sites” workshop organised by NSC in March 2016. Impressed with the presentations and poster displays by the Archaeology Unit, Mr. Yeo and his colleagues invited the Unit’s researchers to conduct a one-day workshop in order to help raise teacher awareness of local and regional archaeology. The workshop’s aim was to enhance secondary school history education in Singapore, which had begun to incorporate the knowledge and data from several archaeological excavations over the island.
Prof. John Miksic (National University of Singapore), Dr. Kyle Latinis (Visiting Fellow, NSC), and Mr. Aaron Kao (Research Officer, NSC) were invited to deliver presentations on 23 August 2016 at CHIJ (Toa Payoh). The event, entitled “History Subject Chapter Outreach – Singapore and Southeast Asia: Controversies and Continuity”, was well attended and garnered positive feedback.
Professor John Miksic giving his presentation to the audience (Credit: Kyle Latinis)
Discussions ranged from ghost stories, rare finds, myth-busting, validating obscure historical references with facts gleaned from new archaeological discoveries, and the large amount of artefacts recovered from Singaporean sites dating to the 14th century. Singaporean archaeologists are now analysing thousands of artefacts. This will offer a significantly enriched understanding of life patterns on the island and global connectedness for over 700 years.
There has been an increased interest in recent years in the professional practices of local archaeology as well as the narrative of Singapore’s regional and extra-regional position. Hence, the significance of this MOE workshop went beyond merely presenting “historical trivia” to students. Instead, the workshop helped instructors to teach students to ask new questions with unique data sets, use different methodologies and analytical approaches.
NSC’s Mr.Aaron Kao Talks about the Rescue Excavation at Empress Space in 2015 (Credit: Kyle Latinis)
One point that was stressed during the workshop was that archaeology was not a field which proved or disproved history. Rather, the discipline is considered a historical science that focuses on the material remains and long-term impact of past societies. In short, archaeology provides a material perspective to complement history.
Many of the approaches utilised in archaeology can also be applied to fields such as human geography, economics, social sciences, physics, digital imaging and computer graphics, and even educational games.
NSC looks forward to further contributions to MOE and exploring means to convey archaeological findings and material culture in interesting and relevant ways to Singaporean students. This will ensure a sustained interest in local history amongst the younger generation.