Recap | Guerrilla Archaeologists and the Singapore Story
WATCH THE ENTIRE TALK HERE
Recap of Guerilla Archaeologists and the Singapore Story
By Eddie Koh
Year 4, History Major
The talk delivered by Miksic, titled Guerrilla Archaeologists and the Singapore Story, started off by Prof. Miksic elucidating the reason for the talk's curious title, alluding to aspects of archaeology, which share resonance with ‘guerrilla warfare’. He believed that, like many guerrilla units who fought against injustices, archaeologists also maintain the principle of preventing historical injustices such as the falsification of the past to achieve certain ends. As such, archaeologists have an important role in extending mankind's memory beyond its natural capacity, limited by personal memories, and therefore enabling us access to a wider perspective of the past. This is mostly achieved through the archaeologists' efforts in investigating the historical values found in ancient artefacts and the preservation of such objects as symbols that hinted to what our distant past may have been like. And on this thought-provoking note, he embarked upon regaling the audience with his experiences of archaeological expeditions, frequently highlighting certain aspects with a hint of bemusement, which linked back to his opening elucidation on what it means to be an archaeologist.
About timeline: Prof. Miksic recounted his very first archaeological experience centred on the Inuits in Northern Canada. After this, he moved to Malaysia in 1968 and participated in the excavations at Kedah. This was followed by his ventures into Honduras in 1975, then Sumatra in 1976/77, Bengkulu in 1979 and across Java in 1981 to 1987. Throughout all these expeditions, Prof. Miksic recalled how he had often spent many days roaming around vast tracts of lands, searching for possible archaeological traces. It was in 1984 that he came do Singapore and since then he had excavated at a number of places, namely Fort Canning and the Empress Place. His efforts at these locations had contributed greatly to the reconstruction of histories associated with the site of pre-1819 Singapore.
Prof Miksic's talk had me musing about how the relationship between archaeology and museology contributes towards the idea of curating the nation. Beyond the physical transference of the objects from the excavation site to the museum for preservation and display, there are more intricate processes that begin with the discovery of the artefacts. As Prof. Miksic had highlighted, archaeologists are responsible for determining the contextual values of each excavated artefact. These assigned values represent potential historical connections. However, the museum does not always simply amplify the voice of the archaeologists in its displays; it is also able to take a step further in the context of ‘curating’ the nation by piecing together the stories of each artefact into a larger historically significant and complex narrative. Most discerningly, it is this close relationship between Archaeology and Museology that have created important alternative considerations with regards to the Singapore story; as an evolving process, both the archaeologist and the museum worker strive to invite audiences to perceive Singapore's story beyond its conventionally assumed beginnings with Sir Stamford Raffles.