Serapong Hill Fortress excavation

Singapore Travel Blog

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Serapong Hill Excavation, Sentosa Island
nihao! :D

have had a fabulous day.. As you may (or may not) know, I joined in on a dig in Singapore today run by a guy called Chen Lim, who is a post grad student at NUS. He's a very lovely (but mad) guy, which proves my point that to do archaeology, you've got to be mad.. (As opposed to you've got to be mad to do archaeology. *eyeballs the non-arch people* I know you were thinking it!! ) He also met Sandra last year and thoguht she was quite lovely, which I was quite shocked to hear. The dig is in it's second last week and has been going on for about a month or so.. a MASSIVE area as well. So it really was quite an experience...

The area/s we were working on is called Serapong Hill, and was a late 1800's fort that fell into disuse after teh Japanese invasion during WWII. It is situated on the island of Pulau Blakang Mati, 'Island of Death from behind' (AKA Sentosa Island), riiiight around the back way past the golf course and further out than the tourist buses will take you. The original name of Sentosa was given for three reasons. The first was due to the amount of piracy and whatnot going on in the Indo-Malayan waters and victims were buried there, the second from an 1840's disease ('Blakang Mati Fever'//Malaria) which wiped out the Bugis population living on the island, and the final because it was believed to be a sort of Valhalla-esque place, a paradise where the spirits of dead warriors woudl go to prance around and do the kinds of things one would expect to do in paradise (beaches, coconuts, gin slings, luaus etc).

In the late 1800's (think about 1870/1880), The Brits built a ruddy big fort on the top of this hill because of it's strategic position in surveying the Eastern waters (it looks out towards Indonesia.. you can see it in the distance), but was later also used as a reservoir, ammunition storage and whatnot, until part of it was destroyed by Japanese bombers in the 1940s. The Japs later took the other side of Sentosa (the touristy area) where they held their PoW camps.

So today, we worked from 9am to 6pm with an hours break at midday. I was picked up from Harbour Front MRT station which is rght next to the cable car area, in, crazily enoguh, a rusty holden ute. :P So there we were. 6 volunteers sitting in the ute tray, passing all the tourists in their hawaiian shirts and visors, worrying that the sides of the ute were going to fall off and were all going to be killed. But it was amazing. It was pissing with rain too, but driving through the rainforests was just beautiful because ti wasn't humid like it has been for the past few days. So yeah, we got to the site, had a bit of a hike around (I have photos, which i will upload later), and tried to get my bearings. They had managed to excavate a massive area (one of the later magazines dating to 1910) and the earliest Magazine (1879) before I arrived.. I later found out they didn't do it by hand but brought in a machiney thing. I can't remember the right name for it. It shovels stuff. And moves the stuff to another place. You know what I mean.. :P

But yeah. They do stuff -very- differently from what I'm used to.. It really did take some time getting used to everything. For example, Over the course of a day, I worked on no less than four completely seperate site areas.. just kind of a bit here, a bit there. First up was the command station.

This was very Indy. :) To get to the site, we had to negotiate incredibly steep slopes (Lowering ourselves down on ropes) and jungle-bash a fair way (the two guys were hacking the place to pieces with machetes) whilst carrying all our equipment with us. The command Centre was at the centre of the overall site, right in the middle fo the hill.. We were given hardhats and lanterns and sent into the tunnel which led to the centre. what made this site fun was that two walls have the potential for collapsing and caving us in, so climbing into the room (one wall had already collapsed into the doorway), really required us to pull some truly inspiring moves with various body parts that would have given shame to the Cirque du Soleil girls. (Jade, we're REALLY going to have to start up Archaeology Yoga.. my joints are aching. :/) There were no lights inside, which meant that we were excavating by lamps and torches, and I discovered then, that the signaporean "archaeologists" do not really employ much archaeological technique whatsoever. They don't take heights, or photos. They don't labels spits, units or squares. There's no datum, or dumpy, no ranging poles, so recorders. They don't record artefacts as they come out of the pits, adn the sieve rarely. They don't really even measure squares. We were working in 1.5x1.5m squares which were measured out buy cutting four 1.5m lengths of ribbon and arranging them into a shape which vaguely resembled a square. They also tend to be very timid when it comes to excavating ( I finished the top layer of two squares before they even finished their first, and I was by no means rushing).. And the potholing! my lord! I was ready to throw my trowel at one fo the girls for digging a massive hole in the corner of one of the squares. Chen, who was organising the dig, was not present nd thus was not recording anything that was coming out of the pits.. I wondered at one stage whether this was because he did his archaeology degree in America?? I can only speculate that perhaps they aren't as pedantic as the Aussies at recording and labelling everything. One thing I did find odd though, was that I was not allowed to excavate (or later sieve) without wearing a thick pair of wooly gloves, for fear of damaging the artefacts. No only was this very impractical and frustrating (I wasn't allowed to get finger acid all over the glass and metal fragments y'see?), but considering the fact that under no circumstances should anyone ever be made to wear thick wooly gloves in SINGAPORE of all places, It was also quite uncomfortable.

However, we pressed on. In the Control room we collected (after shifting all the demolition rubble - a term which everyone seemed to think was very clever, and thus gave me some cred as one of the two people with archaeological training on site.. thanks Shane.. :P) glass fragments, brass buttons, and an insane amount of gun pellets (both used and new). It was very exciting stuff, but then it was time to move on.. It's also good to note here that they will not be going back to this site for a few more days to continue excavating, and the last time they had been there was the week before. They really don't place much importance on getting one site finished before working on another..

We then moved on to The reservoir areas.. about 1910. The did a survey and top soil excavation (again, no stringing out of pits necessary) of one of the maintenance huts, and then got scared off by a swarm of mutant bees. They seemed to be 'defending' the enterance to one of the tunnels that was dug through the hill, and we then went looking for the other enterance to teh tunnel.

So, after a lot more jungle bashing, we eventually found it. There were four of us, all carrying machetes (to defend us against creepers, vines, trees, bushes, mutant bees, bats, pythons and cobras, and to make us look like guerilla fighters in the jungles of Borneo.. Chen may have given us all "facial camouflage" ie mud.) It was very people VS nature. And I have the battle scars to prove it. :P It's still all very Indiana Jones.. hehe. But yes, we found the opening, and used our machetes with ninja-like precision to hack away the vines and overgrowth which covered it.

The tunnel itself wasn't very long, but it was terrifyingly crazy cool. Room enough for single-file only, we had to be really careful walkign along with all the creepers and roots and stuff that covered the floor. It was connected to a series of other tunnels through the reservoir, which we couldnt get into because ther metal grille was still locked off.. so we trundled back out again..

We then did a few more surveys of various buildings before continuing an excavation on what everyone called a "midden", but a disturbed dump site would have been a more accurate description. And quite modern as well. We had gotten down I'd say about 8 inches and we were still getting lolly wrappers and band aids and 1970's soda bottles, mixed in with bullet shells, buttons, nails, ceramics and glass. I'm pretty sure that if they keep going down they'll get soemthing good as the "midden" itself is located inside a drainage-type structure associated with the 1897 Magazine.

One of the guys who was working on another site also found some 6 and 8 inch bomb shells, two of which were still live. We got to set them off. :D

They went KABOOM!

It was v. exciting. hehe.

So yes, after 9 hours of work, we were all extremely muddy, slahsed, bruised and sweaty-gross. But I wouldn't have had it any other way! As much as I love your digs Shane, this really was very adventuresome and you would have had a ball!! We even found things such as decorated Iron trips (To trip up the enemy in the undergrowth.. not that they needed them with all those blasted vines)! I have photos, so will show you all in due time. hehe.

I'll probably be going again early next week (am booked up with family commitments.. not that I need to eat any more, but I don't really get much of a choice... *rolls around in a heap*), and if we find anything interesting, I'll keep you posted.. though not with an email as long as this one.. hehe. Hope I haven't bored you all too much.. I'm just feeling rather pleased and Dr. Livingstone-y. hehe..

In regards to teh rest of my Singapore trip..? Well, it's singapore. There's not much more to say about it. Except that I went to the Asian Civilisations Museum yesterday, and it's probably one of the best put-together museums I've ever been to. Next time you're here, you've got to check it out. :D But yeah.. just shopping. and eating. and more shopping and eating.

They're going to thave to roll me off the plane.. with a stick. Like those olden day toys. -__-

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nihao! :D

have had a fabulous day.. As you may (or may not) know, I joined in on a dig in Singapore today run by a guy called Chen Lim, who is a post grad student at NUS. He's a very lovely (but mad) guy, which proves my point that to do archaeology, you've got to be mad.. (As opposed to you've got to be mad to do archaeology. *eyeballs the non-arch people* I know you were thinking it!! ) He also met Sandra last year and thoguht she was quite lovely, which I was quite shocked to hear. The dig is in it's second last week and has been going on for about a month or so.. a MASSIVE area as well. So it really was quite an experience...

The area/s we were working on is called Serapong Hill, and was a late 1800's fort that fell into disuse after teh Japanese invasion during WWII. It is situated on the island of Pulau Blakang Mati, 'Island of Death from behind' (AKA Sentosa Island), riiiight around the back way past the golf course and further out than the tourist buses will take you. The original name of Sentosa was given for three reasons. The first was due to the amount of piracy and whatnot going on in the Indo-Malayan waters and victims were buried there, the second from an 1840's disease ('Blakang Mati Fever'//Malaria) which wiped out the Bugis population living on the island, and the final because it was believed to be a sort of Valhalla-esque place, a paradise where the spirits of dead warriors woudl go to prance around and do the kinds of things one would expect to do in paradise (beaches, coconuts, gin slings, luaus etc).

In the late 1800's (think about 1870/1880), The Brits built a ruddy big fort on the top of this hill because of it's strategic position in surveying the Eastern waters (it looks out towards Indonesia.. you can see it in the distance), but was later also used as a reservoir, ammunition storage and whatnot, until part of it was destroyed by Japanese bombers in the 1940s. The Japs later took the other side of Sentosa (the touristy area) where they held their PoW camps.

So today, we worked from 9am to 6pm with an hours break at midday. I was picked up from Harbour Front MRT station which is rght next to the cable car area, in, crazily enoguh, a rusty holden ute. :P So there we were. 6 volunteers sitting in the ute tray, passing all the tourists in their hawaiian shirts and visors, worrying that the sides of the ute were going to fall off and were all going to be killed. But it was amazing. It was pissing with rain too, but driving through the rainforests was just beautiful because ti wasn't humid like it has been for the past few days. So yeah, we got to the site, had a bit of a hike around (I have photos, which i will upload later), and tried to get my bearings. They had managed to excavate a massive area (one of the later magazines dating to 1910) and the earliest Magazine (1879) before I arrived.. I later found out they didn't do it by hand but brought in a machiney thing. I can't remember the right name for it. It shovels stuff. And moves the stuff to another place. You know what I mean.. :P

But yeah. They do stuff -very- differently from what I'm used to.. It really did take some time getting used to everything. For example, Over the course of a day, I worked on no less than four completely seperate site areas.. just kind of a bit here, a bit there. First up was the command station.

This was very Indy. :) To get to the site, we had to negotiate incredibly steep slopes (Lowering ourselves down on ropes) and jungle-bash a fair way (the two guys were hacking the place to pieces with machetes) whilst carrying all our equipment with us. The command Centre was at the centre of the overall site, right in the middle fo the hill.. We were given hardhats and lanterns and sent into the tunnel which led to the centre. what made this site fun was that two walls have the potential for collapsing and caving us in, so climbing into the room (one wall had already collapsed into the doorway), really required us to pull some truly inspiring moves with various body parts that would have given shame to the Cirque du Soleil girls. (Jade, we're REALLY going to have to start up Archaeology Yoga.. my joints are aching. :/) There were no lights inside, which meant that we were excavating by lamps and torches, and I discovered then, that the signaporean "archaeologists" do not really employ much archaeological technique whatsoever. They don't take heights, or photos. They don't labels spits, units or squares. There's no datum, or dumpy, no ranging poles, so recorders. They don't record artefacts as they come out of the pits, adn the sieve rarely. They don't really even measure squares. We were working in 1.5x1.5m squares which were measured out buy cutting four 1.5m lengths of ribbon and arranging them into a shape which vaguely resembled a square. They also tend to be very timid when it comes to excavating ( I finished the top layer of two squares before they even finished their first, and I was by no means rushing).. And the potholing! my lord! I was ready to throw my trowel at one fo the girls for digging a massive hole in the corner of one of the squares. Chen, who was organising the dig, was not present nd thus was not recording anything that was coming out of the pits.. I wondered at one stage whether this was because he did his archaeology degree in America?? I can only speculate that perhaps they aren't as pedantic as the Aussies at recording and labelling everything. One thing I did find odd though, was that I was not allowed to excavate (or later sieve) without wearing a thick pair of wooly gloves, for fear of damaging the artefacts. No only was this very impractical and frustrating (I wasn't allowed to get finger acid all over the glass and metal fragments y'see?), but considering the fact that under no circumstances should anyone ever be made to wear thick wooly gloves in SINGAPORE of all places, It was also quite uncomfortable.

However, we pressed on. In the Control room we collected (after shifting all the demolition rubble - a term which everyone seemed to think was very clever, and thus gave me some cred as one of the two people with archaeological training on site.. thanks Shane.. :P) glass fragments, brass buttons, and an insane amount of gun pellets (both used and new). It was very exciting stuff, but then it was time to move on.. It's also good to note here that they will not be going back to this site for a few more days to continue excavating, and the last time they had been there was the week before. They really don't place much importance on getting one site finished before working on another..

We then moved on to The reservoir areas.. about 1910. The did a survey and top soil excavation (again, no stringing out of pits necessary) of one of the maintenance huts, and then got scared off by a swarm of mutant bees. They seemed to be 'defending' the enterance to one of the tunnels that was dug through the hill, and we then went looking for the other enterance to teh tunnel.

So, after a lot more jungle bashing, we eventually found it. There were four of us, all carrying machetes (to defend us against creepers, vines, trees, bushes, mutant bees, bats, pythons and cobras, and to make us look like guerilla fighters in the jungles of Borneo.. Chen may have given us all "facial camouflage" ie mud.) It was very people VS nature. And I have the battle scars to prove it. :P It's still all very Indiana Jones.. hehe. But yes, we found the opening, and used our machetes with ninja-like precision to hack away the vines and overgrowth which covered it.

The tunnel itself wasn't very long, but it was terrifyingly crazy cool. Room enough for single-file only, we had to be really careful walkign along with all the creepers and roots and stuff that covered the floor. It was connected to a series of other tunnels through the reservoir, which we couldnt get into because ther metal grille was still locked off.. so we trundled back out again..

We then did a few more surveys of various buildings before continuing an excavation on what everyone called a "midden", but a disturbed dump site would have been a more accurate description. And quite modern as well. We had gotten down I'd say about 8 inches and we were still getting lolly wrappers and band aids and 1970's soda bottles, mixed in with bullet shells, buttons, nails, ceramics and glass. I'm pretty sure that if they keep going down they'll get soemthing good as the "midden" itself is located inside a drainage-type structure associated with the 1897 Magazine.

One of the guys who was working on another site also found some 6 and 8 inch bomb shells, two of which were still live. We got to set them off. :D

They went KABOOM!

It was v. exciting. hehe.

So yes, after 9 hours of work, we were all extremely muddy, slahsed, bruised and sweaty-gross. But I wouldn't have had it any other way! As much as I love your digs Shane, this really was very adventuresome and you would have had a ball!! We even found things such as decorated Iron trips (To trip up the enemy in the undergrowth.. not that they needed them with all those blasted vines)! I have photos, so will show you all in due time. hehe.

I'll probably be going again early next week (am booked up with family commitments.. not that I need to eat any more, but I don't really get much of a choice... *rolls around in a heap*), and if we find anything interesting, I'll keep you posted.. though not with an email as long as this one.. hehe. Hope I haven't bored you all too much.. I'm just feeling rather pleased and Dr. Livingstone-y. hehe..

In regards to teh rest of my Singapore trip..? Well, it's singapore. There's not much more to say about it. Except that I went to the Asian Civilisations Museum yesterday, and it's probably one of the best put-together museums I've ever been to. Next time you're here, you've got to check it out. :D But yeah.. just shopping. and eating. and more shopping and eating.

They're going to thave to roll me off the plane.. with a stick. Like those olden day toys. -__-

nihao! :D

have had a fabulous day.. As you may (or may not) know, I joined in on a dig in Singapore today run by a guy called Chen Lim, who is a post grad student at NUS. He's a very lovely (but mad) guy, which proves my point that to do archaeology, you've got to be mad.. (As opposed to you've got to be mad to do archaeology. *eyeballs the non-arch people* I know you were thinking it!! ) He also met Sandra last year and thoguht she was quite lovely, which I was quite shocked to hear. The dig is in it's second last week and has been going on for about a month or so.. a MASSIVE area as well. So it really was quite an experience...

The area/s we were working on is called Serapong Hill, and was a late 1800's fort that fell into disuse after teh Japanese invasion during WWII. It is situated on the island of Pulau Blakang Mati, 'Island of Death from behind' (AKA Sentosa Island), riiiight around the back way past the golf course and further out than the tourist buses will take you. The original name of Sentosa was given for three reasons. The first was due to the amount of piracy and whatnot going on in the Indo-Malayan waters and victims were buried there, the second from an 1840's disease ('Blakang Mati Fever'//Malaria) which wiped out the Bugis population living on the island, and the final because it was believed to be a sort of Valhalla-esque place, a paradise where the spirits of dead warriors woudl go to prance around and do the kinds of things one would expect to do in paradise (beaches, coconuts, gin slings, luaus etc).

In the late 1800's (think about 1870/1880), The Brits built a ruddy big fort on the top of this hill because of it's strategic position in surveying the Eastern waters (it looks out towards Indonesia.. you can see it in the distance), but was later also used as a reservoir, ammunition storage and whatnot, until part of it was destroyed by Japanese bombers in the 1940s. The Japs later took the other side of Sentosa (the touristy area) where they held their PoW camps.

So today, we worked from 9am to 6pm with an hours break at midday. I was picked up from Harbour Front MRT station which is rght next to the cable car area, in, crazily enoguh, a rusty holden ute. :P So there we were. 6 volunteers sitting in the ute tray, passing all the tourists in their hawaiian shirts and visors, worrying that the sides of the ute were going to fall off and were all going to be killed. But it was amazing. It was pissing with rain too, but driving through the rainforests was just beautiful because ti wasn't humid like it has been for the past few days. So yeah, we got to the site, had a bit of a hike around (I have photos, which i will upload later), and tried to get my bearings. They had managed to excavate a massive area (one of the later magazines dating to 1910) and the earliest Magazine (1879) before I arrived.. I later found out they didn't do it by hand but brought in a machiney thing. I can't remember the right name for it. It shovels stuff. And moves the stuff to another place. You know what I mean.. :P

But yeah. They do stuff -very- differently from what I'm used to.. It really did take some time getting used to everything. For example, Over the course of a day, I worked on no less than four completely seperate site areas.. just kind of a bit here, a bit there. First up was the command station.

This was very Indy. :) To get to the site, we had to negotiate incredibly steep slopes (Lowering ourselves down on ropes) and jungle-bash a fair way (the two guys were hacking the place to pieces with machetes) whilst carrying all our equipment with us. The command Centre was at the centre of the overall site, right in the middle fo the hill.. We were given hardhats and lanterns and sent into the tunnel which led to the centre. what made this site fun was that two walls have the potential for collapsing and caving us in, so climbing into the room (one wall had already collapsed into the doorway), really required us to pull some truly inspiring moves with various body parts that would have given shame to the Cirque du Soleil girls. (Jade, we're REALLY going to have to start up Archaeology Yoga.. my joints are aching. :/) There were no lights inside, which meant that we were excavating by lamps and torches, and I discovered then, that the signaporean "archaeologists" do not really employ much archaeological technique whatsoever. They don't take heights, or photos. They don't labels spits, units or squares. There's no datum, or dumpy, no ranging poles, so recorders. They don't record artefacts as they come out of the pits, adn the sieve rarely. They don't really even measure squares. We were working in 1.5x1.5m squares which were measured out buy cutting four 1.5m lengths of ribbon and arranging them into a shape which vaguely resembled a square. They also tend to be very timid when it comes to excavating ( I finished the top layer of two squares before they even finished their first, and I was by no means rushing).. And the potholing! my lord! I was ready to throw my trowel at one fo the girls for digging a massive hole in the corner of one of the squares. Chen, who was organising the dig, was not present nd thus was not recording anything that was coming out of the pits.. I wondered at one stage whether this was because he did his archaeology degree in America?? I can only speculate that perhaps they aren't as pedantic as the Aussies at recording and labelling everything. One thing I did find odd though, was that I was not allowed to excavate (or later sieve) without wearing a thick pair of wooly gloves, for fear of damaging the artefacts. No only was this very impractical and frustrating (I wasn't allowed to get finger acid all over the glass and metal fragments y'see?), but considering the fact that under no circumstances should anyone ever be made to wear thick wooly gloves in SINGAPORE of all places, It was also quite uncomfortable.

However, we pressed on. In the Control room we collected (after shifting all the demolition rubble - a term which everyone seemed to think was very clever, and thus gave me some cred as one of the two people with archaeological training on site.. thanks Shane.. :P) glass fragments, brass buttons, and an insane amount of gun pellets (both used and new). It was very exciting stuff, but then it was time to move on.. It's also good to note here that they will not be going back to this site for a few more days to continue excavating, and the last time they had been there was the week before. They really don't place much importance on getting one site finished before working on another..

We then moved on to The reservoir areas.. about 1910. The did a survey and top soil excavation (again, no stringing out of pits necessary) of one of the maintenance huts, and then got scared off by a swarm of mutant bees. They seemed to be 'defending' the enterance to one of the tunnels that was dug through the hill, and we then went looking for the other enterance to teh tunnel.

So, after a lot more jungle bashing, we eventually found it. There were four of us, all carrying machetes (to defend us against creepers, vines, trees, bushes, mutant bees, bats, pythons and cobras, and to make us look like guerilla fighters in the jungles of Borneo.. Chen may have given us all "facial camouflage" ie mud.) It was very people VS nature. And I have the battle scars to prove it. :P It's still all very Indiana Jones.. hehe. But yes, we found the opening, and used our machetes with ninja-like precision to hack away the vines and overgrowth which covered it.

The tunnel itself wasn't very long, but it was terrifyingly crazy cool. Room enough for single-file only, we had to be really careful walkign along with all the creepers and roots and stuff that covered the floor. It was connected to a series of other tunnels through the reservoir, which we couldnt get into because ther metal grille was still locked off.. so we trundled back out again..

We then did a few more surveys of various buildings before continuing an excavation on what everyone called a "midden", but a disturbed dump site would have been a more accurate description. And quite modern as well. We had gotten down I'd say about 8 inches and we were still getting lolly wrappers and band aids and 1970's soda bottles, mixed in with bullet shells, buttons, nails, ceramics and glass. I'm pretty sure that if they keep going down they'll get soemthing good as the "midden" itself is located inside a drainage-type structure associated with the 1897 Magazine.

One of the guys who was working on another site also found some 6 and 8 inch bomb shells, two of which were still live. We got to set them off. :D

They went KABOOM!

It was v. exciting. hehe.

So yes, after 9 hours of work, we were all extremely muddy, slahsed, bruised and sweaty-gross. But I wouldn't have had it any other way! As much as I love your digs Shane, this really was very adventuresome and you would have had a ball!! We even found things such as decorated Iron trips (To trip up the enemy in the undergrowth.. not that they needed them with all those blasted vines)! I have photos, so will show you all in due time. hehe.

I'll probably be going again early next week (am booked up with family commitments.. not that I need to eat any more, but I don't really get much of a choice... *rolls around in a heap*), and if we find anything interesting, I'll keep you posted.. though not with an email as long as this one.. hehe. Hope I haven't bored you all too much.. I'm just feeling rather pleased and Dr. Livingstone-y. hehe..

In regards to teh rest of my Singapore trip..? Well, it's singapore. There's not much more to say about it. Except that I went to the Asian Civilisations Museum yesterday, and it's probably one of the best put-together museums I've ever been to. Next time you're here, you've got to check it out. :D But yeah.. just shopping. and eating. and more shopping and eating.

They're going to thave to roll me off the plane.. with a stick. Like those olden day toys. -__-

Serapong Hill Excavation, Sentosa …
Serapong Hill Excavation, Sentosa…
Singapore
photo by: easyjobrob