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Today a public park, Fort Canning saw the first archaeological excavations on the island. In 1984, Dr.John Miksic led the archaeological explorations of the site where legends abound of the fabled Malay kings ruled from and are buried upon its slopes. When the English East India Company representative Thomas Stamford Raffles first arrived in 1819, the indigenous population had referred to the hill as “Bukit Laragan” – the forbidden hill, an imposing rise that is “off limits” to the local populace through sheer respect for the aural of the long departed and possibly mythical royalty that legend tells of residing there.

The British built upon the hill their governor’s residence and later in the 1850s leveled off the hilltop to construct an artillery fort and stockade. In the 1820s, part of the hill was used as a Protestant and Roman Catholic cemetery. It was only until 1936(?) that the cemetery was closed and the graves exhumed. In 1926, the hill took further changes with the constructing of a reservoir. Prior to the Second World Wall, the General Officer Commanding Malaya was headquartered in a maze of tunnel bunker complexes on the hill. In the last 50 years, additions and various developments continued to alter the face of the hill.

Test excavations revealed a surprising number of pre-colonial artifacts dating back to the 14th century, and thereby demolishing the common acceptance and belief that Singapore Island was a backwater fishing village prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Artifacts uncovered include ceramics from the Yuan Dynasty period in China, Indian glass beads, Chinese porcelain wares and copper cash.

The Fort Canning site is not only a 14th century stronghold. Thus far, it also possesses a much unexamined military, historical, colonial, and urban archaeology. One of the excavation pits remains open with a public viewing platform and artifacts found at the site on display.