The Forbidden Hill

September 18, 2009 at 12:54 am | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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Fort Canning (福康宁) was known as Bukit Larangan in Malay in the 19th century before the arrival of Stamford Raffles in 1918, whch means “Forbidden Hill”. This is because the Malays believed that it was the site of palaces built by their ancestral kings. The Keramat Iskandar Shah at the foot of the hill was believed to be the resting place of the last Malay king of the island, and was venerated by Muslims. Later, Singapore’s colonial leaders made their residences there, and the hill became a military base during the Second World War.

Short writeup of Fort Canning…The Civil District logo was done by my
friend… 🙂

I knew there were some archaeological excavation years back on Fort Canning Hill, but I think it was kinda covered or out of bound to visitors for some time before they were done with all the digging, cos I couldn’t remember seeing the site at all.

So, the work should be done only in the late 90s as this exhibition site was
only opened in 2001…and that was the time when I was not in Singapore…

The excavation site…it was interested to read the explanatory signs
around..the only thing was the hot and humid weather made it very
uncomfortable to really read slowly…so as usual, I took photos so I can
read back again at home.. :p

The excavation work actually started back in 1984. Among the artefacts recovered were porcelain, earthenware and glass shards. These artefacts show that there could have been a Malay kingdom on Fort Canning Hill, with possibility of glass and gold workshops.

One of the signs explaining how archaeologists determine the age of
ceramics artefacts – by using a method called Carbon-14 dating
, which has
a margin for error of at least 75 years. Another technique called
Thermoluminescence (TL) dating
, which measures bits of trapped energy in
the crystalline materials of pottery. The shadow you see was from my
Itchyfingers… 😀

Bits and pieces of porcelain excavated from Fort Canning. No complete
pieces were found as it was not a burial site. Rather the area was more
like a place where daily activities were carried out. Maybe a bit like a dumping
ground where unwanted stuff were just left there..?

From the excavation ground, we went to look at the rows of embedded tombstones…Fort Canning Hill used to have the earliest Christian cemetery. This cemetery ceased to be used by the end of 1822; all traces of this burial ground have also disappeared except the inscriptions on tombstones now embedded in the wall surrounding it.

I would love to look and read all the tombstones again, but it was such a
hot and humide day and I was wearing a rather thick tee-shirt…not forgetting
all the mozzies flying around…

The caretaker was still with us so I didn’t want to take up too much of his time either, though I am sure he was more than happy to have people talking to him. In the end, I managed to take a few photos of the tombstones…

Many of the people died at a very young age. This belongs to Jane, an
assistant surgeon on the Bombay Establishment, wife of Thomas Henry.
She was only 22 years old when she died…

He was just a baby…! Wonder what was the cause of death…

Does the name Spottiswoode sound familiar? Not sure if the road with the
same name was named after this Charles Spottiswoode. He was a respected
merchant who was living at his residence “Spottiswoode Park” at the time
of his death…

I read that there were some prominent person who were buried in the cemetery. One of them was George Dromgold Coleman, the first Government Architect, Superintendent of Public Works and Executive Officer of the Convicts and Surveyor. Oooo…must find some time to go back again to look for it…

At the other end were these remaining tombs. But my friend said they
should be just monuments as tombstone with bodies buried underneath
should normally read something like, “Herein lies xxx…”

But this one looked like a tombstone…

Hmmm…maybe she was right. The bottom line said this monument was
erected by the nephew

The inscription here were quite clear after all these years…

I found this interesting and tried to look up for this person…but could not
find any information other than a link on a The Straits Times (pg 14) notice on
27 September 1927
DECEASED Pursuant to Ordinance No. 144….”  I think he must be one of those
rich merchants…

There were lots more interesting stories and person behind these old tombstones or monuments, but as it was getting late again, we decided to make our way down. Itchyfingers would definitely be back, as I missed some of the old buildings and many of the trees were so beautiful…Fort Canning Hill today is no longer the “Forbidden Hill”, as it is a popular venue for outdoor performances and events. I think if people were to spend more time to understand the history of Fort Canning Hill, we would be able to appreciate it even more. 🙂

Also see related post:
> Guardian Angel at the Forbidden Hill


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