Singapore

National survey to help identify local archaelogical sites

A nationwide survey will be done to identify sites of archaeological interest, possibly allowing archaeologists to step in early to survey and excavate in future before developers swing in.

Such sites could include the mouth of the Singapore River - home to an early settlement and later a thriving harbour - and others with ancient settlements and trade activities.

The National Heritage Board (NHB), which will carry out the survey, will collaborate with organisations such as the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute and the National University of Singapore to establish a legislative and operational framework for the field.

Archaeologists and experts had previously pointed out gaps in existing legislation - for instance, the lack of clarity on the ownership of artefacts dug up in Singapore.

NHB said the framework will look into policies of ownership, research and development, and the regulation of excavations.

The survey was announced yesterday at a roadshow at Raffles City Shopping Centre.

It is one of the updates on the first five-year phase (2018 to 2022) of the Republic's first holistic blueprint for the heritage and museum sector, which will be officially launched in April.

The blueprint has been divided into four categories: our places, our culture, our treasures, and our community.

On places, NHB said it will work closely with planning agencies from "an early stage".

This follows calls by experts and the public to incorporate heritage considerations into development plans from the outset.

Mr Alvin Tan, NHB's assistant chief executive of policy and community, said planning agencies will be able, for instance, to check against its inventory of tangible heritage.

If a site has heritage features, mitigation or commemorative measures can then be worked out. - MELODY ZACCHEUS

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