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Unearthing Singapore's history

The ground under Empress Place is proving to be a treasure trove of history.

An archaelogical dig there - the biggest since such excavations first started in the 1980s - has thrown up items such as a headless porcelain Buddhist figure, red-orange carnelian beads from India, a broken bowl with a double-fish motif, coins and a clay figurine.

The recovered items weigh a total of 400kg so far.

The excavation, organised by the National Heritage Board (NHB) with the support of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, is part of efforts to commemorate 31 years of archaeology in Singapore this year.

NHB, which is partnering the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre of the Institute of South-east Asian Studies (NSC-ISEAS) in the excavation, hopes to recover artefacts dating back 700 years during the 14th-century Temasek period to the early colonial days in the 19th century.

Ten volunteer archaelogists from NSC-ISEAS are working at the excavation site which measures 1,000 sq m, the size of 10 four-room HDB flats.

This is the largest archaeological excavation ever undertaken here.

Mr Lim Chen Sian, lead archaeologist and research fellow at the NSC-ISEAS, said: "Opportunities for archaeological excavations in Singapore are rare as we are a small and highly urbanised country.

"Empress Place was the location of a thriving port in the early days and any new discovery will hopefully advance our understanding of Singapore's earliest beginnings."

The excavation will end on April 9.