Singapore Stone



An ancient relic, the Singapore Stone is a slab of sandstone that was a large boulder discovered in June 1819 in Singapore. It was blown up in 1843 to widen the mouth of the Singapore River. It features a yet-to-be-deciphered ancient script that points to a possible extension of the Majapahit civilisation on the island of Singapore. The Singapore Stone is currently displayed at the National Museum of Singapore.

Description
A monolithic weathered boulder made of coarse sandstone, the original Singapore Stone rose to about 3 m high, and spanned 3 m.1 It stood at a promontory known as Rocky Point at the southeastern side of the mouth of the Singapore River. Its location was known at various times as Artillery Point, Fort Fullerton and the Master Attendant’s Office.2 The Merlion statue was previously located at an extension of that spot.3

In his Hikayat Abdullah, Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir (Munshi Abdullah) noted that, in 1819, curious onlookers of all nationalities came in crowds to see the boulder.4 Most significantly, the rock had about 50 lines of indecipherable inscriptions that were believed to hold secrets to Singapore’s ancient history.5 This rock was often mistaken for the batu kepala todak (meaning “swordfish rock” in Malay, a reference to its shape), another stone found nearby and revered as a religious object.6

History
Along with the ancient walls around Fort Canning, the Singapore Stone points to an ancient civilisation linked to the Majapahit era, which took root on Singapore island. The original rock was discovered by labourers clearing forest trees in June 1819 at a spot called Rocky Point.7

The first effectual study of the rock fragments was done by epigrapher and Dutch scholar Hans Kern. He succeeded in deciphering a few words, and gave the probable date of inscription as around 1230 CE.8 Stamford Raffles was also involved in attempting to decipher the inscriptions on the rock.9 Munshi Abdullah recorded Raffles going to see what he described as a “remarkable stone” in October 1822, bringing with him Reverend Claudius Henry Thomsen.10 Other scholars believed the stone engravings to be in an ancient script, possibly Sanskrit, commonly used during the Majapahit era between the 12th and 14th centuries. Many historians believed these writings held the keys to Singapore’s ancient past, but none could decipher its contents.11

In 1843, upon the orders of acting settlement engineer, Captain Stevenson, the boulder was blown up to clear and widen the passageway at the mouth of the Singapore River, and to provide space for Fort Fullerton and its living quarters. Various sources note that colonial architect George D. Coleman was responsible for the stone’s destruction, but he had been on leave at the time of its blasting.12

Lieutenant-Colonel James Low, who had opposed the blasting, arrived at the scene shortly after the blast and managed to salvage at some fragments with the inscription.13 Three of these were sent to the Royal Asiatic Society’s museum in Calcutta, India, for analysis, arriving there around June 1848.14 The remaining relic of the Singapore Stone is exhibited at the National Museum of Singapore.15



Author

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama



References
1. Miksic, J. N. (1984). Archaeological research on the ‘Forbidden Hill’ of Singapore: Excavations at Fort Canning. Singapore: National Museum, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MIK-[HIS]); Oral History Department, Singapore. (1986). Singapore lifeline: The river and its people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 SIN)
2. Miksic, J. N. (1984). Archaeological research on the ‘Forbidden Hill’ of Singapore: Excavations at Fort Canning. Singapore: National Museum, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MIK-[HIS]); Davies, D. (1954). Old Singapore. Singapore: D. Moore, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 959.51 DAV)
3. Lim, R. (1980, September 9). Up Singapore River. New Nation, pp. 12–13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Khoo, H. (2000, July–August). A new home. Skyline, 6–8. Retrieved from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/skyline/skyline00/skyline00-04.pdf
4. Abdullah Abdul Kadir. (1969). The Hikayat Abdullah: The autobiography of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, 1797–1854. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 165. (Call no.: RSING 959.51032 ABD)
5. Oral History Department, Singapore. (1986). Singapore lifeline: The river and its people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 SIN); Abdullah Abdul Kadir. (1969). The Hikayat Abdullah: The autobiography of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, 1797–1854. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 959.51032 ABD)
6. Miksic, J. N. (1984). Archaeological research on the ‘Forbidden Hill’ of Singapore: Excavations at Fort Canning. Singapore: National Museum, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MIK-[HIS]); Hon, J. (1990). Tidal fortunes: A story of change: The Singapore River and Kallang Basin. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 HON-[HIS]
7. Abdullah Abdul Kadir. (1969). The Hikayat Abdullah: The autobiography of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, 1797–1854. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 13, 167. (Call no.: RSING 959.51032 ABD); Oral History Department, Singapore. (1986). Singapore lifeline: The river and its people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 SIN); Miksic, J. N. (1984). Archaeological research on the ‘Forbidden Hill’ of Singapore: Excavations at Fort Canning. Singapore: National Museum, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MIK-[HIS])
8. Miksic, J. N. (1984). Archaeological research on the ‘Forbidden Hill’ of Singapore: Excavations at Fort Canning. Singapore: National Museum, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MIK-[HIS]); Lim, T. S. (2012). 14th century Singapore: The Temasek paradigm [Master’s thesis]. Retrieved from ScholarBank@NUS website: http://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/bitstream/handle/10635/33342/14th%20Century%20Singapore.%20The%20Temasek%20Paradigm.pdf
9. Khoo, B. (1973, March 2). The Singapore Stone baffles the experts. New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Abdullah Abdul Kadir Munshi. (1969). The Hikayat Abdullah: The autobiography of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, 1797–1854. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 13, 49, 110. (Call no.: RSING 959.51032 ABD)
11. Miksic, J. N. (1984). Archaeological research on the ‘Forbidden Hill’ of Singapore: Excavations at Fort Canning. Singapore: National Museum, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MIK-[HIS])
12. Abdullah Abdul Kadir Munshi. (1969). The Hikayat Abdullah: The autobiography of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, 1797–1854. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 166. (Call no.: RSEA 959.51032 ABD); Oral History Department, Singapore. (1986). Singapore lifeline: The river and its people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 SIN)
13. Abdullah Abdul Kadir Munshi. (1969). The Hikayat Abdullah: The autobiography of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, 1797–1854. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 166. (Call no.: RSING 959.51032 ABD); Miksic, J. N. (1984). Archaeological research on the ‘Forbidden Hill’ of Singapore: Excavations at Fort Canning. Singapore: National Museum, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MIK-[HIS])
14. Miksic, J. N. (1984). Archaeological research on the ‘Forbidden Hill’ of Singapore: Excavations at Fort Canning. Singapore: National Museum, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MIK-[HIS]); Oral History Department, Singapore (1986). Singapore lifeline: The river and its people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 SIN)
15. Lim, R. (1980, September 9). Up Singapore River. New Nation, pp. 12–13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Architecture
1826-1867 Straits settlements
Arts>>Art museums, collections and exhibitions
1819-1826 Founding and early years
Architecture and Landscape
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Relics--Singapore

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