Singapura Before Raffles: Archaeology and the Seas, 400 BCE – 1600 CE

Date: 23 – 24 April


Lecture Theatre 12 (near NUS Press)

3 Arts Link, Singapore 117569

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

National University of Singapore

Convenor: Prof John Miksic

In 2019, Singapore will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in Singapore. Raffles explicitly and successfully exploited Singapore’s renown in the region as an ancient port to re-establish the island as a hub for Asian trade. Singapore and nearby sea lanes have played a vital role in the formation of a network which by 400 BCE already spanned the coasts from northeast Africa to the western Pacific Ocean. The role of the sea in history has recently enjoyed a resurgence among scholars. Many aspects of this network can only be known through archaeological research.


As part of the events being held to commemorate Singapore’s second birth as a global port city, it is fitting to underscore the long tradition of maritime interactions and networks in which Southeast Asia and Singapore played a central role. The conference and subsequent publication will enable Singaporeans to understand better their city’s long history as a global hub and an exemplar of how people from diverse backgrounds from around the world can work together for the common good.
This conference proposes to bring together the world’s leading experts on this topic to present their work before local scholars and a general audience.  Among the major themes to be covered include:


  1. The economy, technology, and social context of early Southeast Asian maritime trade, 4th century BCE to 16th century CE
  2. The origins and growth of maritime networks in the South China Sea and the Bay of Bengal: the commodities and the ethnic groups involved, and the preservation of their heritage
  3. Shipwrecks in the South China Sea and Java Sea which carried cargoes between different parts of the region.


For enquiries, email us at


This conference is organised by the NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies with support from the National Heritage Board, Singapore.


Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the conference materials and conference are those of the authors(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National University of Singapore and/or National Heritage Board, Singapore.