Have contest to unravel inscriptions on Singapore Stone

Next year is the bicentennial year of the founding of Singapore.

The history of Singapore, especially the booming years after our independence in 1965, has been well documented.

However, we are still clueless about our past.

Many tales about Temasek are more folklore than facts, except for the sandstone slab 3m high and 2.7m to 3m long that once stood near the mouth of Singapore River, which was discovered when a hill was levelled to fill the marshes.

No one has been able to decipher the inscriptions on it, believed to be either in old Javanese or Sanskrit.

Regrettably, this slab was blown up in 1843 to widen the passageway of Singapore River.

Fortunately, some pieces with more legible inscriptions were sent to The Asiatic Society's museum in Kolkata, India.

One piece, now known as the Singapore Stone, is displayed at the National Museum of Singapore, designated as one of 11 national treasures in January 2006.

With cutting-edge technology, we can try to unravel the mystery language on the stone.

We should try to gather the remaining slabs and piece together a fuller picture of the text.

The Singapore Tourism Board can commission and install a sculpture of the stone as our newest icon near the site of its discovery and hold an international contest to crack the code.

Perhaps, with technology and luck, we may have a breakthrough in understanding the Temasek past of our island and this can be the icing on the cake of our bicentennial celebrations.

Tay Kian Tiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2018, with the headline 'Have contest to unravel inscriptions on Singapore Stone'. Print Edition | Subscribe