Heritage buffs will welcome news that the National Heritage Board and the Housing Board are considering commissioning an archaeological study on the Keppel Club site. The 48ha plot, currently home to golf links, is to make way for 9,000 homes as part of the Greater Southern Waterfront redevelopment. The first of about 6,000 new Build-To-Order public housing flats are expected to go on sale within three years. The remaining 3,000 units are expected to be private housing. Given that the site has already been developed, artefacts near the surface are likely to have been lost. But it is heartening that the authorities still see value in pursuing an archaeological study ahead of its planned development for housing. One never knows what can be found until scientists dig the ground. After all, a 10-week dig at Empress Place in 2015 unearthed an unexpectedly rich trove of artefacts. Among the 2.5-tonne haul were 700-year-old timber planks - the first evidence of maritime activity in ancient Temasek.
While experts temper expectations of similarly dramatic finds at the Keppel Club site, there is reason to hope for some traces of history in the larger Telok Blangah area. Besides the neighbourhood's World War II history as the arena for clashes between the Malay Regiment and Japanese forces, there is historical evidence of multi-ethnic settlements dating back as early as the 1300s. Singapore has only recently begun to engage actively with its deep history after decades of a narrative that tied its origins to its colonial founding. Prior to the bicentennial avalanche, only academics and history buffs pursued stories of ancient Temasek. This mainstreaming of Singapore's deeper history currents is encouraging. It signals a maturing nation navigating more complex narratives about its origins and can anchor its people with a fresh awareness of the depths of the country's roots in the region.