MALACCA: Archaeologists have uncovered centuries-old towers, forts and walls below the former football field of historic Dataran Pahlawan here.
The find was made after a team from the Department of Museums and National Antiquities and Malacca Museum Corporation (Perzim) had excavated an area 14m wide and 5m deep since 2001.
The department’s archaeology director Kamarudin Zakaria said the team located a tower of Fort Santiago, located 80m south-west of the present “A Famosa,” which was used by the Portuguese to defend Malacca from enemy ships.
“This is a very precious and major find for the state. From an archaeological point of view, it should be preserved.
“We will try to achieve a win-win situation for all and we have to sit down and discuss with the state government, Perzim, the city council and other agencies,” Kamarudin said.
Dataran Pahlawan – where Tunku Abdul Rahman first proclaimed the nation's independence from Britain – is owned by the Kumpulan Melaka Bhd. It was earmarked for a recreational ground with an underground car park. The project stopped due to the economic downturn.
Fort Santiago was built by the Portuguese after they defeated the Malacca Sultanate in 1511.
The Dutch arrived later to seize control of the lucrative spice trade and managed to drive the Portuguese out of Malacca in 1641.
Under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, the British secured Malacca from the Dutch in return for relinquishing their claim to Sumatra and nearby smaller islands.
Kamarudin said the fort was destroyed by the British, who later covered the surrounding area with earth.
“They built their own walls on top of the site, causing the walls to be layered,” he told Bernama.
He said the discovery of the towers and walls, which are part of the main tower of the A Famosa fort, would facilitate excavation of the fort’s perimeter.
Kamarudin said the department identified the structures as the Port Santiago tower through the map of Malacca in a book by Godinho de Eredia entitled Declaraqam de Malacca published in 1588.
He said the department had asked Perzim to apply for a suspension of the development project to allow archaeological work to be carried out.
Kamarudin said it would also suggest that the tower be restored because it was a national historical artefact and could become a new tourist attraction.
“To ensure the historical site is not encroached, the department has the Artefacts Act 1976, which can be used to halt development work in the area,” he said.
He said the Malacca government could also rely on the Cultural Heritage Preservation and Restoration Enactment 1988/2002 to protect the site.