Archaeologists recover artifacts from Fort Cornwallis moat

14 Mar 2017 / 19:17 H.

GEORGE TOWN: Despite being a tourist attraction now, Fort Cornwallis, a colonial-era defensive structure, is still turning up archaeological surprises.

USM Center for Global Archaeological Research archaeologist Goh Hsiao Mei said the dig has unearthed several artifacts since Feb 1.

She said her team of 10 has since found several straits settlement coins, pieces of porcelain, ceramics as well as pieces of glass and plates.

She declined to say how many pieces have been found as the process of cataloging the findings has yet to be completed.

Goh however described the findings as surprising since the area of the dig used to be a moat.

She said the team was only able to dig at the northwest site of the fort as the moat, made of charcoal and bitumen, was still intact there.

"We have unearthed the inner structure of the moat measuring about 6m by 8m so far," she told theSun at the site and hoped more of the structure can be uncovered soon.

Goh said the moat was a defensive feature common to English castles and forts during the 1700s.

She said the moat was filled in the 1920s by the municipal council then following a malaria outbreak.

"The authorities did not want the moat to become a breeding ground for mosquitoes," she said.

Local historian Marcus Langdon meanwhile told theSun then Penang Governor Robert Townsend Farquhar ordered the moat to be built in 1804 to protect British interests from a possible French attack.

"The French Revolution was at its height then and Farquhar ordered the moat to be dug as he feared a backlash.

"But the fort never experienced battle and a shot was never fired in anger from its walls," the author of four history books on Penang said.

The fort was originally built by Captain Francis Light who opened Penang island as a British trading post.

Originally made from wood, Light started strengthening the structure in 1793 with bricks and the effort was continued by Farquhar and completed in 1810.

Think City program executive Aufa Abdul Rahman told theSun the project was under the George Town Conservation and Development Corporation (GTCDC).

She said the dig was a collaboration between the state government, Think City and also the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

"The dig is expected to be completed by July and may be extended if the project is yet to be completed by then," she added.

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