GEORGE TOWN: Two old cannons were found at the 232-year-old Fort Cornwallis here yesterday — a discovery which could force a relook at historical interpretations of the fort as having been a peaceful site.
The cannons, measuring 2.35 metres and 2.2 metres in length, were unearthed on the western side of the fort, with inscriptions on them suggesting that they date back to the reign of Britain’s King George III, who ruled from 1760 to 1820.
The archaeological team, led by Mokhtar Saidin, made the discovery at about 2pm yesterday, during the excavation of a moat and outer defensive structures of the fort.
Mokhtar, who is director of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Global Archaeological Research (CGAR), said the finding of the two artefacts at a depth 1.2 metres comes on the heels of an earlier discovery of cannonballs at the fort last year.
He said he had expected to find some cannons after the balls were unearthed.
“Both cannons have the symbol ‘GR’ inscribed on them, which represents the era from around 1877.
“However, in the 1877 map, there was no indication as to where the cannons were,” he said.
“We need to further study these cannons to know exactly how old they are and why they had been buried here.”
He said the team had sought permission to take the rusted cannons to CGAR’s office.
He said they would be cleaned and more data would be obtained from their surfaces to help determine their connection to the fort.
“This discovery could also see a possible relook and rewrite of the early interpretation of the fort as a peaceful fort,” he said at the site today.
Present were Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, as well as members from the George Town Conservation and Development Corporation, Think City and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
Lim said the discovery during the Chinese New Year period was a “double ang pow” for the state government.
“It was totally unexpected. It is indeed a fortuitous and significant discovery and we are very excited over it. Hopefully, there will be more discoveries.”
The excavation work, endorsed by the National Heritage Department, is part of an effort to reinstate the historical moat and other defensive outworks that surrounded the monument.
The moat, which was a channel dug around the fort for defensive and drainage purposes, was backfilled in 1922. This altered the landscape of the site and led to drainage issues.
The excavation of the moat is part of an effort to restore the authenticity and heritage significance of the site, as outlined in the Fort Cornwallis Conservation Management Plan of 2016.
George Town and Melaka were jointly listed as a “World Heritage Site” by Unesco in July 2008.