Tomb relics hint at ancient rites

Tomb No. 518, one of the ancient tombs unearthed in Jisan-dong, Goryeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, consists of a main chamber and five additional chambers, presumably for people buried with the owner of the tomb.

Tomb No. 518, one of the ancient tombs unearthed in Jisan-dong, Goryeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, consists of a main chamber and five additional chambers, presumably for people buried with the owner of the tomb.

Relics that give clues about ancient funeral rites have been unearthed in tomb No. 518 found among the ancient tombs in Jisan-dong, Goryeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. The complex includes some 700 tombs from Daegaya (대가야, 大伽倻), a city-state in the Gaya Confederacy (가야, 伽倻) (A.D. 42-A.D. 562), that existed during the Three Kingdoms of Korea (57 B.C.-A.D. 668).

The tomb was excavated from 2012 to 2013. Additional chambers inside the tomb and the relics therein hint about funeral rites of the time.

Inside the tomb, there was a main chamber for the tomb’s owner and then five additional chambers for people who were buried with him. In total, some 480 relics were excavated at the site. Although almost half of the tomb was robbed, some significant artifacts, such as a gilt bronze bird wing ornament that was presumably for a nobleperson’s hat, a delicate earring made of gold and silver, some sets of armor, helmets and decorated harnesses, were found.

“The relics probably belonged to a ruler of Daegaya during the prime of that chiefdom, around 1,500 years ago,” said an official from the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA).

A gold and silver earring found in tomb No. 518 in Jisan-dong, Goryeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, suggests that the owner of the tomb belonged to the upper classes of Daegaya.

A gold and silver earring found in tomb No. 518 in Jisan-dong, Goryeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, suggests that the owner of the tomb belonged to the upper classes of Daegaya.

Also, the construction process of the tomb is distinct, providing valuable information about Daegaya burial traditions. This is the first ancient tomb to reveal that the main chamber of the tomb and the additional chambers were made at different times, and that the residents were buried in a certain order.

“A gilt bronze earring was found in chamber No. 1, located at the foot-end of the main chamber, which implies that the person buried there had the highest position among the others who were buried alongside the main tomb’s owner,” said a CHA official. He said that it may have been a spouse.

“It’s likely that the people in the lower positions were buried in the early process of tomb construction, in chambers No. 3 to 5, and then a guard in No. 2 and then a wife in No. 1,” he said.

The CHA published its report on the excavation at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage’s website (www.cch.go.kr). The report includes information about the archeological research, the relics found during the excavation, an analysis of the tomb construction, and a list of artifacts found there, such as pieces of earthenware, ornaments, harness and helmets.

The relics from the tomb will be on display at the Daegaya Museum in Goryeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, starting next year.

A research report about Daegaya tomb No. 518, excavated from 2012 to 2013, is published online at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage’s website (www.cch.go.kr), free to the public.

A research report about Daegaya tomb No. 518, excavated from 2012 to 2013, is published online at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage’s website (www.cch.go.kr), free to the public.

By Kim Young Shin
Korea.net Staff Writer
Photos The Cultural Heritage Administration
ysk1111@korea.kr

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