- Naju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Wanju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage to hold meeting of advisers and briefing for media in Cheonggye-ri, Namwon, Jeolla Bukdo (North Jeolla) at 2pm on Nov. 7 (KST). -
Korean archaeologists have discovered the earliest and largest tomb from Gaya confederacy era (42-562)1 in the Jeollado region. Naju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Wanju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage have been conducting an archaeological exploration on a group of tombs in Cheonggye-ri, Namwon, Jeolla Bukdo (North Jeolla) as part of efforts to investigate and refurbish areas of the Gaya culture, one of incumbent administration’s key projects. The two research institutes will hold a meeting of advisers and a briefing for media at the site2 at 2pm on November 7, 2019 (KST).
Gaya was a confederacy of territories that existed in southern Korea between the first and sixth centuries. It existed during Korea’s Three Kingdoms era (57 B.C.-A.D. 668), which refers to the time when the three powerful kingdoms on the Korean Peninsula - Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla –vied for control.
The address is 8-7 San, Cheonggye-ri, Ayeong-myeon, Namwon, Jeolla Bukdo.
Naju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage has been excavating a tomb in the ‘Cheonggye Tomb Complex,’ from May of this year. The ‘Cheonggye Tomb Complex’ is located on a great height overlooking ‘Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tomb Complex,’ the largest tomb concentration in the Ayeong basin area of Namwon, as well as ‘Wolsan-ri Tomb Complex.’
The exploration was designed to find out the tomb’s characteristics and to come up with ways to preserve and utilize it.
From the excavation, archaeologists ▲learned the structure of and construction techniques used in the earliest and largest tomb from Gaya in the Jeolla region, ▲uncovered numerous pieces of earthenware from Ara-Gaya3 which include a piece of earthenware decorated with wheels4, plus dish holders and elevated dishes, ▲as well as discovering a Japanese-style wooden comb5, first to be found from a Gaya tomb in Jeolla.
‘Ara-Gaya’ was a city-state kingdom that was part of Gaya confederacy, in modern-day Haman County.
This type of earthenware was a unique to Ara-Gaya. On an elevated dish, two drinking horns are placed to make a U-shape and wheels made of earth are placed on each side.
Wooden combs, used to further fixate hair that is tied back, is often found from Japan’s Yayoi period (300 B.C.-A.D. 300). They have also been found from tombs from Korea’s Three Kingdoms era in Busan, Gimhae and Goheung.
LARGEST GAYA TOMB IN JEOLLA
The tomb Korean archeologists examined is located on a ridge that comes down eastward from Siru-bong, or Siru mountaintop, in Mt. Gonamsan. They believe that in order to construct the tomb, workers first cut into the mountainside and piled up soil to create level ground in an L-shape. After this, they dug the ground again to construct the burial facility. Archeologists also discovered a ditch to the southern side of the tomb.
The tomb’s flat surface was an oval-shape, and its major axis fell in north and south in line with the mountain ridge, archaeologists believe. Based on what’s left of the mound, the tomb was approximately 31 meters long (34 meters including the ditch), 20 meters wide and 5 meters high, making it the largest Gaya tomb ever to be found in the Jeolla region6.
‘Wolsan-ri Tomb Complex’ measures approximately 20 meters (in diameter); ‘Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tomb Complex’ 21 meters; and ‘Tomb No. 7 in Gyodong, Changnyeong’ 32 meters.
The tomb had three stone outer coffins which were aligned to create a T-shape. In cases of stone outer coffins 2 and 3, workers simultaneously dug into the soil and added new soil to make sure the burial was strong enough. Stone outer coffin No. 1, on the other hand, was created adjacent to the end of stone outer coffin No. 2. In the east and north sides of tomb, workers piled up stones to make sure the mound does not slide down. Based on the structure and alignment, it is clear that stone outer coffin No. 2 was designed to be the center of this tomb.
EARTHENWARE WITH WHEELS
Although all three stone outer coffins have been significantly damaged by robbery, archaeologists were able to uncover relics that could provide important clues to Gaya’s political system in the eastern part of the Jeolla region.
They found from stone outer coffin No. 2 a piece of earthenware that feature wheels as well as several dish holders and elevated dishes - artifacts typical of Ara-Gaya. In particular, the earthenware decorated with wheels is signature relic of Ara-Gaya and has been discovered in Haman and presumably in Uiryeong.
From stone outer coffin No. 1, archaeologists found a wooden comb - which is believed to have been manufactured in Japan and brought to the Korean peninsula - in addition to various pieces of earthenware of Ara-Gaya and Dae-Gaya. They also found clamps and nails.
Stone outer coffin No. 3 appears to have been an annex to stone outer coffin No. 2 based on its size and location. Because of robbery, archaeologists were able to uncover just a lid with handle made of earth from this coffin.
EARLY FIFTH-CENTURY TOMB
Based on artifacts uncovered, researchers believe that the tomb was constructed in early part of the fifth century – which makes it older than nearby ‘Wolsan-ri Tomb Complex’ and ‘Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tomb Complex.’
The construction techniques used and relics found display both the local culture as well as external influence. Simultaneously digging the soil and adding new soil to make sure the burial was strong enough, and creating a ditch are both signs that the people of Gaya embraced indigenous tradition. The T-shaped alignment of coffins and relics from Ara-Gaya, Dae-Gaya and Japan, on the other hand, are foreign elements. This makes researchers believe the ancient political system of Gaya in this region actively sought exchanges with surrounding regions and remained versatile as a way to survive and thrive.
Naju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Wanju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage plan to designate ‘Cheonggye Tomb Complex’ as state-designated cultural heritage (historic site) along with ‘Wolsan-ri Tomb Complex’ and devise ways to preserve and manage the site and shed new light on the history and culture of Gaya in Jeolla.
1. photographic materials
Naju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Wanju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage
Jeon Yong-Ho Researcher (061-339-1120), So Jae-Yun Researcher (063-290-9311)