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Unearthed ornaments link tomb to 5th century Silla princess


An abundance of luxurious ornaments including a gilt-bronze crown, pairs of gold pendants and earrings, gold chest ornament, gold and silver bracelets and rings as well as gilt-bronze ornaments decorated with golden-edged jewel beetles, a stone mortar and a pestle and 200 baduk stones were discovered last month at the Silla ancient tomb No. 44 at Jjoksaem in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.


Unearthed ornaments link tomb to 5th century Silla princess
The excavation site for Tomb No. 44 at Jjoksaem in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, South
 Korea. Go stones were found near the bottom of the tomb, while jewel beetle ornaments were
 found near the top [Credit: Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage]

According to the Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (GNRICH), the sorts and quality of burial accessories indicates that the tomb likely belonged to a young female member of a royal family.




Jjoksaem No. 44 Tomb is estimated to have been built around the late 5th century and built in stone-piled wooden chamber style. The burial mound is 30 meters in diameter, which is medium-sized, but the size of stone mound is about 992 tons, similar to other Silla tombs presumed to be king's tombs, suggesting the buried person's high status.


Unearthed ornaments link tomb to 5th century Silla princess
The accessories adorning the deceased in the Silla ancient tomb
 no. 44 at Jjoksaemin Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province,
South Korea. The ornaments include a gilt-bronze crown,
gold pendants and earrings, gold chest ornament
and gold and silver bracelet and rings
[Credit: Gyeongju National Research
 Institute of Cultural Heritage]

Excavation of the tomb have been ongoing since 2014 and the recently unearthed luxurious ornaments provide much information about the person laid to rest there.


"The height of the buried person is estimated to be about 150 centimeters and the small size of the gilt-bronze crown and other accessories indicate that the tomb is for a woman. 


Unearthed ornaments link tomb to 5th century Silla princess
The excavation site for Tomb No. 44 at Jjoksaem in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, 
South Korea [Credit: Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage]

The person also carried an ornamental silver knife, instead of an adorned dagger typically found in kings' tombs, hinting that the person could be female," an official of the GNRICH said.




The design of the chest ornament ― woven in rows of gold and silver beads with indigo glass beads ― is similar to those found in tombs of people of the higher classes of the period, such as Hwangnamdaechong (Great Tomb of Hwangnam) and Cheonmachong (Tomb of the Heavenly Horse).


Unearthed ornaments link tomb to 5th century Silla princess
Gold accessories excavated from an ancient tomb in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, 
South Korea [Credit: Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage]

One of the unique artifacts found in the tomb are golden-edged jewel beetles which were used to decorate the deceased. Found in a chest of entombed items above the buried person's head, the wings of the jewel beetles were made in a water drop shape and fixed with gilt-bronze panels at the front and back. 


The form and size of the accessories are unique compared to those found in other Silla ancient tombs. Somewhat similar golden-edged jewel beetle adorned objects have only been discovered in tombs of the highest ranking persons of the Silla period, providing more hints to the status of the person. 


Unearthed ornaments link tomb to 5th century Silla princess
Decorations from golden-edged jeweled beetles found in tomb No. 44 at Jjoksaem in Gyeongju, 
North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea [Credit: Gyeongju National Research
 Institute of Cultural Heritage]

Previously found objects decorated with golden-edged jewel beetles were all equine equipment, so it is possible those found in Jjoksaem no. 44 could have been part of a saddle.




A buried stone mortar and a pestle, also found in the chest, are also thought to have symbolic meaning related to their use for medicinal purposes.


Unearthed ornaments link tomb to 5th century Silla princess
Natural Go stones excavated from an ancient tomb in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province,
South Korea [Credit: Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage]

Under the feet of the buried person, about 200 pieces of small black, white and gray stones, presumed to be used for playing baduk, were excavated. In the past, baduk stones of the Silla era were unearthed in tombs of people belonging to the highest classes.


In "Samguksagi" (History of the Three Kingdoms) and "Samgukyusa" (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), there are records of King Hyonseong, who reigned from 737 to 742, playing baduk.


Unearthed ornaments link tomb to 5th century Silla princess
A pestle and a mortar found in tomb No. 44 at Jjoksaem in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province,
South Korea [Credit: Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage]

"It has been deduced that baduk was the exclusive property of men. As the tomb occupant at this time is presumed to be female, it is expected to raise new interpretations of and meaning in baduk culture," the GNRICH official said.


Source: The Korean Times [December 07, 2020]



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