Discovery and Research of the Historical Knowledge of the Gaya Region

We have planned and conducted various projects comprising investigation, research and publication, utilizing our accumulated historical knowledge and resources on Gaya, in order to meet the demands for research aimed at establishing the historical identity of the Gaya cultural sphere. Our major achievements include:

2003 Stone Caves in China
2004 Wooden Tablets of the Early Korea
2006 Wooden Tablets of the Early Korea – Revised
2006 Prehistoric Culture of the Gyeongsangnam-do Region
2007 Tombs of Gaya
2007 Wooden Tablets from Haman Seongsansanseong Fortress
2008 Fortresses of the Gyeongsangnam-do Region
2008 Early Wooden Ware of Korea
2009 Temple Sites of the Gyeongsangnam-do Region
2009 Secret Codes on Wood: Wooden Tablets (2009)
2009 Reconstruction of Gayans



The Special "Bisabeol" Exhibition (2010~2011)

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The "Bisabeol" Exhibition, organized by Gimhae National Museum, the Changnyeong Museum, and the Daegaya Museum, as well as our institute, introduced the ancient tombs discovered in the Changnyeong region by the Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage from 2004 to 2008. The exhibition’s title, Bisabeol, is an old name for the Changnyeong region, recorded in the Samguk sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms). The main exhibits of the exhibition were finds from the Ancient Tombs in Songhyeon-dong (Historic Site No. 81), which, along with the Ancient Tombs in Gyo-dong, are one of the most important clusters of elite-class tumuli in Changnyeong.
The tombs attracted considerable attention both at home and abroad due to the array of interesting artifacts and relics found intact, such as a boat-shaped camphor coffin, an assortment of ornaments, harnessry, and battle gear similar to those found in the large-scale Silla tumuli such as Hwangnamdaechong and Cheonmachong, and skeletons attesting to the practice of human sacrifice.

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The “Bisabeol” Exhibition, organized by Gimhae National Museum, the Changnyeong Museum, and the Daegaya Museum, as well as our institute, introduced the ancient tombs discovered in the Changnyeong region by the Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage from 2004 to 2008. The exhibition’s title, Bisabeol, is an old name for the Changnyeong region, recorded in the Samguk sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms). The main exhibits of the exhibition were finds from the Ancient Tombs in Songhyeon-dong (Historic Site No. 81), which, along with the Ancient Tombs in Gyo-dong, are one of the most important clusters of elite-class tumuli in Changnyeong. The tombs attracted considerable attention both at home and abroad due to the array of interesting artifacts and relics found intact, such as a boat-shaped camphor coffin, an assortment of ornaments, harnessry, and battle gear similar to those found in the large-scale Silla tumuli such as Hwangnamdaechong and Cheonmachong, and skeletons attesting to the practice of human sacrifice.

The centerpiece of the Bisabeol exhibition was “Songhyeon,” a Gaya girl figure reconstructed from a skeleton thought to have been a human sacrifice. With Songhyeon as the heroine of the display, the history and culture of 5th and 6th century Bisabeol was manifested by archaeological findings from Changnyeong, in particular those from the Songhyeondong Ancient Tombs, in terms of three main topics: Bisabeol, The Ruler of Bisabeol, and The People of Bisabeol. More than 200 exhibits were displayed including not only those from Songhyeon-dong Tombs Nos. 6, 7, and 15 and those from the Gyeseong and Ancient Tombs in Gyo-dong, Changnyeong, but also those from Hwangnamdaechong and Geumgwanchong in Gyeongju, to show Bisabeol’s relationship with Seorabeol (or Gyeongju). Among the many exhibits were reconstructed items such as a reconstructed camphor coffin tree, the original of which couldn’t be displayed as it was being treated for preservation; Songhyeon, the reconstructed Gaya human sacrifice; and a reconstructed saddle - a product of the ancient saddle reconstruction project. In addition, photographs of excavation activities at the Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong sites during the Japanese colonial era and of the excavated objects taken to Japan were also displayed to remind us of the hardships experienced 100 years ago and the history of Changnyeong buried deep in the forest of our regrets.

The special exhibition, Bisabeol, began in July 2010 at Gimhae National Museum and continued into 2011, touring the Changnyeong Museum and the Daegaya Museum. This exhibition was the successful outcome of a collaborative project - involving local organizations and conducted with the aim of investigating, researching and displaying the region’s history and culture – that has made a significant contribution to the promotion of research on the region’s cultural heritage.

image Horse strap decorations excavated from the Site No.7 in Songhyeon-dong, Changnyeong
image Gold and Silver Ornaments
image Gold Earrings
image Silver Belt
image Long Sword with the Tri-leaf Ring Pommel
image Lacquered Saddle Cover with Silver Ornaments
image Plates with Bent Legs
image The appearance of human skeletons from the ancient burial No. 15 in Songhyeon-dong
image Restoration of human skeletons from the ancient burial No. 15 in Songhyeon-dong

Reconstruction of Gaya (2009)

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The project titled Reconstruction of Gaya was Korea’s first extensive interdisciplinary research project involving both humanists and scientists. The main subjects of the project were the four sets of human sacrifice skeletons discovered in Songhyeon-dong Ancient Tomb No. 15. It was conducted over a period of more than twelve months from July 2008 to November 2009, inviting scholars and experts from various disciplines in order to accomplish a comprehensive investigation of human remains from early period Korea. The areas of study and disciplines involved in this project include: Archaeology (Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage) Forensic Medicine, Anatomy, Plastic Art (Catholic Institute of Applied Anatomy) Genetics, Chemistry (Division of Conservation Science at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage) Physics (Korea Research Institute of Archaeological Science)

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The project titled Reconstruction of Gaya was Korea’s first extensive interdisciplinary research project involving both humanists and scientists. The main subjects of the project were the four sets of human sacrifice skeletons discovered in Songhyeon-dong Ancient Tomb No. 15. It was conducted over a period of more than twelve months from July 2008 to November 2009, inviting scholars and experts from various disciplines in order to accomplish a comprehensive investigation of human remains from early period Korea. The areas of study and disciplines involved in this project include:Archaeology (Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage), Forensic Medicine, Anatomy, Plastic Art (Catholic Institute of Applied Anatomy), Genetics, Chemistry (Division of Conservation Science at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage), Physics (Korea Research Institute of Archaeological Science), The results of the research were published in the report titled "The Life and Death of a Sixteen-year-old Girl 1,500 Years Ago".
The research discovered that the four human sacrifices died around the 6th century and were buried in the order of female, male, female, and male from the entrance to the tumulus. They appear to have died from intoxication or asphyxiation and been buried immediately after their death, considering the food remains identified in their stomachs. It seems they had a relatively good diet consisting of staple foods such as rice, barley, beans, and meat, rather than sorghum, millet, or proso millet.
The woman buried near the entrance to the tomb was wearing a gilt bronze earring on the left ear and was identified as having suffered from porotic hyperostosis of the occipital bone, indicating that she had anemia.
Her shin and calf bones display boney reactions, seemingly the result of temporary but repetitive and rapid movements of the calves. The X-Ray analysis of her teeth and bones indicates her age at death as sixteen.
The reconstruction of this girl was accomplished thanks to the development of forensic medicine and anatomy. The process of reconstruction was carried out by duplicating the bones first, followed by assembly the duplicated bones, reconstruction of the muscles, and addition of the skin layers, and was completed by constructing a full-body silicone figure. The result of this process resulted in a girl standing 153.6 centimeters tall, a person of rather short stature who would figure among the smallest 5~25% of contemporary 16-year-old Korean females, with a long neck, unusually short arms, and a wide, flat face.
The gene examinations revealed that the two male human sacrifices likely shared the same maternallineage. Their mtDNA haplotype is also found among Joseon-era skeletons and modern Koreans, and is known to be quite widely distributed throughout Southeast Asia.
This multifaceted study concluded that the human sacrifices were servants of the tomb’s occupant and were buried together with their master to serve him in the afterlife. The earrings worn by the female sacrifices were and the nutritional conditions of the skeletons also suggest that they were unlikely to have been members of the underclass.
This research project aimed to accomplish a comprehensive reconstruction of ancient human culture based on a multifaceted understanding and interpretation achieved by reconstructing the physical features of an ancient person and endowing her with a historical identity.

image 1. Unearthed Human Skeletons
image 2. Collecting Human Skeletons
image 3. Reconstruction of the Bones
image 4. Reconstruction of the Face
image 5. Reconstruction of the Full Body
image 6. Reconstruction of the Full Body
image 7. Reconstruction of the Full Body
image 8. Reconstruction of the Full Body

Secret Codes on Wood: Wooden Tablets (2009)

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Our research institute and Buyeo National Museum jointly hosted a special exhibition entitled Special Exhibition: Secret Codes on Wood – Wooden Tablets in 2009. The exhibition was conceived with the intention of introducing to the public actual wooden tablets along with the scholarship accumulated in the forty years since their discovery at Gyeongju Anapji Pond in 1972. Since then, more than 500 wooden tablets have been discovered in diverse areas ranging from the capitals of ancient kingdoms to key local regions. The exhibition pamphlet entitled Secret Codes on Wood – Wooden Tablets introduces the wooden tablets of Baekje, Silla and Goryeo, as well as the current status of research into wooden tablets in China and Japan. As an adjunct to this exhibition, we held an international academic symposium on “Ancient Wooden Tablets and Fortresses” to discuss the current development of Korean researc

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Our research institute and Buyeo National Museum jointly hosted a special exhibition entitled Special Exhibition: Secret Codes on Wood – Wooden Tablets in 2009. The exhibition was conceived with the intention of introducing to the public actual wooden tablets along with the scholarship accumulated in the forty years since their discovery at Gyeongju Anapji Pond in 1972. Since then, more than 500 wooden tablets have been discovered in diverse areas ranging from the capitals of ancient kingdoms to key local regions. The exhibition pamphlet entitled Secret Codes on Wood – Wooden Tablets introduces the wooden tablets of Baekje, Silla and Goryeo, as well as the current status of research into wooden tablets in China and Japan. As an adjunct to this exhibition, we held an international academic symposium on “Ancient Wooden Tablets and Fortresses” to discuss the current development of Korean research

image Anapji Pond, Gyeonju
image Wooden Tablet from Anapji Pond, Gyeongju
image Temple Site in Neungsan-ri, Buyeo
image Wooden Tablet from the Temple Site, in Neungsan-ri Buyeo
image Ssangbungni, Buyeo
image Wooden Tablet from Ssangbuk-ri, Buyeo
image Sinanseon
image Wooden Tablet from Sinanseon
image Seongsansanseong Fortress, Haman
image Wooden Tablet from Seongsansanseong Fortress, Haman

Temple Sites in Gyeongsangnam-do (2009)

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The Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage has been surveying old temple sites and stone pagodas in the Gyeongsangnam-do region since 2009, as part of its long-term goal of establishing a solid base of knowledge about the Gaya cultural sphere. In the first phase of this survey project, we investigated temple sites in Uiryeong, Changnyeong, and Haman, concentrating on nineteen stone pagodas and their surroundings. We inspected four sites in Uiryeong, including the three-story pagoda of the Bocheonsa temple site, nine sites in Changnyeong, including Suljeong-ri’s east and west three-story pagodas, and six sites in Haman, including the stone pagoda at the Jurisa Temple Site. This inspection and measurement survey provided us with primary information needed to draw up development plans for the conservation and restoration of the historic sites.

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The Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage has been surveying old temple sites and stone pagodas in the Gyeongsangnam-do region since 2009, as part of its long-term goal of establishing a solid base of knowledge about the Gaya cultural sphere. In the first phase of this survey project, we investigated temple sites in Uiryeong, Changnyeong, and Haman, concentrating on nineteen stone pagodas and their surroundings. We inspected four sites in Uiryeong, including the three-story pagoda of the Bocheonsa temple site, nine sites in Changnyeong, including Suljeong-ri’s east and west three-story pagodas, and six sites in Haman, including the stone pagoda at the Jurisa Temple Site. This inspection and measurement survey provided us with primary information needed to draw up development plans for the conservation and restoration of the historic sites.

image Seven-story Stone Pagoda of Munsansa Temple in Uiryeong
image Three-story Stone Pagoda at Bochensa Temple Site in Uiryeong
image Three-story Stone Pagoda in Seonghwang-ri, Uiryeong
image Three-story Stone Pagoda at Yaksajeon Hall of Gwallyongsa Temple in Changnyeong
image East Three-story Stone Pagoda in Suljeong-ri, Changnyeong
image East Side of the Three-story Stone Pagoda in Toecheon-ri, Changnyeong
image West Side of the Three-story Stone Pagoda in Toecheon-ri, Changnyeong
image Three-story Stone Pagoda in Mugi-ri, Haman
image Five-story Stone Pagoda of Jangchunsa Temple in Haman
image Pedestal of the Five-story Stone Pagoda of Jangchunsa Temple in Haman
image Stone Pagoda with Four Lions at Jurisa Temple Site in Haman (1991)