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Living humans offered while building castle wall in Silla Dynasty

Living humans offered while building castle wall in Silla Dynasty

Posted May. 17, 2017 07:24,   

Updated May. 17, 2017 07:33

The traces of the Silla Dynasty people in the fifth century offered as sacrifice while building castle walls were identified for the first time at Wolseong in Gyeongju. It is the first archeology evidence of an attempt of human sacrifice while building a structure found in Korea. In the fourth and fifth centuries, Silla people promoted burial of the living with the dead at a stone mound tomb while burying a living person at the castle walls in the royal palace.

According to the Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage on Tuesday, two human bones were found at a site nearby West Gate of the castle wall west of Wolseong. They were buried at the upper part of the 1.5-meter high castle wall. One is assumed as man as tall as 165.9 centimeters, facing the front, and the other whose gender is not identified is tilted slightly on the side facing the man and is 159.3 centimeters high.

The reason the excavation team sees this as human sacrifice is because their legs and arms lay upright while placed neatly toward the castle wall. Besides their feet lie four earthenware of Silla appearing to be utensils used in ancestral rites. While the dead sacrificial bodies in China's Shang Dynasty had their heads cut off, the Wolseong human bones had no external injury. "It appears that they died of poison and were then buried," said Park Yoon-jeong, liberal arts research director at the Gyeongju National Research Institute.

Below the bones there were traces of weaved grasses like mats and tree barks were found on the face and body. The person facing the other had one side of the shoulder lifted slightly above the ribs and appears to have been rapped with bandages. "It seems as if the mats were laid on the ground and then the dead body was placed on it," Prof. Kim Jae-hyun at Donga University said. "Barks were wrapped up around the body just like shrouds." A protein substance, which appeared to be a leather shoe, was detected on the ankle.

The most notable thing is the location of these dead bones. They come from nearby the West Gate. Royal gates had been recognized as a channel of disaster like disease or enemies, and thus ritual events were frequently held there. The wood sculpture of male penis used for incantation during the Baekje Dynasty was also excavated nearby the East Gate of Naseong in Buyeo. The Wolseong human bones were buried at the base part of the 10.5-meter high wall, signaling that it played a role of an offering to prevent savage energy.

The bones of a young child aged around 10 discovered at a well during the Unified Silla Dynasty exhibited at the National Gyeongju Museum in 2000 is also assumed to be a human sacrifice case. Various animal bones and potteries were found in the well. Scholars believe that the ritual event took place while eliminating the well. Its purpose and characteristics were different from that of Wolseong bones.

Sang-Un Kim sukim@donga.com