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Armor of Heavily Armed Shilla Warrior & Horse Found

Posted June. 03, 2009 07:37,   


The armor of a heavily armed warrior from the Shilla Dynasty (57 B.C.–935 A.D.) and his horse buried 1,600 years ago have been discovered almost intact.

The Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage yesterday said the discovery was made in an ancient tomb with two coffins buried in the early fifth century at the Jjoksaem district of the Hwangohdong ancient tomb cluster (Historical Relic No. 41), which had around 150 Shilla tombs from the fourth to sixth centuries in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

“Metal scale armor of the buried assumed to be that of a warrior who led soldiers riding heavily armored horses together with horse armor and horse riding tools were excavated in a state of near perfection,” the institute said.

This is the first time an entire set of ancient armor for both man and horse have been discovered intact. They indicate how warriors were armed on horseback while heavily clad in metal armor.

Institute director Ji Byeong-mok said, “The warrior would’ve been placed atop the armor when he was buried. The discovery is almost unprecedented in East Asia because it’s a perfect example of how a warrior from ancient times clad himself in action.”

Until the discovery, historians had to guess the details of ancient scale armor from Goguryeo period murals on the walls of Ssangyeong Mound, Anak Tomb No. 3 and Gaema Mound. Though horse armor from the late fifth century was discovered in Haman County, South Gyeongsang Province, in 1992, only the parts covering trunks and necks remained.

Horse armor was found in the main coffin housing the body of the warrior. The parts covering the neck, chest, trunk and hips were spread from the top in order from west to east in a wooden burial container crafted to place the coffin.

The warrior’s armor was placed above the trunk armor of the horse piece by piece – cuirass, back shield and leg protectors. A helmet along with neck and shoulder armor and arm protectors was discovered far west of the main coffin.

A sword with a ring end measuring 84 centimeters and a small knife made of deer horn were buried near the armor. In a separate container for burial accessories next to the main coffin, the helmet of the horse, saddle mould, a bit, stirrups, horse riding tools and pieces of earthenware were discovered.

The head of the Cultural Heritage Administration Yi Kun-moo said, “The relic shows how the Shilla Kingdom made efficient use of soldiers riding heavily armored horses, a legacy from the Goguryeo Dynasty, and laid the groundwork for establishing the unified kingdom of Shilla.”