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First signs of cremation from Baekje period confirmed

Posted October. 24, 2019 07:33,   

Updated October. 24, 2019 07:33


Cremated bones weighing 4.3 kilograms have been collected from Baekje’s royal ancient tombs in Seokchon-dong, Seoul. This is the first time that a large quantity of cremated bones has been found from ancient tombs of the Baekje era, demonstrating the royal funeral culture of the period.

“Cremated bones were excavated from three areas of the burial sites of a newly found stone mound tomb, which is located near the No. 1 tomb in the south of the ancient tombs,” said an official of the Seoul Baekje Museum on Wednesday. “There were more than two bones of the same location in the human body in one area, which indicates that the bones of multiple people were buried together.”

The excavated bones were covered with fine clay, along with funeral-related relics, such as earthenware, and are thought to be broken into smaller pieces after cremation according to further analysis. They seemed to have been scattered on the ground.

In addition, a series of super-large stone mound tombs from the Baekje period has been also found for the first time. A total of 16 square-shaped stone mound tombs were located with no gap among them in a 100-meter-by-40-meter space between the No. 1 tomb and the No. 2 tomb in the north. The tombs are connected to each other with stones stacked up against one corner of a tomb. They are also connected to the tomb No. 1. “It is possible that the No. 1 tomb may be a part of the newly-found stone mound tombs, rather than a stand-alone one,” said the museum official. About 5,000 relics, including gold earrings, glass beads, Chinese-made celadons, earthenware, roof tiles, etc. were also excavated.

“It seems that the tombs had been built over several generations in the late fourth century,” said Choi Jin-seok, an art and science researcher at the Baekje Research Institute under the Seoul Baekje Museum. “Additional stone mound tombs connected to what’s been found could be revealed.” Such connected stone mound tombs in a long line were previously found at some Goguryeo tombs located in Jian City of China.

Jong-Yeob JO jjj@donga.com