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Dragon head roof tiles from Joseon era found in Taean mud flat

Dragon head roof tiles from Joseon era found in Taean mud flat

Posted August. 20, 2021 07:40,   

Updated August. 20, 2021 07:40


A pair of roof tiles in the shape of the dragon’s head (two pieces · pictured) have been found in Taean mud flat in South Chungcheong Province. This is the first time that an entire set of roof tile heads have been unearthed though bits of them have been dug up before.

According to the Cultural Heritage Administration on Thursday, two pieces of large-sized royal roof tile heads were excavated from the mud flat off Cheongpodae Beach in Taean by the National Maritime Museum of Korea. An investigation found that the two pieces comprise a set together, one for the top, the other for the bottom. When assembled, the head pieces stand as tall as 103 centimeters and span as wide as 83 centimeters.

The lower head is shaped like a dragon with its mouth gaping and both eyes wide open. The upper one is curved up in the tip like an ornamental roof tile with a small-sized twisting dragon engraved upon it. Befitting its royal use, an exquisite execution of craftsmanship stands out on the scales and the mane of the imaginary creature. The museum conjectures that the latest findings should belong to the early years of the Joseon Dynasty, as their style is similar to that of roof heads used on the Sungnyemun.

In September 2019, a local resident found a separate piece of roof tile head while picking clams in the same beach. And a month later, the maritime museum collected a piece shaped like a general’s armor to be placed on the ridge of the roof.

“There is a possibility that those parts were sent from the office in charge of building roof tiles and bricks in the capital of Hanyang to be used for the construction of a royal palace in Jeonju, but the ship may have sunk while heading towards the south of the country,” explained Kim Dong-hoon, an arts researcher at the National Maritime Museum.

Sang-Un Kim sukim@donga.com