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Gaya Earthenware

Gaya earthenware developed based on Gimhae earthenware. There were two basic phases of Gaya earthenware. The first phases lasted from the 1st through the 3rd century, and the second phase lasted from the 4th through the 6th century. Earthenware from the first phase discovered in shell mounds includes the most common items, mainly reddish-brown soft-paste pottery. By the 4th century, soft-paste pottery disappeared and was replaced by grayish-brown hard-paste pottery, and many new types of pieces such as legged dishes and jars were produced.

Sun baekja

  • Legged dishes
  • Legged dishes
  • Short neck jar
  • Wide mouth pot
  • Corner Cup
Legged dishes
Legged dishes
Short neck jar
Wide mouth pot
Corner Cup

Gaya earthenware, in general, refers to hard-past pottery fired at temperatures above 1,000℃degress Celsius and made by means of new pottery-making techniques introduced after the 4th century.

The unique pottery culture was created in the southern part of the peninsula with Gimhae and Busan at center. Legged dishes from Busan/Gimhae are unlike plates from other regions in Gyeogsang-do Province, which indicates that two different pottery cultures had emerged in Gyeongsang-do Province in the 4th century. From the end of the 4th to the early 5th century, Silla-style pottery was developed in the eastern part of Gyeongsang-do Province, and Gaya-style pottery was developed in the western part, with the Nakdonggang River marking the boundary.

Silla type pottery is decorated with two layers of crossed patterns and gives a feeling of straight lines, while Gaya type pottery form gentle curves with patterns on the upper and lower layers.

Gaya pottery is more refined than Silla pottery. Vessels are made of various shapes such as animals, houses, shoes, boats, carts, and oil lamps, and there were also others of unique shapes which are hardly found in Silla pottery. In Gaya, pottery was also made to be buried with the dead. Relics excavated from tombs include vessels containing food for the dead, figurines of soldiers, horn chalices, boats, and houses, which implies that the dead were attended. Along with hard-paste pottery, vessels for everyday use, such as jars, bowls, and rice steamers were made of reddish-brown soft-paste.

Within the Gaya region, differences in shapes and decorative patterns of vessels can be found. The different types are classified by area, and the three major classifications are Goryeong-gun, Haman-gun, and Gimhae-si, after the names of the respective areas.

Gaya earthenware developed based on the grayish soft-paste earthenware of the Confederated Kingdoms of Samhan. Gaya pottery heritage was introduced to Japan and exerted direct influence on the creation of Sueki-ware, the most representative pottery of the Kofun period in Japan.

The pottery tradition of Gimhae was succeeded by Gaya, and then Silla and the Unified Silla Kingdom. Gimhae produced the first higher-quality pottery anywhere on the Korean peninsula, so it holds an important place in the history of Korean ceramics.