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Ancient Tomb

Interest in Gaya history has increased since the 1970s, following a series of archaeological excavations and the discovery of previously unknown ancient documents.

Many implements used during the Geumgwan-gaya period have been excavated in the Gimhae region. As a result of excavations, much has been learned about Geumgwan-gaya's historical development. Remains from graves and other sites indicate the approximate number of people who previously lived in the Gimhae region. Moreover, the remains tell us a great deal about Gaya households and communities. From the size of remains, the facilities that were in use, and the number of relics found, it is possible to assess the level of technological development of various groups who lived at Gimhae. It is also possible to visualize the area's social development, sphere of political influence, and interactions with other regions.

Crisscrossed by streams and rivers, the Gimhae region in previous eras was separated into several sub-regions consisting of small basins and islands. The region was divided as follows: Joman stream bank (where the Yangdong-ri ancient tombs are located), Haeban stream bank (where Bonghwangdae village, Hoihyeon-ri shell mound, Daeseongdong, and the Gujiro wooden coffin tombs are located), the Jinrye plains, and the Sachon stream bank.

Yangdong-ri tombs group Daeseong-dong tombs group gujiro tombs group

None of these regions fell under the jurisdiction of one central power during the Gaya Era, but the Daeseong-dong group in the Haeban area emerged as a major powerbroker. The Daeseong-dong group and the Dokro Nation (located in the Dongrae region on the eastern side of the Nakdong River) worked together to consolidate their political prominence. By the late fourth century, the influence of these groups could be felt in Jinyeong, the Changweon Basin, Jinhae, Masan Bay and other areas.

Armour mongol bowl-shaped helmets Ring pommel swords pole fittings mold

As these groups interacted, more classes began to differentiate themselves from one another within Gayan society. After the adoption of wooden coffins, social levels and rankings became more pronounced at Gimhae. During the Geumgwan-gaya era, ruling classes constructed large-scale tombs and buried valuable goods (armor, swords, ingots, etc.) and even living people with the deceased. The lowest classes of society buried pottery and simple agricultural implements. Members of the middle classes, the smallest group, buried less valuable relics in comparison to the upper classes, but more valuable goods than the lower classes.

mounted dish

More conflicts and wars in this time period resulted in the emergence of sophisticated forms of military organization. In the late third century it was still possible for inhabitants of the Gimhae region to possess weapons on an individual basis. In other words, no group or political authority could restrict individual access to weapons. However, by the fourth century a rudimentary military organization emerged and wars could be declared at the will of dominant political forces. Moreover, sexual differentiation prohibited women of lower classes from owning weapons.

Backed up by military technology and superior political organization, new polities were able to incorporate peoples and regions under their domains. Territories and boundaries were constantly in flux. Geumgwan-gaya's territory expanded after the third century, reaching its zenith in the fourth century. Geumgwan-gaya's sphere of influence at this time can be determined by analyzing the mounted dishes (with muzzles curved to the outside) that have been unearthed at various archaeological sites. Mounted dishes first appeared in the late fourth century. Remains of such dishes have been found in the Gochon-ri Tombs in Cheolma, the Woongcheon shell mounds at Jinhae, Gaeumjeong-dong in Changweon and the ancient tombs at Dogye-dong. The area of dish dispersal reflects the maximum size Geumgan-gaya attained. Geumgwan-Gaya achieved its largest size during the fourth century A.D. At its peak, Geumgan-gaya covered Cheolma/Haeundae to the east, Nakdong River to the north, and Gaeumjeong-dong/Dogye-dong/Woongcheon to the west.

bronze kettle mirrors Shield ornaments
Yayoi-type pottery spear head stoneware

Through examining relics in Gaya areas it is possible to determine who Gaya's trading partners were as well as the extent of Gayan trade. Relics from neighboring regions or countries have often been found in ancient Gaya tombs, helping us grasp Gaya's import and export activities. As the Gaya at Gimhae had access to the Nakdong River and the ocean, they provided inland communities with goods produced in other regions and exported commodities that were produced inland. Geumgwan-gaya, therefore, had many geopolitical advantages that explain its status as a regional trading power. Among the relics found in Geumgwan-gaya tombs have been mirrors, bronze pots, and iron pots from China; bronze pots from Manchuria; and spearheads, mirrors, pottery, stoneware, and shield ornaments from Japan.

In brief, ancient tombs may have been simply constructed to honor the people inside them, but they are important historical resources that help us reconstruct Gaya society. The scale, distribution and age of ancient tombs, the quantity and quality of burial accessories, and the regional origins of relics all reveal the sophistication and grandeur of the Geumgan-gaya Kingdom.