Relics discovered from various eras

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Relics discovered from various eras

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Kilns for roof tiles from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) were also discovered in Chungju, North Chungcheong, with hundreds of tiles inside.

As is often the case with archeological findings in Korea, local researchers have come across a host of treasures in a place where a city development project is underway.

The site is Chungju, North Chungcheong, and the discovery was made by the Foundation of East Asia Cultural Properties Institute.

The relics go back to as early as 75,000 years ago, ranging from the Paleolithic Era; the Three Kingdoms era (57 BC-AD 668); the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392); and the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Among them, however, the most intensive academic attention is being garnered for the seals found in Goryeo-period tombs, which attest to the high craftsmanship of this era.

Although personal preference may play a role here, there are historians who say Goryeo’s art and culture in its heyday was richer and more tasteful than that of Joseon.

The three seals, according to a Cultural Heritage Administration press statement released on Thursday, display humorous and unique animal prints in addition to highly sophisticated metalcraft techniques.

“The writing on it is interpreted as bong, for phoenix, but more studies need to be done,” the CHA said in the release.

In ancient Korea, the phoenix often symbolized an emperor whereas dragons represented a king.

In fact, dragons were also spotted in the latest findings. Twenty-eight mirrors were discovered in the same tombs, with one measuring 23 centimeters (9 inches) in diameter and featuring two dragons and clouds. Another displays eight lions.

“The mirrors feature beautiful patterns, which display Goryeo’s high aesthetic taste,” the CHA explained.

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Three seals from the Goryeo Dynasty (1392-1910) that display the era’s metal craftsmanship were found in Chungju, North Chungcheong. Provided by the Cultural Heritage Administration

Goryeo’s artifacts are some of Korea’s best. They include Goryeo celadon pieces, as well as the Tripitaka Koreana, the most complete collection of Buddhist texts in the world, which were engraved on 80,000 woodblocks between 1237 and 1248. The blocks are kept at Haein Temple in Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang.

The Foundation of East Asia Cultural Properties Institute has been conducting an archaeological survey of the Hoam-Jihyeon area in Chungju since 2012, as a large-scale city development project is planned for the site.

It is customary to conduct an archaeological survey before a city development project kicks off in Korea.

Officials with the foundation said what is also notable is that tile kilns from Joseon were found on the site too.

A total of six kilns were discovered, and interestingly, one was found with 551 tiles inside the kiln.

“We believe the kiln collapsed while the baking process was underway and the area has been preserved that way as a result,” the foundation noted. “It’s an interesting finding that could shed more light on Joseon pottery.”

While Goryeo was known for its celadon pieces, Joseon was famous for white porcelain, which has been associated with characteristics such as “grace,” “elegance” and “sophistication.” This could also be why Korean art is sometimes referred to as “Art of Purity.”

Relics found from the Paleolithic Era include stone tools, whereas the findings from the Three Kingdoms period are mostly tombs, which should shed light on the era’s burial customs. Historians say the tombs show the characteristics of Silla, which unified the Three Kingdoms.

BY KIM HYUNG-EUN [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

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