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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Gracious and Groovy Gaya (3G), Part VII: Bonghwang-dong Historical Site, Gimhae, Southern Gyeongsang

The Precinct of Bonghwang-dong, Gimhae, Southern Gyeongsang was designated a historic site, where it includes an important shell mound from the Gaya period, which is located in Hoehyeon-ri. In 1920, it was the first archeological site to be excavated in Korea. The site also contains the Bonghwangdae tomb (Former Data for Cultural Properties No. 87), which was the largest tomb of Geumgwan Gaya area. On top of the hill remain Yeoui Pavilion and Hwangse Rock, which are part of the legend about General Hwangse and Yeoui. This is also where the remains of raised houses and a residential site of the Gaya period were excavated.

Bonghwang-dong Historical Site (Hanja: 鳳凰洞遺蹟地) in 51 Garak Avenue 63rd Street/Garak-ro 63beon-gil, Bonghwang-dong 158-beonji, Gimhae, Southern Gyeongsang with 7m high, 130m long and 30m wide hill was formed in the early Iron Age. A section revealing shell layer and white shells on the hill are visible because a village was formed near the south of the hill and houses were built underneath the northeast cliff. This place was first discovered in 1907 (First reigning year of Emperor Sunjong-Yunghui, Last Emperor of the Korean Empire). And through a full scale excavation in 1920 and several excavations after that, the characteristics and date of this site were identified. 

When it was excavated, a variety of relics such as clay pots, bone implements, stone ware, wheel, carbonized rice, Chinese coins and animal bones were also found. The pots are usually of tile quality with colors of red brown and bluish gray, and the major bone or horn implements excavated here are hafts of daggers.

The excavation of carbonized rice contributes much to the study of rice cultivation on the peninsula. Archaeologists who excavated the tomb nearby the shell mound found a pot coffin, dolmen, site of human residence as well as many artifacts of the Bronze Age. Hoehyeon-ri shell mound in Gimhae helps to understand how southern part of Koreans lived during the first to the fourth century. In addition, the excavation of the Chinese coins, Hwacheon, and the pot tomb indicate that this area was the international place linked to China and Japan.

It is a very important prehistoric site. Most of the excavated relics were pieces of earthenware called Gimhae Earthenware. And, ironware such as axes and knives were discovered. From this, it can be estimated that ironware was already used as everyday tools at the time. In addition to ironware, bone tools such as bone arrowheads, needles, and awls were found. Gimhae Earthenware was hard pottery fired at a temperature higher than that for the previous plain pottery. Its unique feature is that it has stamped patterns such as lattice pattern and mat pattern. To make the pottery harder, it was hit with an engraved rod. It is also called Primitive Silla Earthenware because it became the base of Silla Earthenware. A Hwacheon, currency of Chinese Xin Dynasty which circulated in 14 BCE was found during the excavation in 1920 and the date of this site's upper limit was identified. Also, carbonized rice was found. 

It is a very important material for the research of Korean rice. During the excavation between 1934 and 1935, a group of stone coffins and jar coffins were discovered. In one of the jar coffins, slender bronze daggers and bronze items were found. In addition, a big stone looking like a lid of southern style dolmen still remains. Bonghwangdae, the largest historical site of Geumgwan Gaya, and shell mound in Hwayeon-ri were designated as Gimhae Bonghwangdae Relics (Hanja: 金海鳳凰臺遺蹟地) on January 21st 1963.

The historical site is accessible either by rail, using Busan-Gimhae LRT Line to Stations B115-B116-B117: Buwon - Bonghwang (Jeonha) - Royal Tomb of King Suro (Gimhae Express Bus Terminal) or car, using Interstate 10: Namhae Expressway to EXIT 38: East Gimhae/DongGimhae IC via Gimhae City Hall at Buwon-dong.