Archaeologists in South Korea have unearthed an ancient tomb with remains of a young man and woman lying next to each other. Far from being a romantic scene, the burial represent a human sacrifice in which the man was killed to be entombed with the woman, according to researchers at the Cultural Heritage Administration in South Korea.
Made of soil and stone and dating to the late fifth or early sixth century, the tomb was found near the coastal city of Gyeongju. The site was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, which flourished for nearly a millennium, from 57 B.C. to 935 A.D., producing 56 monarchs, intricately crafted gold ornaments and beautiful Buddhist temples.
A great number of Silla tombs, which took the form of a stone chamber surrounded by a soil mound, can still be found in the center of Gyeongju, now a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.
According to the archaeologists, leg bones and teeth indicate that one skeleton belonged to a woman in her 30s.
“She wore a belt which appears to be decorated with gold earrings and gold leaf,” the Cultural Heritage Administration said in a statement.
Position of bones and teeth of the man, who was possibly younger than the woman, suggest he lay in parallel position, his head adjacent to hers.
The woman was also buried with jade green jewels and a threaded necklace made of beads.
In a separate room within the tomb, the archaeologists unearthed a sword, pottery and horse riding equipment, all thought to have belonged to the woman.
Matching historical records about the Silla dynasty, the finds indicated the female was probably a noblewoman who rode horses and was used to handle weapons.
Throughout the Silla kingdom, women enjoyed a relatively high status — the dynasty produced three reigning queens.
Researchers believe the tomb was built for the noblewoman since no accessories were related to the man – a strong indicator he was the human sacrifice.
“This is not the first case where a male sacrifice is buried in a female’s tomb,” researcher Kim Kwon-il told Korea’s JoongAng Daily.
“However, male sacrifices were often buried in the room where the artifacts were, as guards, so to speak, for the dead.”
He noted this is the first time that a male human sacrifice is placed adjacent to a noblewoman.
“The man could have been a servant, body guard or lover,” Lee Han-sang, professor at Daejeon University, an expert in Silla history, told South Korea’s daily The Chosun Ilbo.
“The discovery is important because it shows an unknown type of burial of the living with the dead in the Silla period,” he added.
Excavation at the site will continue until the end of the month. A total of 24 tombs have been found so far.
Source Credits: Rossella Lorenzi in Discovery News. April Holloway in Ancient Origins. The image shared is of the Silla dynasty tomb with the bones and artifacts. Credit (Left) – Cultural Heritage Administration, South Korea. Credit (Right) – The Chosun Ilbo.