Some of the tribal states in the area of the lower Naktong River, along the south central coast of the peninsula, did not join the Paekche, Silla or Koguryo kingdoms. Under the name Gaya (Kaya), they formed a league of walled city-states that conducted extensive coastal trade and also maintained close ties with the tribal states in western Japan. Sandwiched between the more powerful Silla and Paekche, Gaya eventually was absorbed by its neighbors during the sixth century.

Gaya was a Korean confederacy of territorial polities in the Nakdong River basin of southern Korea that grew out of the Byeonhan confederacy of the Samhan period. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Gaya was “an ancient federation known that existed in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The Gaya confederacy polities coexisted loosely and never merged into a centralized state. Each constructed tumuli on a range of scales in the heart of the areas under their respective control. These tumuli began to emerge around the start of the Common Era and continued to be built until the fall of Dae Gaya, a leading power in the later period of the Gaya confederacy, in 562. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea to UNESCO]

As a federation of diverse polities, Gaya maintained a systematic trading network encompassing wide-ranging routes on the sea, rivers, and land. The multiple polities comprising the confederacy developed by exchanging influences as political equals along this trading network. The property testifies to this unique social and political network that defined the Gaya confederacy.

These polities came to be closely linked through maritime routes along the southern coast, down the Nakdonggang River (which traversed the Gaya area), and across a range of land routes. This political shift within Gaya society indicates how Gaya’s trade relations, somewhat confined to China and Japan before the fifth century, diversified to encompass inland areas along with the rapid development of the nearby states of Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla. This provided a background for the emergence of the practice of constructing a large-scale, primary graveyard by each Gaya polity. Diverse groups within the confederacy referenced the locational and funerary characteristics of the Daeseong-dong Tumuli as they developed their own central cemeteries, indicating its provision of a prototype for the ancient Gaya tumuli. Each of the polities designated a hill in the geographical and cultural center of the area under its control and began to construct tombs there. In the upper portion of each hillside graveyard were slender, stone-lined tombs with a high mound.

History of Gaya

The traditional period used by historians for Gaya chronology is A.D. 42–532. According to archaeological evidence in the third and fourth centuries some of the city-states of Byeonhan evolved into the Gaya confederacy, which was later annexed by Silla. The individual polities that made up the Gaya confederacy have been characterized as small city-states. The material culture remains of Gaya culture mainly consist of burials and their contents of mortuary goods that have been excavated by archaeologists. Archaeologists interpret mounded burial cemeteries of the late third and early fourth centuries such as Daeseong-dong in Gimhae and Bokcheon-dong in Busan as the royal burial grounds of Gaya polities. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Gaya polities evolved out of the chiefly political structures of the twelve tribes of the ancient Byeonhan confederacy, one of the Samhan confederacies. The loosely organized chiefdoms resolved into six Gaya groups, centered on Geumgwan Gaya. Polities were situated in the alluvial flats of tributary river valleys and the mouth of the Nakdong. In particular, the mouth of the Nakdong has fertile plains, direct access to the sea, and rich iron deposits. Gaya polities had economies that were based on agriculture, fishing, casting, and long-distance trade. They were particularly known for its iron-working, as Byeonhan had been before it. Gaya polities exported abundant quantities of iron ore, iron armor, and other weaponry to Baekje and the Kingdom of Wa in Yamato period Japan. In contrast to the largely commercial and non-political ties of Byeonhan, Gaya polities seem to have attempted to maintain strong political ties with those kingdoms as well.

Gaya Customs

Human sacrifice was commonly practiced across diverse polities in the Gaya confederacy. This shared development of tumuli by Gaya polities benefited from the systematic trading network that closely linked the Gaya confederacy through diverse ocean, land, and river routes.

According to “The Customs of Gaya” by Joo-Hyeon Kwon, the Samguk-ji relates that the Gayans had a lunar March custom where King Suro would drive away misfortune, and there was the “custom of holding ceremonies after planting crops in Lunar May to honor spirits. When services were finished, the people danced, sang songs, drank alcohol and celebrated for several days. In October, after the harvest, the Gaya repeated the same ritual. Celebrants held services in May to wish for bountiful crops and services in October to show thanks and appreciation. [Source:The Hankyoreh, January 8, 2010]

The thanksgiving ceremonies were called “Yeong-go” in Buyeo and “Dongmaeong” in Koguryo. Both types of celebrations continued to be practiced into the late Gaya era when farming was the mainstay of the economy. Religious services before seeding and after the harvest maintained social order in Gaya.” The article also mentions the custom of performing fortune telling by the divining of bones – these took place especially during religious services, as well as for activities such as hunting and farming. The cosmetic practice of flattening foreheads, tooth pulling and tattooing of the human body were also Gayan customs (the latter two also shared by Japanese contemporaries).

Gaya and Japan

Gaya's possible linkage to Japan remains an issue of debate among historians in Korea, Japan, and elsewhere. There is no convincing evidence to definitively resolve the debate, and circumstantial historical archaeological evidence is inconclusive. The debate is significant since its outcome could influence views on the origin of the Japanese imperial family. The Gaya states eventually were absorbed by their neighbors in spite of an attack against Silla in 399 by Wa forces from Japan, who had come to the aid of Gaya. Silla repelled the Wa with help from Koguryo. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1993]

Aileen Kawagoe wrote: Six states along the lower reaches of Naktong river in Korea had merged into Gaya. Gaya carried on maritime trade with the Wa people in Japan, trading particularly in iron that was produced in Gaya. Gaya was a society where horse-riding warfare was central to its culture. Relations between Gaya and Wa Japan were motivated by the Japanese need for iron for use in farming and warfare. The exact relationship between Gaya and Kofun Japan is not known. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, |||ge of Japan website, |||]

“Many historians claim, based on Nihongi, that Gaya was a Japanese colony. Koreans, on the other hand, believe that the Yamato state was founded in Kofun era Japan by horse-riding invaders from the Eurasian steppe who had swept through the Korean peninsula including Gaya, to Japan in the fourth century, conquering lands they passed through. In support of this theory, Korean historians cite evidence of iron armour for both warriors and horses excavated at several Gaya tomb sites, as well as other artefacts such as horse-trappings, gilt-bronze crown and jewellery.

“Armoury artefacts from AD 300 onwards, include iron armour with riveted cuirass, helmets, horse-masks and iron weapons. It is thought that the riveting technique used on armour may have spread from 4th century Korea to 5th century Japan possibly via Gaya. The iron armour include Mongolian-styled helmets which are also seen on Koguryo tomb wall murals, suggesting to experts that Gaya armour may have developed from a Koguryo prototype. Korean historians think that the horse riders crossed over to Japan via Gaya bringing with them a great change in burial customs by introducing tumulus building techniques.

“By the 5th century, Kofun Japan was producing its own gilt-bronze ornaments, but the work was limited to simple ornamentation of weaspons and defensive equipment. Many of the metalwork items excavated in the second half of the 5th century share characteristics with those of Gaya. Experts thus believe Japan had an intimate relationship with Gaya during this time.

“Gaya pottery styles may have influenced Yamato Japan. The most common type of pottery found in Gaya was the stem cup, a pottery style that is also seen in Japan. Elaborate Gaya tomb pots were made in shapes such as ducks, shoes, boats, houses and mounted armed warriors. Sloping kilns which could produce stoneware pottery at high temperatures were innovations probably the result of contacts with China through the Han commanderies in the north. Gaya stoneware with characteristic shapes and incised, pierced and combed decoration was found in an early 5th century Yamato tomb, which suggests that the technique for producing Japanese high-fired sueki ware was exported to Japan in the fourth-fifth century. “

Gaya Human Sacrifice

Around 1,500 years ago, a girl — standing 153 centimeters tall and believed to be 16 years old — was buried alive in an ancient Gaya tomb. The girl is speculated to have been a servant to a powerful family. Her remains were among those of four people that were unearthed during an excavation project by the Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural |||ge at the National Palace Museum of Korea, Seoul in Songhyeong-dong, Changnyeong-gun, South Gyeongsang Province, between 2006 and 2007. [Source: Korea Times, November 2009]

According to the Chosun Ilbo: “The servant girl is thought to have spent long periods kneeling and engaging in repititious tasks cutting something with her teech, which was analyzed to estimate her age. She was found with a golden earring and is believed to have died from suffocation or poisoning. Her main diet had been rice, barley, beans as well as meat.

According to “The Customs of Gaya” by Joo-Hyeon Kwon: ” The Gaya people practiced numerous burial customs to honor and protect their dead. As the Gaya believed in life after death, they buried food for the deceased and were even known to bury people alive. According to Samguk-ji, the Gaya left the wings of large birds in tombs, implying that such wings would help departed souls fly comfortably and safely on their journeys to the hereafter. In addition to actual feathers, bird-shaped pieces of pottery unearthed in Gaya tombs should be viewed in this light. The Gaya also buried dogs and the heads or the teeth of horses, perhaps to provide guidance for the dead. [Source: The Hankyoreh, January 8, 2010]

Various funerary customs were followed before, during and after burials. After the burial service, earthenware used in the service was either buried in the tomb or broken into pieces and buried separately near the tomb. The former practice perhaps symbolized the living’s condolences, while the latter practice may have been intended as an affront to death itself. The burial of intact earthenware implies sorrow for and dedication to the dead, while the burial of shattered earthenware suggests severance from the dead.”

Gaya Tumuli

The Gaya Tumili were placed on the Tentative List of UNESCO World |||ge Sites in 2019 According to a report submitted to UNESCO: A ground survey has so far identified about 780 ancient Gaya tumuli clusters; 104 have been subjected to full-scale archaeological research and their characteristics examined. Among these 104, 20 sites have been registered on national or local |||ge lists for their significance as evidence of Gaya’s culture and history as determined by archaeological and documentary research. The individual tombs identified within these sites number in the hundreds of thousands. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea to UNESCO]

The Gaya Tumuli is a serial property consisting of seven tumuli sites located in the southern reaches of the Korean Peninsula. It is comprised of the Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli, Haman Marisan Tumuli, Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli, Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli, Goseong Songhak-dong Tumuli, Changnyeong Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli and Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli.

The seven tumuli sites described here collectively provide exceptional evidence of the Gaya confederacy through their characteristic locations and landscapes, diverse tomb forms, and manifestation of the dissemination of graveyard-building practices. Their property areas and buffer zones are adequately demarcated to ensure the full display of the OUV of the property. To accentuate the property’s characteristics in terms of landscape, the property areas and buffer zones are delineated to showcase the hierarchical arrangements between large tombs with a high mound and small- and medium-sized mound tombs and tombs with no mound. The seven tumuli demonstrate the formal transformation of tombs that accompanied the process of the development of the Gaya confederacy. Each of the seven component tumuli contributes to these attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value.

The tumuli were constructed in the geographical and cultural core of each polity, and today they still fall in the vicinity of city centers. The hills accommodating these tumuli have been partly damaged through the construction of houses and roads in the middle and end parts of their ridgelines. However, the upper sections where high-mound tombs were constructed have been maintained intact and the landscapes have been well maintained.

The seven selected tumuli are located at the heart of respective Gaya polities, all of which were closely interconnected and exchanged influences through a network of trade routes established in the sea, rivers, and on land. The artifacts of foreign origin among them attest to the international relations in which Gaya was involved at the time. The Gaya Tumuli serves as crucial archaeological evidence of Gaya culture. The Gaya Tumuli testifies to the society of Gaya and its structural transformations through its tomb construction techniques and the grave goods excavated from within. It also presents the changes of the locations and settings in which the tombs were situated and the forms in which they were constructed over different time periods. A description of this follows.

Gaya Tumili Locations

1) Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli (Coordinates: N35°14 15.12",E128°52 25.35", Gimhae City in Gyeongsangnam-do Province
2) Haman Marisan Tumuli (Coordinates: N35°16 11.11",E128°24 23.68", Haman County in Gyeongsangnam-do Province
3) Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli (Coordinates: N35°58 16.58",E128°27 97.87", Hapcheon County in Gyeongsangnam-do Province
4) Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli (Coordinates: N35°43 27.34",E128°15 17.23", Goryeong County in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea to UNESCO]

5) Goseong Songhak-dong Tumuli, District 1 (Coordinates: N34°58'49.93",E128°19'15.79", Goseong County in Gyeongsangnam-do Province
District 2 (Coordinates: N34°58'48.75",E128°19'28.04")
District 3 (Coordinates: N34°58'47.94",E128°19'29.68")
District 4 (Coordinates: N34°58'47.17",E128°19'36.99")
District 5 (Coordinates: N34°58'56.21",E128°18'50.09")
District 6 (Coordinates: N34°59'04.55",E128°18'54.87")

6) Changnyeong Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli, District 1 (Coordinates: N35°32'47.45",E128°30'21.08", Changnyeong County in Gyeongsangnam-do Province
District 2 (Coordinates: N35°33'00.03",E128°30'00.69")
District 3 (Coordinates: N35°32'30.45",E128°30'31.46")
7) Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli (Coordinates: N35°50 80.85",E127°62 42.40", Namwon City in Jeollabuk-do Province

Evolution of the Gaya Tumuli

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The introduction of new forms of tomb and the intensification of the spatial hierarchy evident in the seven tumuli clearly reflect the structural changes experienced by Gaya society across its history. In addition, the grave goods that have been excavated from them provide critical information for understanding the lives and deaths of the people of Gaya and their beliefs and funerary practices. The Gaya Tumuli offers a living history of the ancient Korean federation of Gaya. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea to UNESCO]

The first and second centuries, when tombs started to be built in clusters, were characterized by the construction of wooden coffin tombs. Tombs from this period shed light on the process of the formation of individual polities by the fact that they were built closely together as a group, as well as through the types of grave artifacts they contained. Graves for rulers and for the ruled were not constructed separately, but grouped together within a single area. For tombs for the ruling classes, a separate hole was additionally made under the coffin to bury grave goods.

During the third–fourth centuries, the wooden chamber tomb became prevalent. At the time, the practice of building central graveyards emerged among Gaya polities. Locations, forms, construction methods, and burial goods associated with the tombs from this period testify that tombs of royal status emerged at this time. The tombs for rulers in the form of wooden chamber were placed high up on hills at a certain distance from the others, and came to be placed within different landscapes from those for their subjects. In the large wooden chamber tombs for rulers, human sacrifices were made and buried along with a diverse range of artifacts obtained through international trade. Auxiliary coffins were prepared only for grave goods and placed alongside the main coffin holding the occupant, human sacrifices, and burial accessories. This clearly demonstrates that a ruling class had been established at this time. An example in this regard is the Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli which clearly evinces Geumgwan Gaya’s emergence as a leading power in the Gaya confederacy.

In the fifth century, the period when the central graveyard building practice further disseminated in the Gaya confederacy, stone-lined tombs began to be built. Tombs from this period embody the development of Gaya polities through their locations and settings, construction methods, use of burial space, and buried goods. The fifth century provided a critical period in the history of tomb construction methods with the emergence of stone-lined tombs topped by a high-rising mound. Construction of high-mounded tombs was a universal practice across the Gaya confederacy, but the details of the methods varied by polity. A tomb for a ruler made in the high-mound form was positioned on the peak of a hill or mountain and smaller tombs were set around it to denote the hierarchical relationship between them. The interior space of a tomb was generally divided into three sections, respectively for grave goods, the body of the occupant, and a combination of human sacrifices and grave goods. The tomb occupant was interred with objects symbolizing his or her social status, such as luxurious accessories and weaponry, and human sacrifices were placed with everyday objects. The appearance of the burial mounds, use of burial space, and varieties of grave artifacts in the tombs from this period demonstrate that a process of increasing separation took place among the ruling classes and they became classified into higher and lower ruling groups.

Into the later part of the fifth century, a graveyard for people of royal status in Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli was distinctively separated and the scale of human sacrifice expanded. The construction of this type of ultra-large tomb in the Jisan-dong Tumuli testifies to the emergence of Dae Gaya as a central power in the Gaya confederacy at the time. It also indicates that efforts were underway in Gaya to advance toward forming a centralized state. However, military pressure from stronger neighbors and internal disintegration within Gaya society impeded such ambitions. In the mid-sixth century, the Gaya confederacy fell, putting an end to tomb construction.

Description of Component Sites

Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli: 1) Period of construction and Number of tombs: Around the start of the Common Era–late fifth century and 219 (the number of tombs that have been excavated); 2) Principal types of tomb: Wooden coffin tombs, wooden chamber tombs, and stone-lined tombs; 3) Funerary practices: Human sacrifice and the practice of burying deliberately damaged objects

Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli looked out over what was at the time Gimhaeman Bay (now the Gimhae plain), a critical point along an ancient East Asian maritime trade route. The Daeseong-dong Tumuli was the central graveyard of the Geumgwan Gaya group, a leading power of the early Gaya period. It accommodated hundreds of tombs in a hilly area spanning 300 meters in length and 100 in width. Out of the hundreds of tombs in the graveyard, 219 have been examined through archaeological research, and 69 of these have been identified as large-scale wooden chamber tombs. The Gaya Tumuli in Daeseong-dong testifies to the locational changes in ancient tombs accompanied by their formal transformation from the wooden coffin to the wooden chamber type, and also to the emergence of the Gaya practice of creating central cemeteries. Tombs for those of lofty status were situated at the top of the hill, while those for the middle or lower classes were placed on the slopes or flat land. Another feature of this tumuli that merits attention is the practice of burying additional people alongside the tomb’s primary occupant. Human sacrifice in Gaya society first appeared in the Daeseong-dong Tumuli and continued until the fall of Gaya in the mid-sixth century. It was actively adopted by the ruling groups of Gaya polities, emerging as one of the definitive attributes of Gaya culture. The practice of human sacrifice also attests to the escalation of the hierarchical stratification of Gaya society. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea to UNESCO]

Haman Marisan Tumuli: 1) Period of construction and Number of tombs: Around the start of the Common Era–late sixth century; 127 mound tombs; 2) Principal types of tomb: Wooden coffin tombs, wooden chamber tombs, stone-lined tombs, and stone chamber tombs; 3) Funerary practices: Human sacrifice

Haman Marisan Tumuli is situated at the confluence of the Namgang and Nakdonggang Rivers, providing two important trade channels that connected different parts of the Gaya confederacy and the wider region with other parts of East Asia. As the main graveyard of Ara Gaya, this tumuli was constructed on a two-kilometer hill stretching through the center of the Haman area basin. This tumuli was used over an extended period from around the beginning of the Common Era to the fall of Ara Gaya in the mid-sixth century. One hundred twenty-seven tombs with mounds survive in this graveyard, but it is estimated that they once numbered over 1,000. So far, 17 tombs with high-rising mounds have been investigated. This ancient cemetery features diverse types of tombs from different time periods. The examples from the fifth century and after, in particular, embody a distinct spatial arrangement that reflects a social hierarchy. Wooden coffin tombs and wooden chamber tombs, the predominant types from the first–fourth centuries, are concentrated in the northern part of the graveyard while high-mound tombs and stone-lined tombs from after the start of the fifth century are distributed across the entire area. These also vary in size according to the social status of the occupants. This tumuli features a formalized practice of human sacrifice that takes full account of the occupants’ social status. From the mid-sixth century, stone chamber tombs also started to appear in this graveyard, but the collapse of Ara Gaya around that time prevented any further construction of tombs for ruling elites at this site.

Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli: 1) Period of construction and Number of tombs: Around the start of the Common Era–late sixth century; 28 mound tombs; 2) Principal types of tomb: Wooden coffin tombs, wooden chamber tombs, stone-lined tombs, and stone chamber tombs; 3) Funerary practices: Animal sacrifice (deer)

Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli was constructed along the Hwanggang River, a tributary of Nakdonggang River, on a hill that looked over large settlements of Darakguk. It is presumed that this was the primary graveyard of the Gaya polity known as Darakguk. This area grew in power after taking a leading role in the trade in the northern section of the Gaya confederacy. There are 28 high-mound tombs, 10 of which have been investigated. The Okjeon Tumuli displays a diverse range of tomb construction techniques spanning the entire Gaya period that were imported from the neighboring ancient Korean kingdoms of Silla and Baekje. This speaks volumes about Darakguk’s position as a regional trade hub. Some wooden coffin tombs from the first and second centuries have been found on the slopes of the hill, and wooden chamber tombs from the fourth century onwards are widely distributed across the eastern side of the graveyard. Wooden coffin tombs were constructed for longer in the Okjeon Tumuli compared with other areas. Darakguk’s active trade with neighboring states is not only reflected in the construction techniques embodied in the Okjeon graveyard, but also in the grave artifacts excavated from it.

Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli: 1) Period of construction and Number of tombs: Early fifth–late sixth centuries, More than 700 mound tombs; 2) Principal types of tomb: Stone-lined tombs and stone chamber tombs; 3) Funerary practices: Human sacrifice and animal sacrifice (horse)

Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli is situated on hills formed at the southern foot of Mt. Jusan. This tumuli was constructed during the fifth and sixth centuries as the main cemetery for Dae Gaya, a leading power of the later Gaya period. From the Goryeong area, which provided its power base, Dae Gaya grew to encompass the northern reaches of the Gaya confederacy. The Jisan-dong Tumuli bears eloquent testimony to the development of Dae Gaya as a regional power. Spanning an area 2.4 kilometers long and one wide, it is the largest among the Gaya Tumuli. The number of tombs with an existing mound totals 704. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 interments may have taken place here. The Jisan-dong Tumuli epitomizes the classic landscape of the Gaya Tumuli: large-size tombs with a high mound are clustered along the ridges of hills looking down over residential areas, imparting a sense of magnificence. The tombs of those of royal or noble status were positioned on the protruding portions of the hills while tombs for the lower classes were placed further down the slopes. The high-mound tombs for royalty from the late fifth–early sixth centuries are found in a separate area from other high-mound tombs. The dominant form of tomb in the Jisan-dong Tumuli is the “multi-space stone lined tomb” type in which distinct stone-lined spaces were prepared respectively for the main occupant and the related human sacrifices under a single mound. A great amount of grave goods, mostly prestige objects, such as gilt-bronze crowns and earrings and ornamental swords, were buried here.

Goseong Songhak-dong Tumuli: 1) Period of construction and Number of tombs: Late fifth–late sixth centuries, 15 mound tombs; 2) Principal types of tomb: Stone-lined tombs and stone chamber tombs; 3) Funerary practices: Human sacrifice

Goseong Songhak-dong Tumuli is situated along Goseongman Bay, an important port of call along one of the major East Asian maritime trade routes. The Songhak-dong Tumuli, the primary cemetery for So Gaya, was located along the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula and served during the fifth century as a point of contact between Gaya and other states. Of the 15 surviving burial mounds distinctively known as bungumyo, only two have been investigated. Bungumyo were made by first mounding up loose earth and then digging into the top to form a grave. This differs from the common mound burial practice farther inland of first digging the grave and then capping it with a mound. Bungumyo was also a preferred form of tomb in Baekje along the southwestern coast of Korean Peninsula, and in Japan as well. The presence of bungumyo in the Songhak-dong Tumuli is evidence of the maritime diffusion of tomb construction techniques at the time.

Changnyeong Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli: 1) Period of construction and Number of tombs: Late fifth–late sixth centuries, More than 320 mound tombs; 2) Principal types of tomb: Stone-lined tombs and stone chamber tombs; 3) Funerary practices: Human sacrifice and animal sacrifice (horse)

Changnyeong Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli located to the eastern side of the Nakdonggang River, was situated in an area that linked to Silla by land. This was the main graveyard for Bihwa Gaya, which spearheaded the overland trade with Silla. Studies have revealed that Bihwa Gaya fell under the control of Silla around 555. This tumuli houses about 300 high-mound tombs, roughly 20 of which have been researched. Tombs are arranged with a large high-mound tomb in the center and smaller high-mound tombs clustered around it. This tumuli is a good example of the hierarchical relations among tombs through their spatial arrangement. The Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli features diverse types of tombs that testify to cultural exchanges between Gaya and Silla. Tombs here are similar to those in the Haman Marisan Tumuli in that the interior of the grave was divided into three spaces and human sacrifices were laid in the space at the occupant’s feet. Objects signifying social status, such as gilt-bronze crowns and earrings, metal belts, horse trappings, and weapons were found buried in them, many of which were of Silla origin.

Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli: 1) Period of construction and Number of tombs: Late fifth–late sixth centuries, More than 40 mound tombs; 2) Principal types of tomb: Stone-lined tombs and stone chamber tombs; 3) Funerary practices: Animal sacrifice (horse)

Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli a) (in the Ayeong basin) was part of the land route connecting Gaya with Baekje. This tumuli is presumably the central cemetery of a Gaya polity called Gimunguk, whose name can be found in the Japanese history Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan). Out of the approximately 40 high-mound tombs in this tumuli, six have been subjected to research. The Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli shows the westward reach of the influence of Gaya. Tomb No. 32 of this cluster is a stone-lined tomb from the mid-fifth century that produced an animal-decorated mirror of Chinese origin and a pair of gilt-bronze shoes from Baekje. Tomb No. 34 was constructed in the mid-sixth century as a type of stone chamber tomb associated with the Baekje style.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural |||ge Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.