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The Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli

Date de soumission : 12/12/2013
Critères: (iii)(iv)
Catégorie : Culturel
Soumis par :
Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea to UNESCO
État, province ou région :
Jisandong, Goryeong-Gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Ref.: 5849

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Jusan Fortress, a mountain fortress of the Three Kingdoms Period (Daegaya), is situated upon Jusan Mountain (elevation 310m above sea level), which surrounds the town of Goryeong. Located along a mountain ridge that extends southwards from this fortress, as well as along the smaller ridges which branch out towards the town, are large and small tombs that are distributed in a linear fashion. These tombs were first built around 400 CE, at the beginning of Daegaya state formation. Their construction continued into the late fifth century, which witnessed the development of Daegaya into an ancient state, and came to an end in 562 CE when the kingdom finally met its demise. In 1963, this cluster of tombs was designated Historic Site No. 79 (830,181m2 in ground area) and came to be known officially as the ‘Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli’. As the tombs are spread out, in a linear fashion, within an area that covers the main mountain ridge and terminates at the point of the Goadong Mural Tomb (an area approximately 2.4km long and 1km wide), the Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli may be considered to represent the largest of the Gaya burial grounds of the Three Kingdoms Period.

The main type of burial chamber observed at this burial ground is the stone-lined burial chamber which was accessed vertically. However, in the case of the later tombs, stone burial chambers with horizontal entrances or corridors were also identified. A total of 704 mounded tombs have been discovered so far, their size ranging as follows:

Tomb mound diameter

Total number of tombs

Above 40m














Below 7m


This shows that not only can the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli cluster be regarded as the largest and most central of the Daegaya burial grounds, they also contain the greatest number of mounded tombs, as well as the largest of the mounded tombs. The results of the excavations have revealed that the tombs contained the distinctive ceramic vessels of Daegaya, various types of iron implements, horse trappings, and elaborate personal ornaments including gilt bronze crowns and gold earrings. This indicates that those who were laid to rest in these tombs were the elite members of Daegaya society, such as the king and aristocrats. The oldest extant record regarding the Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli dates to the early Joseon Period. It is stated in the 29th volume of the Sinjeung-donggukyeojiseungnam (Augmented Survey of the Geography of Korea), in the section concerning the ancient sites of Goryeong-hyeon, that "Located two li west of the town stands an old tomb, which called the ‘Tomb of King Geumlim’ by the populace", thereby recording the presence of the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli cluster and the perception of it as a royal burial ground of Daegaya.

The archaeological research undertaken on the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli consists of investigations on tomb distribution and excavations of the actual tombs. Distribution studies began very early in the Japanese colonial period - in 1910s - resulting in the reported findings of over 100 tombs. In 2010, a detailed study was carried out and a total of 704 mounded tombs were identified. The excavation of the Jisandong tombs began in the 1910s by Japanese archaeologists. After liberation, the excavation of the tombs began in 1977 with the investigation of Tombs No. 44 and 45, which took place as part of an initiative to maintain and restore the burial ground. Tomb No. 44, which has one of the largest earthen mounds, was found to contain 32 sacrificial burials; Tomb No. 45 yielded 11 sacrificial burials. Tomb No. 44 was therefore interpreted as a Daegaya royal grave. Since then to 2013, there have taken place five seasons of large scale excavations and the following features have been revealed.

The Jisandong tombs are multi-chambered structures that feature a main burial chamber, an accessory chamber and numerous sacrificial burials. The main chamber is generally of the vertically accessed stone-lined type. The accessory chamber was placed vertically at the foot of the main burial chamber, thereby forming a 'T'-shaped plan. In the earlier tombs, the basic layout was to place sacrificial burials at the head and on either side of the main burial. As tomb scale and the number of sacrificial burials increased, additional sacrificial burials came to be placed within the earthen mound. For example, in the case of Tomb No. 44, 32 sacrificial burials were placed around the main burial in a circular and radial pattern.

The stone-lined burial chamber was shaped like a long rectangle, with a length to width ratio of 5:1. The earthen mound consisted of several sections shaped like pie wedges. Each of these sections was constructed separately, by stacking stamped layers of earth. The placement of the protective stones around the earthen mound, which acted to prevent the erosion of the mound structure, as well as to demarcate the boundary of the tomb, can be seen as an apt representation of the construction technology of the time. Based on the results of the surveys and excavations presented above, the following can be noted as the characteristic features of the Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli.

First, the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli burial ground is of a substantial size, containing a very large number of large and small mounded tombs (704 in total) which were constructed from around the early fifth century to the mid-sixth century. The great scale, in terms of tomb number, of the site is clearly evident when it is compared to other burial grounds of a similar nature. For example, the number of large and medium sized mounded tombs of the Silla elite constructed around the same time in the center of Gyeongju is only 155 in total, and the Haman Malisan Tumuli group (Historic Site No. 515), which represents the burial ground of the Aragaya elite (another member of the Gaya confederacy), consists only of approximately 50 mounded tombs. Further afield, in Japan, the Mozu­-Furuichi Kofungun consists of 91 tombs in total.

Second, the majority of the tombs of the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli burial ground are small (less than 10m in diameter) and medium sized (15~10m in diameter). This prevalence of small and medium sized tombs is another key feature of the Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli.

Third, the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli group represents the only concentration of a significant number of tombs within the Goryeong region. This is a phenomenon similar to that identified for the Gyeongju region, where only two concentrations of mounded tombs occur - interestingly enough, this is not the case for the other regions of the Silla Kingdom. This indicates that, similar to the way in which the Gyeongju region was the center of a large-scale political entity (i.e. the ancient Silla state), the Goryeong region was also the center of the large-scale political entity that was Daegaya.

Fourth, the area in which the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli are distributed does not contain any other type of contemporary structure. A similar situation has also been noted for all of the burial grounds of the Gaya region, as well as those of the Gyeongju region. However, this presents a contrast to the tombs of Goguryeo in Ji’an of China, since other structures, such as Gungnae Fortress, can be found located within the boundaries of the tomb distribution area. Similarly, production facilities that were in use at the time of tomb construction had been found located within the boundaries of the Mozu and Furuichi Kofungun in Japan.

This phenomenon may also be understood as a result of the burial ground, and indeed the entire landscape of the mountain slope upon which the tombs were situated, as being regarded as the sole preserve of the dead. In other words, it is likely that, from the construction of the first mounded tomb until the termination of the burial ground, the mountain ridge continued to be regarded by the communities of the region as a sacred place.

Fifth, the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli are distributed along the mountain slopes that encircle the eastern plain upon which the palace and settlements of the Daegaya capital were located. The tombs are concentrated on the mountain ridges and eastern slope, which offer a good view of the plain lands below; it is only in later times, when these grounds were full or after the fall of Daegaya, that some tombs came to be constructed on the western slope.

Due to such a preference in terms of tomb location, inter-visibility was established between the settlements that were situated on the plains below and the burial grounds of the elite that were situated on the mountain slopes. It is also possible to regard the two as having formed a single landscape unit. Therefore, we may expect that in their routines of daily life, the living members of the community would have always been consciously aware of the dead. If we consider that the ancient Korean view of the afterlife is based on the notion that the routines of life continue beyond death, in the realm of dead, it is possible to suggest that the living members of the community would not only have been consciously aware of the dead, but would have also regarded those buried within the tombs as being actively involved in the happenings of the living community, perhaps constantly providing protection.

Sixth, the larger of the mounded tombs are situated, in particular, along the central backbone of the main ridge that extends downwards from the summit of Jusan Mountain, as well as upon the protrusions of the secondary ridges that branch out from this main ridge. The reason that the larger mounded tombs were constructed at such superior locations may also be regarded as a manifestation of the perception that the roles and routines of the deceased individuals continued beyond death - the community may have believed that the individuals who had one wielded power, such as the king, continued to look upon the actions of the living individuals.

Seventh, tomb construction began to take place along the lower sections of various mountain slopes and gradually spread upwards along the branches of the mountain ridges. The fact that the tombs located along the central backbone of the main mountain ridge, which can be regarded as having the most superior locations, are thought to date to the last phase is a clear demonstration of this. This indicates that the elite who used this burial ground from the early fifth century to the mid-sixth century regarded the entire area of the mountain ridges as their burial ground, as well as a sacred place. Therefore, the placement of tombs at this burial ground was the result of deliberate planning which followed commonly accepted rules. Accordingly, it is possible to distinguish different social groups according to the small clusters of tombs that can be observed within the burial ground. It cannot be said that such distinctions were merely the result of people intending to differentiate the identities of the deceased who had belonged to different social groups. Indeed, it may be argued that such a distinction existed because it was believed that the deceased members of society lived out their 'lives in the afterlife' within that space. In other words, the distribution of the mounded tombs can be regarded as a concrete expression of the mental landscape of the Daegaya people who believed that the worlds of the living and the dead were one. In this sense, the entire area which contained the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli may be understood as the place where the deceased royal personages and aristocrats of Daegaya resided beyond death.

The fact that the burial ground was regarded as a place of the afterlife is made more evident by the practice of sacrificial burial and, in particular, the distribution of the stone-lined sacrificial burials within the mounded tombs. Located in the center of the tomb structure was the main burial chamber which represented the main space where the deceased individual was to reside in the afterlife. Located nearest to this space was the accessory chamber, generally forming a 'T'-shaped layout with the main burial chamber, which acted as a warehouse of sorts. Surrounding these two chambers were the sacrificial burials, each of which was afforded a separate stone-lined compartment. The provision of such clearly marked out burial spaces for the sacrificed victims is a phenomenon, distinctive to Daegaya culture, that has rarely been observed elsewhere in the world. The stone-lined sacrificial burials could be placed on either side and at the head of the main burial chamber, as if those interred were waiting upon the deceased individual of the main burial at a close range (as in the case of Jisandong Tomb No. 30). They could also be placed surrounding or at the front (back) of the main burial chamber, as if to provide protection and other functions (as in the case of Jisandong Tombs No. 44 and 45).

The individuals who lay to rest within the sacrificial burials wore gold earrings, which suggests that they were not merely slaves or individuals of a similar social standing who had been offered as victims of sacrifice. They may have included, in addition to slaves, close associates and retainers (including concubines), servants, and bodyguards. In this sense, it can be said that the way in which the sacrificial burials were positioned close to the main burial may be understood as containing the intent to symbolically represent the close relationship that the individuals had maintained in life.

It can thus be suggested that the inner structure of the mounded tombs of the Daegaya elite were not merely regarded as a place in which the dead were laid to rest; it is highly likely that the inner space was regarded as the actual realm of the afterlife within which the dead resided. The way in which the various burial compartments were laid out may therefore be seen to reflect the Daegaya notion that the context of burial represented a continuation of this life beyond death.

To conclude, the entire section of Jusan Mountain upon which the Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli were constructed - which comprises mountain ridges that extend outwards, thereby encircling the town of Goryeong - may be interpreted as the sacred place where the royal personages and aristocrats of Daegaya were laid to rest, as well as being the realm of their afterlife.

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionelle

Criterion (iii): The Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli cluster, which represents the burial ground of a certain section of the Daegaya elite that was formed during the fifth to sixth century (around the time of state formation and the early phase of this ancient state), was built, in high concentration, only upon the mountain ridges and slopes of Jusan Mountain which encircled the plains of Goryeong where the palace and settlements of Daegaya were located. This cluster can be seen to have been established in conjunction with a view of the afterlife distinctive to Daegaya culture which did not regard the world of the living and the world of the dead as being separate.

In other words, the area of Jusan Mountain upon which the Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli were built may be regarded as having been the place of the afterlife for the royal personages and aristocrats of Daegaya. In this sense, it can be suggested that the Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli cluster presents a very interesting example of the distinctive notion of the afterlife that was held by the Daegaya elite. They can also be seen to provide an example, that is both rare and valuable in terms of its clarity, of how this notion of the afterlife was made manifest through burial practices and through the active restructuring of the natural landscape.

Criterion (iv): The Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli, distributed along the mountain slopes that surround the plains upon which the settlements of the capital were located, can be regarded as a case in which the establishment of such an elite burial ground represented the formation of a human landscape which actively integrated its natural surroundings. This can be seen in the way in which the 700 or so tombs of large and small size - clustered into groups according to the socio-political status of the deceased or the socio­political group to whom the deceased belonged - were built, fully utilizing the construction technology that was at hand, at locations which afforded views of the area in which the deceased had originally lived.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

Statement of Authenticity

The Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli group contains the tomb that is said to be the burial of King Geumlim (the largest of the tombs), the existence of which was recorded in the Sinjeung-donggukyeojiseungnam (Augmented Survey of the Geography of Korea), written in the early Joseon period. It also contains other mounded tombs of Daegaya, most of which have been preserved intact. The period of construction for these mounded tombs can be dated to the early fifth century to the late sixth century, based on the findings of the archaeological research, as well as the analysis of the textual records. This indicates that the mountain slopes upon which the tombs were situated encircled an area that was, at the time, the political center of Daegaya. Tomb No. 44 and the large mounded tombs located behind that tomb, which have diameters of over 30 meters, represent the largest of the mounded tombs to have been built within Gaya territory. Therefore, their scale, as well as the presence of the numerous sacrificial burials located within, leaves no doubt that the tombs were the resting place of Daegaya royalty.

Some maintenance works have been undertaken on the outer structures of the mounded tombs since, over the past 1600 years, the inner structures of the tombs have collapsed and sections of the earthen mounds have been washed away. Every effort to make sure that such works did not harm the authenticity of the tombs was bent from the time when full-scale excavations came to be carried out on the tombs, in 1977. In fact, the 1977 excavation of Tombs No. 44 and 45 - which produced significant results that contributed greatly to the study of both Daegaya tombs and Gaya history - was originally undertaken as part of an initiative to maintain and restore the large earthen mounds. From this period onwards, the restoration of the earthen mounds has been based upon information obtained through precise excavation rather than through conjecture or imagination. This can be taken to illustrate the keen efforts and serious intent to preserve the authenticity of the tombs.

In addition, the local administrative authority of Goryeong-gun county has established and initiated a master plan for the systematic conservation of the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli cluster. As a basic step in the initiation of this master plan, specialists were brought in to undertake an extremely precise and detailed distribution study of the mounded tombs of the entire Goryeong-gun region. The information thus obtained will be used to provide the basic information needed in the accurate restoration of the mounded tombs in the future.

In terms of the technological aspect of tomb construction, it is possible to observe that in stacking and fitting the stone building material of the stone-lined burial chamber within the deep pit located at the center of the burial, the construction method used was similar to that applied in building the contemporary stone fortress walls of Jusan Fortress. In addition, the construction method of the earthen mounds that was identified through excavation - the combining of separate pie wedge shaped sections, each of which had been built by stacking stamped layers of earth, and the placement of the protective stones around the earthen mound to prevent the erosion of the mound structure and to demarcate the boundary of the tomb - also demonstrates the application of Daegaya construction technologies, thus illustrating the authenticity of the site.

Statement of integrity

Due to the mountainous location of the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli, the tombs were not subjected to the artificial transformations resulting from economic activities that occurred in the plains. Therefore, for the past 1600 years, the mounded tombs have remained protected from human destruction deriving from economic practices. In addition, because of the reverence afforded to burials that has been prevalent within Korean society, mounded tombs have rarely been intentionally or artificially destroyed. Active efforts to protect the individual tombs, as well as the entire landscape in which they are situated, have taken place since the Japanese colonial period when they were first officially recorded and designated as a historic site, which ensured their protection and maintenance in accordance with government regulations. Following liberation, the Korean government again designated the entire burial ground as a Historic Site in 1963, thereby contributing to efforts to ensure that the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli are preserved as best as possible in their original state, with the least amount of human interference.

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

Comparison with other similar heritage objects in the country

Amongst the cultural heritage sites located within the Korean Peninsula, the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli may be compared most closely with the mounded tombs of the Silla Kingdom in Gyeongju which were similarly constructed in the early stages of the ancient state. But, in the case of the Silla tombs, they were established in concentrated groups upon the flat plains of Gyeongju. The burial grounds located within the Gyeongju Historic Areas, which is a World Heritage Site, comprise a total of 155 mounded tombs. And it is believed that the area in which the mounded tombs are distributed may also contain a great number of Silla burials which no longer have their earthen mounds intact. As other types of structures were not built within the area in which the tombs are distributed - similar to the situation identified for the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli - it may be suggested that this area was also regarded as a sacred place.

However, in contrast to the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli, the Silla tombs were constructed within a landscape consisting of flat plain lands. Therefore, it is difficult to fully appreciate Silla notions of the afterlife (for example, the notion that the lives of the living continued into the realm of the dead) from these tombs, as the issue of inter-visibility between the realms of the living and the dead cannot be clearly supposed. In addition, although historical records suggest that sacrificial burials took place at the time, it has been difficult to confirm spaces within the inner structure of the Silla wooden chamber tombs with stone mounds that can clearly be identified as sacrificial burials (in contrast to the clearly marked out separate sacrificial burials of the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli). In this sense, it can be argued that the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli cluster may be regarded as a very rare example indeed that demonstrates how the notions of the afterlife which lay at the background of tomb construction were made manifest, materially, through the situation of the tombs within the landscape.

Comparison with other similar heritage outside the country

At present, 18 tumuli/tumuli groups located in 12 different countries have been designated as World Heritage Sites. However, it is difficult to observe, amongst these examples, the degree of clustered distribution that characterizes the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli. One World Heritage Site that demonstrates a similar degree of tomb clustering is the Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom, located in Ji’an, China. However, in the case of this site, which comprises several tomb clusters, the outstanding feature is each individual tomb, rather than the clustered group. In addition, the area in which the tomb clusters are distributed also contains non-burial architecture, such as the site of Gungnae Fortress. Therefore, unlike in the case of the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli, it is not clearly evident whether the area in which the tomb clusters were located was regarded as a sacred place or the place of the afterlife.

The Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun of Japan, which have been added to the Tentative List of World Heritage List Nominations, also comprises tombs that were constructed around the time of state formation. These tomb clusters contain concentrations of some of the largest tombs to have been constructed in Japan. However, there exist comtemporary production facilities within the area in which the tomb clusters are distributed. Therefore, it is again not clearly evident whether the entire area was considered to have been a sacred place by the communities that built the tombs. In addition, whereas the inner structures of the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli provide direct insights, through the presence and layout of the sacrificial burials, into Daegaya notions of the afterlife, it is difficult to gain such direct and specific insights through tomb inner structure in the case of the Ji’an Koguryeo tombs or the Japanese Mozu-Furuichi tombs.

Based on the above comparisons with similar sites located within and outside the Korean Peninsula, it is possible to argue that the Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli cluster, which was constructed within an area that was regarded not only as a sacred place but also as the actual site of the afterlife, represents an extraordinary example of an elite burial ground established during an ancient kingdom’s early stage of development that cannot be observed elsewhere in the world.