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Gaya Tumuli

Date de soumission : 28/01/2019
Critères: (iii)
Catégorie : Culturel
Soumis par :
Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea to UNESCO
Ref.: 6371

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Les noms des biens figurent dans la langue dans laquelle les États parties les ont soumis.



Name of component sites

Geographic coordinates



Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli


Gimhae City in Gyeongsangnam-do Province


Haman Marisan Tumuli


Haman County in Gyeongsangnam-do Province


Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli


Hapcheon County in Gyeongsangnam-do Province


Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli


Goryeong County in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province


District 1

Goseong Songhak-dong Tumuli


Goseong County in Gyeongsangnam-do Province

District 2


District 3


District 4


District 5


District 6



District 1

Changnyeong Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli


Changnyeong County in Gyeongsangnam-do Province

District 2


District 3



Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli


Namwon City in Jeollabuk-do Province

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 Republic of Korea is the home to roughly 780 tumuli from the ancient federation known as Gaya that existed in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The individual tombs identified within these sites number in the hundreds of thousands. 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.

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.

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

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli is located in the Ayeong basin, which 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.

Description of component sites

Name of component sites

Period of construction

Number of tombs

Principal types of tomb

Funerary practices

Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli

Around the start of the Common Era–late fifth century

219 (the number of tombs that have been excavated)

Wooden coffin tombs, wooden chamber tombs, and stone-lined tombs

Human sacrifice and the practice of burying deliberately damaged objects

Haman Marisan Tumuli

Around the start of the Common Era–late sixth century

127 mound tombs

Wooden coffin tombs, wooden chamber tombs, stone-lined tombs, and stone chamber tombs

Human sacrifice

Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli

Around the start of the Common Era–late sixth century

28 mound tombs

Wooden coffin tombs, wooden chamber tombs, stone-lined tombs, and stone chamber tombs

Animal sacrifice (deer)

Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli

Early fifth–late sixth centuries

More than 700 mound tombs

Stone-lined tombs and stone chamber tombs

Human sacrifice and animal sacrifice (horse)

Goseong Songhak-dong Tumuli

Late fifth–late sixth centuries

15 mound tombs

Stone-lined tombs and stone chamber tombs

Human sacrifice

Changnyeong Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli

Late fifth–late sixth centuries

More than 320 mound tombs

Stone-lined tombs and stone chamber tombs

Human sacrifice and animal sacrifice (horse)

Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli

Late fifth–late sixth centuries

More than 40 mound tombs

Stone-lined tombs and stone chamber tombs

Animal sacrifice (horse)

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionnelle

Through the geographical locations, prevalent types, and spatial arrangements of the component tombs and their transformations over time, the Gaya Tumuli offers an exceptional testimony to the entirety of Gaya culture from its inception and development to its demise, as well as to the political identity of the Gaya confederacy overall.

Criterion (iii): The property consists of seven tumuli sites whose construction were carried out over the roughly 600 years spanning the full history of the Gaya confederacy from the start of the Common Era to the fall of Dae Gaya in 562. 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.

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.

The seven tumuli represent seven Gaya polities whose political centrality within the Gaya confederacy. These tombs promote an integral understanding of the ancient Korean federation of Gaya. The hierarchy manifested in the relations among the seven tumuli reflects the overall social structure of the confederacy. The location, scale, and grave goods of each individual tomb demonstrate the occupant’s social status. 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.

The Gaya Tumuli also contains important evidence on the diversity in the state development process in ancient East Asia. Gaya existed independently for about 600 years by binding together component polities with similar cultural characteristics but never developing into a true unified state. As material evidence of this rare political structure with few parallels in East Asia, the Gaya Tumuli is estimated to possess Outstanding Universal Value.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité


The property satisfies the conditions of authenticity in its form and design, material and substance, location and setting, and spirit and feeling.

In terms of the authenticity of its form, design, material, and substance, the property was originally made from earth, stone, and wood. It has maintained its earthen and stone components intact while the wooden elements have naturally perished. Archeological research, which has been conducted through precise scientific techniques, has confirmed the ways in which the graves and mounds were constructed and the corpses were interred. Conservation of the property has been pursued in faithful reflection of the outcomes of this archaeological research.

With regard to the authenticity of location and setting, the locations and structures of the component tumuli and individual tombs have been preserved until the present as they were originally constructed. In addition, the property is mostly buried underground and therefore has not been directly affected by the urbanization of the surrounding areas.

As for the authenticity of spirit and feeling, the seven tumuli are located on hilly areas with panoramic views of surrounding residential areas. Those living in the nearby communities commonly look upon these tumuli with a sense of their sacredness as the burial places of their ancestors. The Gimhae area in particular is rich with place names and legendary stories associated with Gaya that have been transmitted through the generations within the local communities.


The seven tumuli 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.

All of the tumuli are individually registered on the national heritage list as Historic Sites in accordance with the Cultural Heritage Protection Act. The property areas of the tumuli correspond with the Heritage Areas delineated with their designation as Historic Sites, meaning they are rigorously protected from all forms of development activities. Their buffer zones are drawn along the Historic and Cultural Environment Conservation Areas, which are an additional protective layer beyond their designation of Heritage Areas: development activities are restricted according to the established standards on permits for the alteration of the current state of heritage. Each component tumuli is equipped with a conservation plan, and regular checks on the state of conservation are carried out for each. 

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

Other Gaya Tumuli in the Republic of Korea 

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 heritage lists for their significance as evidence of Gaya’s culture and history as determined by archaeological and documentary research.

Those that were evaluated as providing the best representation of the major cultural areas of Gaya and its trading system were chosen as components of the property. The three standards explained below were applied to the 20 sites and seven tumuli that fully satisfied all three were ultimately selected.

Whether they offer testimony to the social and political developmental process for the Gaya confederacy through their spatial arrangements of tombs for those of different social classes and through temporal changes in the types of tombs.

This standard was further divided into whether they provide evidence of (1) the emergence of the practice of building tombs within a cluster; (2) the inception of the practice of formulating a graveyard at the center of a particular polity; (3) the dissemination of this central graveyard building practice across wider areas as an indication of the further development of Gaya polities in these areas; and (4) the emergence of extra-large tombs and the use of hierarchical spatial arrangements among tombs as Gaya moved further toward becoming an ancient state.

The Gimhae Yangdong-ri Tumuli and Daeseong-dong Tumuli satisfy the above-mentioned (1) and (2). The Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli, the Haman Marisan Tumuli, the Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli, the Goseong Songhak-dong Tumuli, the Changnyeong Songhyeon-dong Tumuli, and the Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri fulfill (3). The Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli is an example of (4).

Whether they were constructed in the central areas of the respective major cultural areas of Gaya.

Gaya developed as a federation of multiple independent polities that were never amalgamated under a unified rule but grew based on active exchanges of mutual influence. It was composed of several cultural areas, each of which was distinguished by its own unique culture. The tumuli that were constructed as the primary graveyard for each Gaya polity aptly delivered the characteristics of each respective cultural area within the confederacy.

The Geumgwan Gaya Cultural Area houses the Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli and the Busan Bokcheon-dong Tumuli. Ara Gaya produced the Haman Marisan Tumuli and the Haman Outside Nammun Gate Tumuli. The Dae Gaya Cultural Area is represented by the Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli and Bongwan-dong Tumuli. So Gaya established the Goseong Songhak-dong and Naesan-ri Tumuli, the Sancheong Jungchon-ri, and the Hapcheon Samga Tumuli. Bihwa Gaya buried its dead in the Changnyeong Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli, the Gyeseong Tumuli, and the Yeongsan Tumuli. The Darakguk Cultural Area contains the Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli, and the Gimunguk Cultural Area built the Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli and Wolsan-ri Tumuli.

Among them, those capable of definitively representing the characteristics of each cultural area are the Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli, Haman Marisan Tumuli, Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli, Changnyeong Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli, Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli, and Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli.

 Whether they serve as evidence of the systematic trading network of the Gaya confederacy.

The multiple polities linked as the Gaya confederacy developed by carrying out exchanges with one another through a riverine network composed of the Nakdonggang River and its tributaries. Land routes that connected the east with the west also contributed significantly to the advancement of Gaya society.

The Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli and Yangdong-ri Tumuli, Busan Bokcheon-dong Tumuli, and Songhak-dong Tumuli and Goseong Naesan-ri Tumuli were all sited along important maritime routes of international trade. Those positioned along major river routes binding the Gaya polities together are Haman Marisan Tumuli, Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli, and Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli. Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli was situated along a land route connected to Silla while the Namwon Yugok-ri and Duran-ri Tumuli spanned the route linking to Baekje and further on to China.

The objects excavated from these tumuli provide eloquent testimony to the active exchanges implemented by the individual Gaya polities.

The seven tumuli that satisfactorily fulfill the above-mentioned three standards were selected to compose the property providing exceptional evidence of the inception, development, and fall of the Gaya confederacy.

Comparison between the nominated property and other Gaya Tumuli


Name of Gaya Tumuli

A. Testimony to the social and political development of Gaya

B. Central to each of the cultural areas of Gaya

C. Evidence of the systematic trading network of Gaya


Gimhae Yangdong-ri Tumuli


Gimhae Daeseong-dong Tumuli


Gimhae Gusan-dong Tumuli


Tomb of King Suro in Gimhae


Busan Bokcheon-dong Tumuli


Haman Marisan Tumuli


Haman Outside Nammun Gate Tumuli


Hapcheon Okjeon Tumuli


Hapcheon Samga Tumuli


Goryeong Jisan-dong Tumuli


Changnyeong Gyo-dong and Songhyeon-dong Tumuli


Changnyeong Gyeseong Tumuli


Changnyeong Yeongsan Tumuli


Goseong Songhak-dong Tumuli


Goseong Naesan-ri Tumuli



Namwon Yugok-ri and Durak-ri Tumuli


Jangsu Sambong-ri Tumuli


Jangsu Dongchon-ri Tumuli


Hamyang Baekcheon-ri Tumuli


Jinju Okbong Tumuli

(● and ▲ respectively mean fully satisfying and partially satisfying the given standard)

Other Tumuli in the Republic of Korea and in Other Countries

The property is made up of ancient tombs covered with a mound of earth or gravel, classified as a type of kurgan or tumulus. Kurgans or tumuli were constructed as a signifier of the power and authority of ruling classes in East Asian ancient states and across Eurasia.

In the era in which the property was constructed (the first through mid-sixth centuries), the construction of tumuli was a universal practice in East Asia. The tombs in the property were made by constructing a tomb chamber with wood or stone and covering it with a high mound of earth or stone, a common technique that dominated tomb construction practices in Northeast Asia at the time.

World Heritage sites that can be compared with the property for sharing similarities in terms of age, region, and tomb characteristics include the Complex of Koguryo Tombs (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (China), Gyeongju Historic Areas (Daereungwon Royal Tomb Complex; Republic of Korea), Baekje Historic Areas (Neungsan-ri and Songsan-ri Tomb Clusters; Republic of Korea), and Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region (Shimbaru-Nuyama Mounded Tomb Group; Japan). The Mozu-Furuichi Kofungun: Ancient Tumulus Clusters, registered on the Tentative List of Japan, is also worth comparison.  

These World Heritage and Tentative List sites were all constructed against a political backdrop of the establishment of the centralization of power among ancient states in Asia. These ancient nations intent on centralizing power generally built city walls around their capitals and placed tomb clusters outside them. In contrast, Gaya never developed into a centralized state and did not fully adopt the city wall system. It was through the construction of tomb clusters at the center of each area that the many polities composing the Gaya confederacy displayed the power and authority of their ruling groups. The tumuli of Gaya were imbued with a great sense of the sacred.

While neighboring states were undertaking a process of political consolidation, the multiple polities of Gaya persisted on as independent powers intimately linked by a systematic trading system. This type of social and political structure embodied in the formation and maintenance of the Gaya confederacy finds few parallels in the history of East Asia. The active mutual exchanges that took place among the Gaya polities are evidenced by the variety of the location, spatial arrangement, and grave artifacts of the Gaya Tumuli. In this sense, the property clearly illustrates the diversity of the state developmental processes in ancient East Asia and is expected to enhance the representation of the sundry East Asian cultural expressions on the World Heritage List.

The ancient Silla and Baekje tomb clusters that have been inscribed on the World Heritage List as part of the Gyeongju Historic Areas and Baekje Historic Areas merit additional comparison given their level of similarity in terms of period of construction, geographical proximity, and types of tombs. The Daereungwon Royal Tomb Complex from Silla and the Neungsan-ri and Songsan-ri Tomb Clusters from Baekje were constructed as part of their respective kingdoms’ city walls after the full concentration of power. Although taking shape nearly concurrently with these tomb clusters in Silla and Baekje, this property is distinguished as a definitive manifestation of the Gaya confederacy, a rare political entity with a long history of being comprised of multiple coexisting polities of balanced authority.

The Outstanding Universal Value of the Gyeongju Historic Areas were justified by: Criteria (ii) “The Gyeongju Historic Areas contain a number of sites and monuments of exceptional significance in the development of Buddhist and secular architecture in Korea;” and Criteria (iii) “The Korean Peninsula was ruled for nearly a thousand years by the Silla Dynasty, and the sites and monuments in and around Gyeongju bear outstanding testimony to its cultural achievements.” The same two criteria were applied to the Baekje Historic Areas: Criteria (ii) “The archaeological sites and architecture of the Baekje Historic Areas exhibit the interchange between the ancient East Asian kingdoms in Korea, China and Japan in the development of construction techniques and the spread of Buddhism;” and Criteria (iii) “The setting of the capital cities, Buddhist temples and tombs, architectural features and stone pagodas of the Baekje Historic Areas contribute in forming exceptional testimony to the unique culture, religion and artistry of the kingdom of Baekje.” These two World Heritage sites in the Republic of Korea encompass ancient tombs as part of the inscribed properties and derive a major part of their significance from the tradition of Buddhism. Their ancient tombs are presented as part of the city wall systems of Silla and Baekje.

A number of ancient tomb clusters shedding light on the development of centralized states are already inscribed on the World Heritage List. However, the Gaya Tumuli is a rare example that shows the transitional characteristics of an ancient political entity before its consolidation into a fully-fledged state. The Gaya confederacy shared cultural elements with its neighbors as they pursued and achieved political centralization, but it did not follow suit and retained its ethos of internal independence for centuries. The Gaya Tumuli offers exceptional testimony to the Gaya confederacy and its unique social and political systems.