Stoned in bronze: early Korean gravesites

In brief: Across several hillsides, we wandered back 3000 years to the dolmens of the bronze age.

Huge dolmen atop hill

Traces of early Korean civilization go back tens of thousands of years. In museums, we could see more tools and weapons from the stone age than items in a hardware store.

Three styles of dolmen

But, to us, the most startling demonstration of technical capability and religious fervor were the burial sites from Korea’s bronze age, over 3000 years ago. In the south of the country, near Gwangju, we visited the UNESCO heritage valley site where we could wander among one of the largest concentration of dolmens in the world – nearly 500 – with fine examples of four different types of construction.

Gwangju dolmen site

It’s a startling experience to see so many clustered on just a few hillsides. Together with two other sites, Korea contains nearly 40% of such monuments worldwide.

Table dolmen

It was not obvious to us what method the Bronzians used to create these, with top stones weighing 100s of tons, but we learned.

The space between the supporting stones was filled with dirt. After the capstone was were rolled atop the mound, the filling was removed.

(Also, for more pictures from Korea, CLICK HERE to view the slideshow at the end of the itinerary page.)

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