Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites
Gochang, Hwasun And Ganghwa Dolmen Sites
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Cultural Republic Of Korea Asia And The Pacific Gochang-gun County, Jeollabuk-do Province;Hwasun-gun County, Jeollanam-do Province;Ganghwa-gun County, Incheon Metropolitan City

The Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa sites contain the highest density and greatest variety of dolmens in Korea, and indeed of any country. They preserve important evidence of how the stones were quarried, transported and raised and of how dolmen types changed over time in north-east Asia.

Dolmens are manifestations of the 'megalithic' culture that figured prominently in Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures across the world during the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE. The prehistoric cemeteries at Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa contain many hundreds of examples of dolmens - tombs from the 1st millennium BC. They are to be found in western China (Tibet, Sichuan and Gansu) and the coastal areas of the Yellow Sea basin (Shandong peninsula, north-western Kyushu). They arrived in the Korean Peninsula with the Bronze Age. The Jungnim-ri group in Gochang is considered to date from around the 7th century BC. Dolmen construction ceased here in the 3rd century BC. The Hwasun dolmens are a little later, from the 6th-5th centuries BC. There are insufficient data to permit dating of the Ganghwa group, but they are thought to be earlier rather than later.

Dolmens usually consist of two or more undressed stone slabs supporting a huge capstone. It is generally accepted that they were simple burial chambers, erected over the bodies or bones of Neolithic and Bronze Age worthies. Earth mounds (barrows) would have covered them, but these would gradually disappear as a result of weathering and animal action. They may have been platforms on which corpses were exposed to permit excarnation to take place, leaving bones for burial in collective or family tombs. Dolmens are usually to be found in cemeteries on elevated sites, to allow them to be seen from the settlements on lower ground of the people who built them. In East Asia two main groups have been recognized, classified according to their form: the table type ('northern' type) and the go-board type ('southern' type). The first is an above-ground construction: four stone slabs are set up an edge to form a box or cist and a large capstone is laid on top. In the second case, the burial chamber is constructed below ground, with walls of slabs or piled stones;the capstone is supported on a number of stones laid on the ground. The so-called 'capstone' type is a variant of the go-board type in which the capstone is laid directly on the buried slabs.

Gochang Dolmen Sites: the Jungnim-ri dolmens, the largest and most diversified group, centre on the village of Maesan. Most of them are located at altitudes of 15-50 m along the southern foot of the hills running east-west. A total of 442 dolmens have been recorded, of various types, based on the shape of the capstone.

Hwasun Dolmen Sites: like those in the Gochang group, the Hwasun dolmens are located on the slopes of low ranges of hills, along the Jiseokgang River. Individual dolmens in this area are less intact than those in Gochang. The Hyosan-ri group is estimated to comprise 158 monuments and the Daesin-ri group 129. In a number of cases the stone outcrops from which the stones making up the dolmens were quarried can be identified.

Ganghwa Dolmen Sites: these sites are on the offshore island of Ganghwa, once again on mountain slopes. They tend to be higher than those in the other sites and stylistically early, notably those at Bugeun-ri and Gojeon-ri.

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