Silla grave with full set of jewelry found

The grave a Silla aristocrat bedecked from head to toe in jewelry has been unearthed in Gyeongju, South Korea. This is the first Silla tomb since the excavation of the Great Tomb of Hwangnam in 1973-1975 to be found with the deceased buried in a full set of accessories from gilt bronze coronet to gilt bronze shoes. The burial dates to the first half of the 6th century.

Gyeongju was the capital of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. – 935 A.D.) and at its zenith in the 7th-9th centuries, it was the fourth largest city in the world. Located in the Hwangnam area of Gyeongju’s historic center, Hwangnam Tumulus No. 120-2 was excavated as part of a city project to explore important archaeological remains from its history as the Silla royal capital. Last May a gilt bronze shoe was discovered. Now the tomb’s complete treasure has been revealed.

The grave is wooden chamber tomb surrounded by a stone mound, a type characteristic of the Silla Kingdom. At the head of the grave were placed numerous pottery vessels.  The individual is believed to be a woman based on the accessories but the skeletal remains are too degraded to draw a firm conclusion. A gilt bronze crown on a round frame was folded flat and placed on the face of the deceased. The round frame is decorated with three twig-shaped ornaments and two pieces of deer antler ornaments at the top. Heart-shaped holes pierce the tips of the decorative elements. On both sides of the round frame are gold pendants adorned with jade and gold beads.

The deceased wears thick gold hoop earrings in both ears. A beaded breast band covered the chest. Around the waist is a silver belt. Both wrists are covered in silver bangles. One of the bracelets on the right wrist is festooned with more than 500 tiny beads just a millimeter in diameter. The right hand has silver rings on every finger. The left hand is still in the process of being uncovered, but there is one silver ring on it as well.

The gilt bronze shoes are decorated with openwork cut-outs in T shapes. These were ornamented with coin-shaped gilt-bronze accessories. The shoes would not have been worn in life. They were created specifically as funerary adornments.

The CHA said the height of the owner of the tomb is estimated at 170 centimeter, as it is 176 cm from the middle of the gilt-bronze cap to the shoes. But the sex of the deceased was difficult to discern at the moment, it added.

“This is a small-sized tomb, but the owner has the full set of accessories. It is expected to be possessed by a noble or royal-blooded person,” a researcher from the CHA said. “We’ve found many new things from this project. We will keep studying the case.”

3 thoughts on “Silla grave with full set of jewelry found

  1. Ancient Korean Silla proverb from Gangnam:

    “Make him Gilt Bronze Shoes that he cannot get out of”


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