The people of the Kaya (Gaya) kingdoms sacrificed humans and believed in life after death

1,500 year old Gaya Kingdom girl revealed

Buried alive

The girl is believed to have been buried alive during the ancient Gaya kingdom period standing 153 cm tall with short arms but long fingers

Reconstructed

From the ancient skeletal remains of a Gaya teen, a life-size model was recreated and revealed by the Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage at the National Palace Museum of Korea, Seoul, Wednesday. From Dec. 1, the exhibit will be shown at the Changnyeong Museum, South Gyeongsang Province.

Stages of reconstruction

The partial remains of three and the complete remains of the teen girl were discovered two years ago in a tomb in Changnyeong County, South Gyeongsang.

Gaya teenage girl

More from the Korea Times:

A life-size model of a young girl from the 6th-century Gaya Kingdom (42-562) was revealed in Seoul, Wednesday. The model, constructed from the “1,500-year-old’s” excavated skeletal remains, is the first of its kind in the country.

“We have excavated human bones on many occasions but it is the first time we created a full-scale model,” Kang Soon-hyung, director of the Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, was quoted as saying by the Munhwa Ilbo.

The girl, who was buried alive, is speculated to have been a 16-year-old servant to a powerful family. After adding layers of muscle and skin as well locks of hair, the model stands 1.53 meters tall. She is relatively short but is slim and has a small face ― a beauty by modern standards.

Her remains were among those of four people that were unearthed during the institute’s excavation project in Songhyeong-dong, Changnyeong-gun, South Gyeongsang Province, between 2006 and 2007. A study on Gaya’s custom of burying the living with the dead will soon be published, the institute said.

The life-size model marks the highlight of the study, in that it allows a scientific and realistic restoration of an ancient Korean. She had a short jawbone and thus had a rather wide face but had a long neck; she had short arms but long fingers and toes. She was very slim, with a waist measuring 21.5 inches, compared to the modern average of 26 inches. The upper half of her body was large compared to her lower half. It is also speculated that she knelt on her knees frequently.

The restoration is the culmination of interdisciplinary work in the fields of archaeology, forensic medicine, anatomy, genetics, chemistry and other fields two years in the making, JoongAng Daily wrote.

“We rarely find bones in such a good condition from the era because soil in Korea is really rich,” said Lee Seong-jun, a researcher at the institute. “There have been restorations, but most of them were based on the imagination. This case, however, is strictly based on medical science, somatology and statistics.”

The servant girl is thought to have spent long periods kneeling and engaging in repititious tasks cutting something with her teech, which was analyzed to estimate her age. She was found with a golden earring and is believed to have died from soffocation or poisoning. Her main diet had been rice, barley, beans as well as meat.

More at Chosun Ilbo
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“The Customs of Gaya”  The Hankyoreh (retr. Jan 8, 2010 from this source) by by Joo-Hyeon Kwon relates that according to Samguk-ji, the Gayans had a lunar March custom where King Suro would drive away misfortune, and there was the “custom of holding ceremonies after planting crops in Lunar May to honor spirits. When services were finished, the people danced, sang songs, drank alcohol and celebrated for several days. In October, after the harvest, the Gaya repeated the same ritual. Celebrants held services in May to wish for bountiful crops and services in October to show thanks and appreciation. The thanksgiving ceremonies were called “Yeong-go” in Buyeo and “Dongmaeong” in Goguryeo. Both types of celebrations continued to be practiced into the late Gaya era when farming was the mainstay of the economy. Religious services before seeding and after the harvest maintained social order in Gaya.” The article also mentions the custom of performing fortune telling by the divining of bones – these took place especially during religious services, as well as for activities such as hunting and farming. The cosmetic practice of flattening foreheads, tooth pulling and tattooing of the human body were also Gayan customs (the latter two also shared by Japanese contemporaries).
The article also details tomb burial customs that have significant bearings upon similar practices in Japan during the Kofun Period:
” The Gaya people practiced numerous burial customs to honor and protect their dead. As the Gaya believed in life after death, they buried food for the deceased and were even known to bury people alive. As live burials are dealt with elsewhere on this Gaya website, this section will focus on burial customs for the dead.According to Samguk-ji, the Gaya left the wings of large birds in tombs, implying that such wings would help departed souls fly comfortably and safely on their journeys to the hereafter. In addition to actual feathers, bird-shaped pieces of pottery unearthed in Gaya tombs should be viewed in this light. The Gaya also buried dogs and the heads or the teeth of horses, perhaps to provide guidance for the dead. 

Various funerary customs were followed before, during and after burials. After the burial service, earthenware used in the service was either buried in the tomb or broken into pieces and buried separately near the tomb. The former practice perhaps symbolized the living’s condolences, while the latter practice may have been intended as an affront to death itself. The burial of intact earthenware implies sorrow for and dedication to the dead, while the burial of shattered earthenware suggests severance from the dead.”

 

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