The origin of the ondol heating system and of the kamado stove likely in northeast Asia

Underground channel heating systems in Japan had existed much earlier than the Kofun Period, but the Kamado Stove itself appeared during the Kofun Period around the 5th century from one of the Korean kingdoms, most likely a technology imported from Kaya, Paekche or Silla.

The underground-channel-heating system called ‘ondol’ by the Koreans was likely invented somewhere in northeast Asia. Though the ondol is widely thought to be a cultural invention of Korea, the earliest ‘ondol’ has however been excavated from the Aleutian Islands which suggests the ondol may have originated in early times with the Siberian (possibly) Chukchi peoples (or peoples in Eastern Siberia and in the Amur River and Kamchatka Peninsula area who came into contact with them in Siberia) and eventually the technology made its way from there across the Bering Sea to the Aleutian Islands (marked with a  red spot below) as well as to other northeast Asians including proto-Koreans in the north (Balhae Kingdom for example).

Rivalling this early discovery, is another find around the same time is another ondol find at an archaeological site in present-day North Korea, in UnggiHamgyeongbuk-do (source: Wikipedia).

Artifacts from Hokkaido, Japan (late Jomon houses had channel-heating systems), as well as the Frazier River Basin, North America infer coastal interaction with the Aleuts (mtDNA research also shows deep-in-time genetic affinity to Aleuts – Aleuts haplogroup D2 being related to Japanese D2s Source: Mitochondrial Genome Variation in Eastern Asia and the Peopling of Japan). The existence of a great coastal migration and “voyaging nursery” stretching from the Sundaland-Sahul region in the south to the Bering Straits and beyond has been noted by a number of scholars.

The remains of four or more houses [ca 1000 BCE] at the Amaknak Bridge excavations on Unalaska Island had under floor, stone lined , channel heating systems similar to the Korean Ondal type A. Source: Aspects of Aleutian prehistory )

Read the news articles excerpted below in support of the above…

Ancient ‘Ondol Heating Systems Discovered in Alaska ( ^ | 6-26-2007)

What are believed to be the world’s oldest underfloor stone-lined-channel heating systems have been discovered in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands in the U.S. The heating systems are remarkably similar to ondol, the traditional Korean indoor heating system. The word ondol, along with the word kimchi, is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. The ondol heating system is widely recognized as Korean cultural property. According to “Archaeology”, a bi-monthly magazine from the American Archaeological Society, the remains of houses equipped with ondol-like heating systems were found at the Amaknak Bridge excavation site in Unalaska, Alaska.

The leader of the excavation, archaeologist Richard Knecht from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, said in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo on Monday that the team began the dig in 2003. Radiocarbon dating shows the remains are about 3,000 years old.

Until now the oldest known ondol heating systems were built 2,500 years ago by the Korean people of North Okjeo in what is now Russia’s Maritime Province. The Alaskan ondol are about 500 years older, and are the first ondol discovered outside the Eurasian continent.

Professor Knecht said four ondol structures were discovered at the site. Other ondol structures were found in the area in 1997 but it was not known what they were at the time.

According to Knecht’s data, the Amaknak ondol were built by digging a two- to four-meter-long ditch in the floor of the house. Flat rocks were place in a “v” shape along the walls of the ditch, which was then covered with more flat rocks. There was also a chimney to let the smoke out.

Professor Song Ki-ho of the department of Korean history at Seoul National University looked over the Amaknak excavation report. “All ancient ondol are one-sided, meaning the underfloor heating system was placed on just one side of the room. The ondol in Amaknak also seem to be one-sided,” he said.

As the ondol of North Okjeo and Amaknak are more than 5,000 kilometers apart, Knecht and Song agree that the two systems seem to have been developed independently.

This theory is backed up by the fact ondol have not been found in areas between the two locations, such as Ostrov, Sakhalin or the Kamchatka Peninsula, and because the Amanak ondol are significantly older than those of the Russian Maritime Province.

( )


Ancient heating system (,  Tuesday, September 15, 2009)

Seoul:  Archaeologists have unearthed the largest “ondol” heating system, dating back to the 10th century from the Balhae Kingdom, in a nearly intact state in Russia’s Maritime Province, confirming the kingdom to have been a Korean settlement.
Ondol, literally meaning “warm stone”, is an under-floor heating system where flues carry hot gases below the living space

They were a distinct feature of Korean dwellings and are not found in the remains of Chinese, Khitan or Jurchen homes.

According to The Chosun Ilbo, the discovery proves not only that Balhae was a successor state to the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo, but also defeats the logic of China’s recent “Northeast Project”, which says Koguryo and Balhae were simply autonomous Chinese frontier districts.

The Koguryo Research Foundation and Russia’s Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnology of the People of the Far East, which are conducting joint excavations at a site in the Russian town of Kraskino, announced on August 27 that they confirmed remains of ondol pipes 14.8 m in length presumed to be from the 10th century, toward the end of the Balhae period.

The trace of the U-shaped ondol pipe which points toward the southwest, is 3.7 m wide to the west, 6.4 meters to the north and 4.7 meters to the east, and is 1-1.3 m wide.

Professor Evgenia Gelman of Far-Eastern State Technical University, who unearthed the remains, said that the discovery clearly showed Balhae to have been a successor state to Koguryo.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s