Jar Coffin Tombs in the Southwestern Korean Peninsula and East Asia

Lee Youngcheol, Choi Seungju, Kim Hyeongseok

Daehan Institute of Cultural Properties, South Korea

The jar coffin is an ancient form of burial found throughout Northeast Asia (Korea, China, and Japan), Taiwan and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia) associated with various ethnic groups from the prehistoric to historical periods. In Northeast Asia, the burial method of placing the body of the deceased into two or three connected jars were popular. Jar burials in East Asia are commonly associated with maritime cultures. The custom of jar coffin burial disappeared in most regions around the 3rd century CE. In this presentation, we discuss jar burial traditions associated with the Mahan culture of Korea southwestern Korea. In and around the Yeongsan River basin, jar coffins became recognised as a method of burying leaders and the practice lasted until the 6th century CE. Among the records related to the Mahan culture, the Chinese literature (Biography of the Dongyi in Book of Wei in Records of Three Kingdom) recorded the following. “Glass beads, which are considered treasures, can be used as either dress ornaments or (as jewellery) hung from the neck or ears. Gold and silk, however, were not considered treasures.”