The Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites
The prehistoric cemeteries at Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa are the sites of hundreds of dolmens, stone slab burial chambers, in the southwestern portion of the Korean Peninsula and are collectively designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. Dated from the seventh to the third centuries B.C.E. and possibly earlier, the collection of dolmens in the three sites represents the greatest concentration of dolmens in Korea and in the world. They provide valuable evidence of the change in dolmen types through the centuries in north-east Asia and of the way the stones were quarried, moved to the site, and elevated into position. Among them, the many dolmens illustrate the two main types of northeast Asian dolmens: The table or northern style and the go-board or southern style. The dolmens provide the earliest archeological evidence of the Korean people's religious practices. Requiring great planning, coordination, and collaboration for their construction, the dolmens served as burial markers for tribal and spiritual leaders. Shaman priests would have conducted ceremonies invoking the spirit of the person buried there to protect the tribe.
The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty
The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty form a collection of 40 tombs scattered over 18 locations. Built over five centuries, from 1408 to 1966, the tombs honoured the memory of ancestors, showed respect for their achievements, asserted royal authority, protected ancestral spirits from evil and provided protection from vandalism. Spots of outstanding natural beauty were chosen for the tombs which typically have their back protected by a hill as they face south toward water and, ideally, layers of mountain ridges in the distance. Alongside the burial area, the royal tombs feature a ceremonial area and an entrance. In addition to the burial mounds, associated buildings that are an integral part of the tombs include a T-shaped wooden shrine, a shed for stele, a royal kitchen and a guards’ house, a red-spiked gate and the tomb keeper’s house. The grounds are adorned on the outside with a range of stone objects including figures of people and animals. The Joseon Tombs completes the 5,000 year history of royal tombs architecture in the Korean peninsula.