At 120 meters in length, 80 meters across, Hwangnamdaechong is the largest among all Silla double burial sites. Since it was excavated between 1973 and 1975, the tomb’s long-held secrecy has been finally unveiled to the public. The National Museum of Korea is holding a special exhibition of a large collection of relics recovered from the tomb through Oct. 31. A total of 1,268 pieces, including a gold crown, were among 58,441 pieces excavated from the tomb. The museum recreated the mock tomb in the exhibition hall and offers 3D hologram images to show the real structure of the tomb. The exhibition displays a myriad of gold items such as bowls, earrings, crowns and belts and also, silver and bronze bowls and various kinds of Roman glass products.
Bowls and dishes made of gold, silver and bronze
“The exhibition is important not only for ancient Korean history but also for Northeast Asian anthropology,” a curator of the museum, said in a statement. Hwangnamdaechong located in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, consists of two burial sites, adjoined back to back. The structure of the tomb is comprised of a wooden chamber and a stone mound. A married couple are believed to be buried there ― a male in a southern chamber at 21.9 meters in height and a female in a northern chamber at 22.6 meters in height. Due to the flamboyant decorations and gold ornaments, the tomb is believed to be for royal families of “maripgan,” an indigenous title of Silla rulers, which indicates a ruler ranked higher than Khan, used for leaders of regional states since the Samhan period. The “maripgan” are believed to have brought the splendor of gold and started to create the hierarchy of the society by using the precious metal. With the new title for the king, gold began to be used exclusively by the ruling class and became the common material to symbolize royalty. The royal family wore clothes decorated with gold ornaments, while distant royal families and other tribal leaders used gilt-bronze and silver ornaments. People of Silla also believed that the real world and afterlife world were connected and so the tomb was filled with objects and food that symbolized their power and to be used by the dead. Their descendants would visit the ancestral shrines to commemorate the dead’s authority and power. Through burial, they believed that the dignity of ancestors was handed down, and enormous burial mounds became important monuments. The museum said that most of the characteristics of the tomb found in Hwangnamdaechong are related to those of Goguryeo. This means that Hwangnamdaechong was established when Silla and Goguryeo probably had a good relationship from the late 4th century to the mid-5th century when Naemul maripgan (356-402), Shilsung maripgan (402-417), and Nulji maripgan (417-458) passed away. It is assumed that one of these rulers must be buried in the southern mound, the museum said. However, scholars are arguing over who is buried there because no strong evidence has been found.