What is Hwangnamdaechong?
Hwangnamdaechong is a great tomb named after the place of its discovery, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju, as a result of its excavation from 1973 to 1975. It consists of two burials, one in south and the other in north, adjoined back to back. The former was constructed before the latter. The structure of the tomb is identified as a wooden chamber tomb with a stone mound. A male was buried in the southern chamber and a female in the northern chamber. They are conjectured to be a married couple. The tomb is 120 meters in south-north length, 80 meters in east-west diameter, 21.9 meters in height for the southern burial site and 22.6 meters for the northern one. That it is the largest among all Silla double burial sites and that the buried are decorated with elaborate gold ornaments prove that the tomb is a royal one of the fifth century. There is a consensus among scholars that the person buried in the southern burial had been one of the Silla kings, referred to as maripgan, but still it has not been identified who it was.
View of Hwangnamdaechong, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju
Maripgan, a Founder of Silla, the Land of Gold
Maripgan(麻立干) is an indigenous title of Silla, which indicates a higher ranked ruler than Khan(干), a title used for leaders of regional states since the Samhan period. These maripgans realized the splendor of gold and started to create the hierarchy of the society through the use of gold. With the new title for the king, gold began to be used exclusively by the ruling class and became the best material to embellish royalties. Members of the royal family within a certain range of kinship with maripgan wore clothes decorated with gold ornaments. Distant royal families and other tribal leaders used gilt-bronze and silver ornaments. These were the same in shape as the ones used by maripgan. They were distributed by maripgan and the same shape indicated that the wearers were all people of Silla. Maripgans changed and ruled the land through gold.
Gold Crown (from the northern chamber of the Hwangnamdaechong, Height 273mm)
The Power, Succeeded on the Tomb of the Ancestors
People of Silla believed that this world and the otherworld were connected and that the authority of dead ancestors did not disappear right away. Hence the burial had to be filled with objects and food that symbolize their power. They deserved to live affluently also in otherworld, so the living members of the family had a duty; to cope with the excessive loss of commodities. After fulfilling these duties, the living could inherit the authority of the ancestors. Inheritors sometimes visited their ancestral shrines to let everyone know about the authority they took over. Through burials, the authority of ancestors was handed down, and enormous burial mounds became important monuments.
L) Bronze bowls and Silverwares R) Iron spears and tips
Silver Saddle Ornament (Length 524mm)
Who was buried at Hwangnamdaechong?
Most of the cultural features that can be found in Hwangnadaechong are directly and indirectly related to those of Goguryeo. This means that Hwangnamdaechong was constructed when Silla and Goguryeo had a good relationship from the late 4th century to mid-5th century. During this period, Naemul maripgan (r. 356-402), Silseong maripgan (r. 402-417), and Nulji maripgan (r. 417-458) passed away. Therefore, it is assumed that one of these maripgans must be buried in the southern mound. However, scholars still have an argument for the person who buried because no firm evidence has been found.
Bowls and Dishes (made of gold/silver/bronze)