The characteristics of dolmens in Korea and recent research results

Moon sik Ha, Tae Sop Cho, Sujin Kong

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The dolmens are one of the most distinct prehistoric remains in Korea. In total, 51,000 dolmens are distributed in the Korean Peninsula. They have various forms, and they tend to be more densely clustered than those in northeastern China or Kyushu in Japan. Recent excavations and researches bring new results, which are quite different from those previously known. The dolmen with burial precinct were built with multiple burial chambers by piling or laying stones in a given area, and its’ highly likely that the buried people would be relatives. The dolmens in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula have a unique structure: one burial chamber was divided into three to four compartments. This structure is believed to have nothing to do with the types of dolmens. Each compartment could be interpreted as an independent burial because its floor structure was different and human bones came out of each compartment. The traces of cremation have been also confirmed with newly excavated dolmens. In some cases, the cremation was done outside the burial chamber, but sometimes, the cremation was done directly inside the tomb, after having constructed the burial chamber. In this case, burnt earth, charcoal, and burned stones were found in the burial chamber. In general, the Korean dolmens had very poor in grave goods, regardless of region. But recently some luth-type bronze daggers and luth-type bronze spearhead has been excavated from dolmen sites in southern Korea. As same types of bronze artifacts have been found in dolmens in northeastern China, it would suggest the cultural resemblance between two regions. Besides these dolmens, some dolmens were trimmed into tortoise shape, and it drew always a special attention. The process of dolmen transport was restored in experimental ways. The recent excavations and research results of dolmens in Korea would be an important source to better understanding of the dolmen culture in Northeast Asia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102786
JournalAnthropologie (France)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Nov

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Masson SAS

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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