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This fragment in the form of a horse head was probably part of a horse-shaped ritual vessel from the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE – 668 CE). The nostrils and eyes were pierced using a pointed tool; the triangular ears, the mane and the horse-gear were modelled separately and attached to the head. The shape of the partly damaged mouth and the bridle that comes down from the sides of the head indicate that the horse may have held a bit. The object is made of grey stoneware and is unglazed.

Horse-shaped vessels were used for holding and pouring liquor during funerary rituals and ceremonies, as well as burial objects in the Silla kingdom and the Gaya Confederacy from around the mid-4th century to the early 6th century. They have their origin in bird-shaped vessels, which gradually transformed into the shape of a horse. Around the 4th century, a specific funerary ritual involving the burial of precious horse gear and the sacrifice of horses was practised, which is probably related to the production of the horse-shaped funerary vessels. Like birds, horses were believed to carry the soul of the deceased and to lead it on its journey into the afterlife. Examples of horse-shaped pottery from Gyeongju discussed in a survey on horse-shaped pottery of the Three Kingdoms period by In-Joo Shin, Curator at the Dong-A University Museum, shows that they were of elaborate appearance with horse gear and a rider and usually had two openings – an inlet on the horse's back and a spout protruding from the chest of the horse. It is probable that the fragment was once part of such a vessel.

Details

  • Title: Fragment of horse-shaped vessel
  • Date Created: Ca. 5th – early 6th century, Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE – 668 CE), Silla (57 BCE – 668 CE)
  • Location Created: Gyeongju, Korea
  • Physical Dimensions: 2,5, 6,5
  • External Link: Object at Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Sketchfab

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