Plate Armor and Helmet

UnknownGaya, 5th century

National Museum of Korea

National Museum of Korea

Gaya was a wide-ranging confederacy of tribal political entities, scattered around the mid- and lower regions of the Nakdong River, which flows through the southeastern part of the Korean Peninsula. The Gaya Confederacy (42-562 CE) developed and expanded based on wealth gained from iron, which they traded with neighboring countries. In its early period, the confederacy was led by Geumgwan Gaya, which was based in present-day Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do Province; by the later period, power had shifted to Dae Gaya, based in present-day Goryeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. This plate armor, complete with helmet and shoulder guards, was excavated from Jisan-dong Tomb #32 in Goryeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. The armor was constructed by stitching together two large rectangular iron plates, which had been curved to fit around the contours of the human body. Shaping and fusing iron in such manner required advanced skills, demonstrating the expertise of the armor makers. Plate armor of this type has been found at both Baekje and Gaya sites, showing that it was widely used at the time. In the 4th and 5th century, the armor of Gaya did not merely serve a practical function on the battlefield; it was also used as a symbol of social authority and influence. Thus, at that time, armor was typically buried along with its deceased owner, but the custom of burying armor with its owner gradually disappeared after the mid-6th century, indicating that armor’s significance as a symbol of authority had diminished.

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