Ritual Object with Farming Scenes

UnknownEarly Iron Age, BC 4th~3rd century

National Museum of Korea

National Museum of Korea
Seoul, South Korea

The early communities of the Korean Peninsula first began to use metal objects during the Bronze Age (10th to 4th century BCE). These early metal objects were made of bronze, which is an alloy consisting of copper and smaller proportions of tin, zinc, and lead. The production of bronze objects was a complex process that required the use of molds, so only the most elite members of a society could own them. Thus, such objects served either as symbols of authority or as ritual implements. This particular bronze artifact, which came from Daejeon, has six square holes along its upper edge, and the holes show traces of wear, indicating that the object was probably hung using cords or strings. The front of the artifact is engraved with some agricultural scenes: a nude man (who has what appears to be a large feather in his hair) is tilling a field, another man raises a hoe over his head, and a third is putting something into a jar. The opposite side of the artifact is engraved with two trees with birds perched in their forked branches. Experts believe that the image of the naked tiller represents the farming community’s hopes for a good harvest, while the birds in the trees are likely associated with the Korean tradition of setting up sotdae (guardian poles) in villages, as symbols of the villagers’ prayers for peace and prosperity. Based on the holes and the engravings, this was probably a ritual object that was perhaps hung from a tree during farming rituals.


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