Baekje Bone Fragments 'Belonged to King or Queen'

      December 08, 2009 10:07

      Bone fragments found in the Tomb of King Muryeong have been attributed to the king or his queen 38 years after it was excavated in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province. The tomb is that of King Muryeong, who ruled the Baekje Kingdom from 501 to 523, and his wife.

      A curator of the Gongju National Museum said on Monday four fragments of a human shinbone were recently discovered in the process of reexamining excavated relics kept in storage to make a fresh report.

      There are no signs of court attendants having been buried alive together with the dead king and queen, meaning the bone fragments must have belonged to King Muryeong or his queen. This is the first time bone fragments presumed to belong to a king or a queen have been found in an ancient tomb in Korea.

      Of four bone fragments found in the Tomb of King Muryeong, three are round with a diameter of 3 to 5 cm while another 20 cm-long bone is cut in two pieces. /Courtesy of the Gongju National Museum

      The discovery of the human bone fragments is expected to shed new light on King Muryeong and the lineage of the Baekje royal house.

      Lee Joon-jung, a professor of archaeology at Seoul National University, said, "Results vary depending on bone conditions. But we can determine the cause of death, gender of the tomb owner, his or her health and dietary habits, and their age and height at the time of death, by the radiocarbon dating method and stable isotope and DNA analysis.

      Even wood fragments and iron nails discovered from the Tomb of King Muryeong are used as important materials for research on relics excavated elsewhere.

      The Tomb of King Muryeong is the only ancient tomb that has been positively identified among all ancient royal tombs from the Three Kingdoms Period in Korea. Its excavation was rated as the most important archaeological discovery in Korea in the 20th century. But archaeologists were blamed for their sloppy excavation at the time.

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