First evidence for ancient human sacrifice in South Korea found

Archaeologists discovered two skeletons, dating to 5th century AD, under the walls of of the Wolseong, or Moon Castle, in Gyeongju in South Korea.

The skeletons (by Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage)

The two skeletons were found side by side under a western corner of the castle’s earth and stone walls, with one facing upward, the other turning its face and arms slightly towards the first. Gyeongju was once the capital of the former Silla kingdom (57 BC – 935 AD), one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The burial of living victims with dead kings to serve them in the afterlife is well known in ancient Korean cultures, but this newest find indicates that human sacrifices were also made to try to ensure the success of ancient construction projects. According to archaeologists, judging from the fact that there are no signs of resistance on the skeletons, indicating that the individuals must have been buried when they were unconscious or dead.

Details of the skeletons (by Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage)

Other finds from the site include wooden inscription tablets and 6th-century animal and human figurines. According to experts, local Korean folklore indicates humans were sacrificed to appease gods and plead with them to ensure the structures being built lasted a long time. DNA and other tests were being carried out on the remains to determine their physical characteristics, health, diet and genetic attributes.

One of the figurines (by Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage)

(after The Dong-a Ilbo, PhysOrg, Taemin Choi & Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage)

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