Mumun Pottery Period, 1500-300 BC

I love doing history chronologically. It just makes so much sense. And while our curriculum does a good job of covering the expansion of people onto every continent, ancient Korean history isn’t included (as usual Asia is limited mostly to China and Japan). But one reason we homeschool is to include Korean history and language into our school day. So for Korean lessons I must research and put together my own lessons.

I’ll admit that given the busyness of this year, I haven’t done as much as I wanted to. But we have included a couple of lessons already about ancient Korea, and as we move forward there will be more since written history is more accessible.

So today’s post fits in where we are chronologically in history right now in the 500s BC. It is about the Mumun Pottery period in Korea. It stretched from 1500 BC to 300 BC, with the height of the age being between 850 BC and 550 BC.

This period saw the development of complex societies and an increasing reliance on agriculture. During this early period, each house mostly produced for the family.

Evidence of this period has been found in North Korea and the Liao River Basin in what is now China and includes large stone burial markers, pottery, and evidence of large settlements.

The Early Mumun period spanned from 1500 BC to 850 BC) and saw the shifting of the culture from a hunting and gathering society to one of a more settled nature. As with most ancient cultures, settlements were concentrated in river valleys. Evidence of these have been found along the Geum River in west-central Korea and the Middle Nam River Valley in south-central Korea. One of the largest Early Mumun settlements was called Eoeun (어은) was found in the Middle Nam River Valley.

These settlements were made up of long houses as evidenced in what is modern Cheonan City. The houses were rectangular in shape and had one or more hearths inside, some having as many as six hearths, indicating that multiple generations lived in these homes. The average settlement during this time period was small.

It was during the Early Mumun period that the following traditions began:   building large stone burial markers, the production of reddish pottery, and the use of polished groundstone daggers.

The Middle Mumun period (from 850-550 BC) is when the society began to do more farming. Evidence of this has been discovered at Daepyong,which was a large settlement with hundreds of pit houses and fields located in the Nam River valley near what is now Jinju. Korean archaeologists refer to this period as Songguk-ri (송국리 문화), and they have found evidence of the culture in regions of southeast Korea and as far south of Jeju Island and as far west as Japan.

During this period, smaller houses were the norm. While still pit houses, the houses could be square, circular or oval in shape and did not have interior hearths. Instead there was a central area on the floor equipped with an an oval work pit. It is believed these smaller houses indicate a change from large multiple generation families living together to smaller families of only parents and children living in the same house.

Larger settlements began to emerge during the Middle Muman period. Some had several hundred pit-houses making up the settlement. Also during this period, craft production and redistribution entered the economy. Items that were sold or exchanged include greenstone ornaments, bronze objects, and some kinds of red-burnished pottery.

The Late Mumun period (550-300 BC) saw increased conflict, fortified hilltop settlements, and a concentration of population in the southern coastal area. During this period, Mumun-like settlements appear in northern Japan.

Pit houses continued to be used but during this period they were sometimes surrounded by a large ring ditch, indicating conflict and the need to keep people out. The number of settlements decreased during this time period, possibly because of settlements being reorganized into a smaller number of larger settlements.

The Mumun period ends when iron is appears in the settlements.

All of the information for this post was taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumun_pottery_period. If you go there, you’ll find photos of pottery and links to sketches of what the housing looked like.

More information on this period in history can be found at: http://www.academia.edu/245929/Craft_Production_and_Social_Change_in_Mumun_Pottery_Period_Korea

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One thought on “Mumun Pottery Period, 1500-300 BC

  1. As an adoptive parent myself I am spreading the word about this. . . Grand Rapids Michigan will be hosting the 15th national KAAN (Korean American Adoptee/Adoptive Family) Conference at the Amway Grand Plaza on August 2-4th. This conference will provide meaningful and thought provoking information for any adoptee, adoptive family or professional who works in the adoption field. Youth and childcare programs are available for children ages 2-17. Details on the conference can be viewed at KAANet.org.

    Marshall Battani (battanim@gmail.com)

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