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History South Korea

The Mumun pottery period is just like the Jeulmun pottery period an Archaeological era in the Korean prehistory that dates back to 1500-300 BC (Hence it is the period after the Jeulmun period) This period is named after the Korean name for undecorated of plain cooking and storage vessels that form a large part of the pottery assemblage over the entire length of this period, but especially 850 – 550 BC.


Archaeological Mumun sites 

The Mumun period is known for the origins of Intensive agriculture (Intensive farming or intensive agriculture involves various types of agriculture with higher levels of input and output per unit of agricultural land area.) and complex societies in both the korean peninsula and the Japanese Archipelago. This period (or parts of it) have sometimes been labeled as the “Korean Bronze Age”. However, the application of such terminology in the Korean case is misleading since the local bronze production did not occur until approximately the late 8th century BC at it’s earliest. Bronze artifacts are rare and the distribution of bronze is highly regionalized until after 300 BC. Just like Jeulmun, a boom in the archaeological excavations of the Mumun period sites has, since the mid-1990’s, recently increased our knowledge about this important formative period in the prehistory of East Asia.

The Mumun period is preceded by the Jeulmun pottery period (read about it here). The origins of the  period are not well known but the megalithic (basically large-stone) burials, Mumun pottery and large amounts found in the Liao river basin and North Korea probably indicate the origins of the Mumun period of Southern Korea. Slash-and-burn cultivators who used the Mumun pottery displaced people using Jeulmun period subsistence patters.


Early Mumun

The early Mumun (circa 1500 – 850 BC) is characterized by shifting cultivation, fishing, hunting and discrete settlements with rectangular semi-subterranean pit-houses. The social scale of early Mumun societies war egalitarian in nature. The latter part of this period is characterized by increasing intra-settlement competition and perhaps the presense of part-time “Big man” leadership. Early Mumun settlements are relatively concentrated in the river valleys formed by tributaries of the Geum river (in West-central Korea.) However one of the largest Early Mumun settlements (Eo-eun) is located in the Middle Nam River valley in South-central Korea. In the latter Early Mumun, larger settlements (composed of many long houses such as Baekseok-dong) appeared in the area of modern Cheonan City (Chungcheong Nam-do). Important long-term traditions originated from this sub-period.

 Middle Mumun

The middle (or classic) Mumun (circa 850-550 BC) is characterized by intensive agriculture, as evidence by the large dry-field remains (around 32,500 square metres) recovered at Daepyeong. A sprawling settlement with several multiple ditch enclosures, hundred of pit-houses, specialized production, evidences of the presence of incipient elites and social competition. Burials dating to the latter part of middle Mumun (700 – 550 BC) contain a few high status mortuary offerings (such as bronze artifacts). Bronze production probably began around this time in Southern Korea. Other high status burials contain Greenstone (or Jade) ornaments. A number of megalithic burtials with deep shaft interments, “pavements” of rounded cobblestone and prestige artifacts such as bronze daggers, jade, and red-burnished vessels were built in the vicinity of the southern coasts.

High status megalithic burials and large raised-floor buildings at the Deokcheon-ni and Igeum-dong sites (in Gyeongsang Nam-do) provide further evidence of the growth of social, inequality and the existence of polities that were organized in ways that appear to be similar to “Chiefdoms”. Korean archaeologists sometimes refer to this period’s culture as “Songguk-ri Culture”. Co-occuring artifacts and features that are grouped together as Songguk-ri culture wered found in the South east of Korea, but also in the western area’s. The ultimate geographic reach of Songguk-ri culture appears to have been at Jeju-island and western Japan. Mumun culture is the beginning of a long-term tradition of rice-farming in Korea that links Mumun culture with the Present-day. However, evidence from the early and middle Mumun suggests that, even though rice was grown, it was not the dominant crop. During the Mumun period, people grew millets, barley, wheat, legumes and continued to hunt and fish.


Late Mumun

The late (or post-classic) Mumun (550-300 BC) is characterized by increasing conflict, fortified hilltop settlements and a concentration of population in the southern coastal area. A late Mumun occupation was found at Namsan Settlement (located on the top of a hill 100 m above sea level in modern Changwon city, Gyeongsang Nam-do). A shellmidden was found in the vicinity of Namsan, indicating that (in addition to the agriculture) shellfish exploitation was part of the late Mumun subsistence system in some areas. Pit-houses at Namsan were located inside a ring-ditch that is some 4.2 meter deep and 10 meter in width. Why would something this massive in size have been necessary? One possible answer is intergroup conflict. Archaeologists propose that the Late Mumun was a period of conflicts. The number of settlements in the late Mumun is much lower than in the previous sub-period. This indicated that populations were re-organized and it was probably more concentrated in smaller numbers of larger settlements. The Mumun period ends when iron appeared in the Archaeological record, along with pit-houses that had interior composite hearth-ovens reminiscent of the history period.

Some scholars suggest that the Mumun pottery period should be extended to circa 0 BC because of the presence of undecorated ware that was popular between 400 BC and 0 BC called Jeomtodae. However, Bronze became very important (in ceremonial and elite life) from 300 BC.

Source: Wikipedia, Google

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