Be pleased you didn’t get on the wrong side of someone powerful back in fifth-century Korea, because you may have been offered up to the gods as a human sacrifice.
As reported by AFP, two skeletons found under the walls of Moon Castle in South Korea’s Gyeongju have just been excavated, and it appears they may have been placed there for an otherworldly reason.
The pair were buried without resistance, which means they were probably either unconscious or dead at the time. Although the idea that they could have been alive at the time of their burial is not beyond the realms of possibility – the practice of burying living victims with dead kings, so that they may serve them in the great beyond, was a common practice in Ancient Korea.
Whether they were human sacrifices or convenient corpses, their burial beneath the castle’s walls is no accident.
“This is the first archaeological evidence that folklore about humans being sacrificed for the foundations of buildings, dams or walls were true stories,” spokeswoman Choi Moon-Jung of the Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage told AFP. They weren’t used literally as foundations, of course – instead, their spirits were supposed to imbue the structure with good fortune.
As the remains have just been excavated, little is known about the victims, who were inhabitants of the Silla Kingdom, which occupied territory in what is now both North and South Korea. This dynasty, which lasted from 57 BCE to the year 935 CE, is one of the world’s longest sustained monarchies. Although buffered by two hostile kingdoms for some time, it conquered them in the year 668 and unified the region under one ruler.
Some of the country’s most important artwork dates back to this period, and it was during this time that Buddhism was introduced to the peninsula.
Once a mighty cultural and military power, civil wars, regicide, and rebellions reduced the king’s power to nothing more than a figurehead. After nearly a millennium of rule, Silla broke apart into three competing kingdoms, which also fell by the wayside.