Restoration of Jar Coffins

Project to Restore the Ancient Technology for Producing Large Jar Coffins

Category Research on restoring large jar coffins
Survey period 2008 ~ 2011


This project aims to restore the ancient technology for and culture of producing large jar coffins, and to secure the basic materials required for defining the ancient culture of the Yeongsangang River area, which is thought to have based its funereal culture around the practice of jar coffin tomb customs. The project has been ongoing since 2008, but scientific research of this kind has not been conducted as yet. Archeological survey and research on the technology of producing large jar coffins, as well as convergence research on defining the jar coffins through production tests based on scientific analysis of their components are unprecedented, innovative attempts by South Korea's archeological community, contributing to the country's development of experimental archeological methodology and offering a new research direction.

The project is divided into the gathering and analysis of data, the excavation and survey of jar coffin production kilns, the analysis of components, and production experiments. The related research achievements include the gathering and analysis of domestic and overseas jar coffin materials (six cases including four symposia on ancient jar coffins and the publication of East-Asia Jar Coffin Tombs as one book and six volumes); the test excavation and excavation of jar coffin kilns and jar coffin ancient tombs (ten cases including one excavation survey report on the Kiln Sites in Oryang-dong, Naju, and one presentation of remains excavation survey - Honam Archeology Society); analysis and research on large jar coffins (four cases including 79 large jar coffins, 10 samples of earth, and 160 component analysis samples); and production experiments on large jar coffins (17 cases including an experiment involving the production of large jar coffins).

In 2012, using experimental archeological methods based on the results of excavations of jar-coffin kilns and the observation data of large jar coffins, we will restore the technology for producing large jar coffins and attempt to produce some. Furthermore, through the scientific analysis of large jar coffins and kiln wall fragments, we will also define the causes of the black spots observed on the large jar coffins and the causes of differences in color between the internal and external surfaces thereof.

From 2013, we will drive ahead with the second stage project to distribute and utilize large jar coffins. We will survey the large-jar coffin kilns and supplementary facilities, observe large jar coffins and analyze their components, thus defining the distribution network of large jar coffins and the characteristics and trends of large jar coffins by period and by region. We will also conduct an archeological experiment concerning the method of supplying large jar coffins, and the use and abandonment of large jar coffins as burial facilities, with a view to restoring the ancient funeral ritual involving the use of these large jar coffins.

If the second stage project is successful, we will be able to provide new information on the large jar coffin distribution network, and the utilization thereof as a burial facility, to academia to lay the groundwork for defining the nature of the jar coffin tomb society. Such data will also be significantly utilized for arranging and restoring jar coffins for the Cultural Heritage Administration, and for tourism and education using jar coffins for local governments, policy-making agencies, and the general public.

See A Related Image

image First International Symposium on Ancient Jar Coffins
image Talks about the Kiln Site in Oryang-dong with Jar Master Lee Hyeon-bae
image Sampling of components by the NRICH
image Molding large jar coffins
image Transporting jar coffins in a large kiln
image Photo showing the firing of large jar coffins
image Kneading earth evenly
image Kneading side earth evenly
image Internal trimming
image Measuring a jar coffin's height
image Making basic clay
image Kneading earth samples and fixing the frame
image Talks on Vietnam surveys
image Meeting to review the designs for restoring jar coffin kilns
image Workshop opened to the general public
image Wall pilling for the restoration of a large jar coffin kiln
image Measurement of the whole-rock magnetic susceptibility rate and color-difference meter
image Firing work (after closing the kiln door)
image Transporting jar coffins after dismantling the kiln
image Jar coffins after firing

A project studying how large-sized jar coffins were distributed and used

Category A study of large-sized jar coffins
Survey period 2013-2017


This is a project that has been designed to shed light on political and social relationships in ancient society that was established along the Yeongsangang River. It will be carried out via surveys and research on how large-sized jar coffins were distributed and used as facilities for burying the dead. This is Phase-2 (2013-2017) of the Project for the Restoration of the Skills for the Production of Large-Sized Jar Coffins, which was carried out between 2008 and 2012.

Virtually no effort has been made for a survey or research on the production and distribution of large-sized jar coffins in areas along the Yeongsangang River. We intend to shed light on the technological, cultural, political, and social significance of such coffins through a real demonstration. This will be carried out via scientific analysis and experiments for the restoration of the structure and system for how the jar coffins were distributed and how they were used as a burial facility for the dead in the said areas.

The project is composed of the following elements: archaeological and historical surveys and research concerning large-sized jar coffins kilns and tombs that used these types of coffins; convergence research for the restoration of the structure and system that was used to distribute them; natural science-based analysis for the restoration of the methods that were employed to bury the dead using such coffins and the relevant rituals; and experimental archaeological research concerning the transport of such coffins and the method that was employed for burying the dead using these types of coffins.

In 2013, we will collect materials related to large-sized jar coffins both from in and outside of Korea, including those used in Vietnam and Cambodia. We will hold symposiums to discuss the desirable directions for the promotion of the research. We also plan to do the following things: come up with a new method of dating artifacts by region and period by standardizing the classification of attributes of large-sized jar coffins found in areas along the Yeongsangang River based on changes in styles; using materials relating to items that have been unearthed from the pottery kiln site in Oryang-dong, Naju; producing a 3D film image of jar coffins inside a kiln; utilizing the results (including 3D scanned materials) of the survey/research of the kiln site in Oryang-dong and the results of the 3D scanning of restored jar coffins and the kiln; conducting a comparative analysis of material-specific characteristics of jar coffins unearthed from Oryang-dong and their restored counterparts; and producing experimental jar coffins to be used to reenact the transportation of large-sized jar coffins and the burial ritual. Finally, we will transmit the results of the survey/research in academic journals both in and outside of Korea.

It is expected that the result of Phase-2 of the project will lay the foundation for the efforts to define the nature of the society that used jar coffin tombs. This will be done by providing information on the status of the use of large-sized jar coffins as facilities for burying the dead and their distribution network. The results of the research will also be widely used by the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) and by local governments as materials for overhauling and restoring relevant tombs. It will also be used for educational and tourism materials for everyday people.

See A Related Image

image A view of a restored pottery kiln site
image A heating experiment scenario where a traditional kiln is being used
image A restored jar coffin
image People carrying a jar coffin
image Floor of Kiln No. 1 in the second survey
image A diagram of a jar coffin being transported on a boat
image A view of a jar coffin in the Bangdu Tomb in Naju
image A close-up view of a jar coffin in the Bangdu Tomb in Naju
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