Prehistoric subsistence and pottery use in the ancient Korean Peninsula: New evidence from organic geochemical analysis of potsherds

토기 내 잔존유기물을 활용한 한반도 선사·고대의 토기 사용과 식생활에 관한 연구

  • Kwak, Seungki (Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Kyungpook National University) ;
  • Shin, Sookjung (Hangang Institute of Cultural Heritage)
  • Received : 2019.05.29
  • Accepted : 2019.08.19
  • Published : 2019.09.30


This study focuses on the understanding of human subsistence and pottery use during ancient times on the Korean peninsula through lipid analysis of potsherds from several major prehistoric settlement sites. Ancient human subsistence has been one of the long-standing topics in Korean archaeology. However, since the high acidity of sediments does not allow long-term preservation of organic remains, we still lack some critical information related to the prehistoric diet. Pottery contains relatively well-preserved organic remains created during past cooking events. Though pottery is one of the most studied material cultures in Korean archaeology, almost no attention has been given to analyzing the pottery itself. This is a surprising omission and represents a serious gap in our understanding of prehistoric technology and subsistence. The analysis of ancient lipids extracted from the pottery matrix using GC-MS and isotope analysis can contribute to our understanding of the true nature of past subsistence strategies. Potsherd samples for the analyses in this study were collected from six prehistoric and early historic settlement sites located in the central part of the Korean peninsula. The results showed that subsistence strategies differed by both location and time period. For example, at Jungdo, an inland open-air Bronze Age settlement site in Chuncheon City, we were able to see the presence of terrestrial mammals. At Gahak-dong, Gwangmyeong City, marine resources were utilized, as the location of the site is not far from the coastline. At the early historic site of Guwol-dong, Incheon City, we were able to detect dairy products. The results of this study suggest that there was utilization of a wider range of resources among ancient dwellers in the central part of the Korean peninsula.


  1. 곽승기, 2017, 특정화합물 안정동위원소분석법을 이용한 청동기시대 중서부지방 생업 양상 연구 한국상고사학보 95, pp.55-78
  2. 곽승기.김경택, 2018, 선사 토기와 토양시료 분석을 통한 한반도 신석기.청동기시대 생계경제 연구 -미량 유기 탄소안정동위원소 분석을 중심으로- 호서고고학보 40, pp.4-27
  3. 김헌석, 2010, 대포패총 출토 인골의 연대와 식성에 관해서 한국신석기연구 20, pp.89-111
  4. 신지영.강다영.김상현.정의도, 2013, 부산 가덕도 장항 유적 출토 인골의 안정동위원소 분석을 통해 본 신석기시대의 식생활 양상 분석과학 26, pp.387-394
  5. 유은영, 2006, 용유도 남북동유적 야외노지에 대한 잔존지방 분석, 공주대학교 석사학위논문
  6. 유혜선.안승모, 2001, 진안 갈머리 유적 집석유구 토양에 대한 잔존지방산 분석 한국신석기연구 3, pp.41-52
  7. 유혜선.정영주, 2000, 법천리 4호분 출토 생선뼈에 대한 잔존지방산 분석 (I) 법천리 (I), 국립중앙박물관, pp.325-343
  8. 이상수.안병찬.유혜선.1998, 부여 능산리사지 출토 등잔의 기름 분석 고고학지 9, pp.159-180
  9. 이준정, 2011, 작물 섭취량 변화를 통해 본 농업의 전개 과정 -한반도 유적 출토 인골에 대한 안정동위원소 분석 결과를 중심으로- 한국상고사학보 73, pp.31-66
  10. 한강문화재연구원, 2012a, 인천 중산동 유적
  11. 한강문화재연구원, 2012b, 인천 운북동 유적
  12. 한강문화재연구원, 2017, 춘천 우두동 유적
  13. Barton, L., Newsome, S. D., Chen, F-H. et al., 2009, Agricultural origins and the isotopic identity of domestication in northern China, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, pp.5523-5528
  14. Bentley, R. A., Tayles, N., Higham, C. et al., 2007, Shifting Gender Relations at Khok Phanom Di, Thailand: isotopic evidence from the skeletons, Current Anthropology 48, pp.301-314
  15. Choy, K. C. and Richards, M. P., 2010, Isotopic evidence for diet in the Middle Chulmun period: A case study from the Tongsamdong shell midden, Korea, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 2(1), pp.1-10
  16. Choy, K. C., An, D. M. and Richards, M. P., 2012, Stable isotopic analysis of human and faunal remains from the Incipient Chulmun (Neolithic) shell midden site of Ando Island, Korea, Journal of Archaeological Science 39(7), pp.2091-2097
  17. Copley, M. S., Bland, H. A., Rose, P. et al., 2005, Gas chromatographic, mass spectrometric and stable carbon isotope investigations of organic residues of plant oils and animal fats employed as illuminants in archaeological lamps from Egypt, Analyst 130, pp.860-871
  18. Correa-Ascencio, M. and Evershed, R. P., 2014, High throughput screening of organic residues in archaeological potsherds using direct acidified methanol extraction, Analytical Methods 6, pp.1330-1340
  19. Craig, O., Mulville, J., Parker-Pearson, M. et al., 2000, Detecting milk proteins in ancient pots, Nature 408, p.312
  20. Craig, O., Steele, V., Fischer, A. et al., 2011, Ancient lipids reveal continuity in culinary practices across the transition to agriculture in Northern Europe, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108, pp.17910-17915
  21. Eerkens, J. W., 2005, GC-MS analysis and fatty acid ratios of archaeological potsherds from the western great basin of north America, Archaeometry 47, pp.83-102
  22. Enser, M., 1991, Animal Carcass Fats and Fish Oils. In: Rossel, J. B., Pritchard, J. L. R. (eds) Analysis of Oilseeds, Fats and Fatty Foods. Elsevier, London, pp.329-394
  23. Evershed, R. P., 2008a, Organic residue analysis in archaeology: The archaeological biomarker revolution, Archaeometry 50, pp.895-924
  24. Evershed, R. P., 2008b, Experimental approaches to the interpretation of absorbed organic residues in archaeological ceramics, World Archaeology 40, pp.26-47
  25. Evershed, R. P., Dudd, S. N., Copley M. S. et al., 2002, Chemistry of Archaeological Animal Fats, Acc Chem Res 35, pp.660-668
  26. Heron, C. and Evershed R. P., 1993, The Analysis of organic residues and the study of pottery use, Archaeological Method and Theory 5, pp.247-284
  27. Kwak, S. K., 2017, The hunting farmers: Understanding ancient human subsistence in the central part of the Korean peninsula during the Late Holocene, Archaeopress: Oxford
  28. Kwak, S. K. and Lee, G-A. under review., Neolithic foodways from the coast during the Middle-Late Holocene: archaeobotanical and stable isotopic indications from Southeastern Korea, Vegetation History and Archaeobotany
  29. Kwak, S. K., and Marwick, B., 2015, What did they cook? A preliminary investigation into culinary practices and pottery use in the central part of the Korean Peninsula during the mid to late Holocene, Journal of Indo-Pacific archaeology 37, pp.25-32
  30. Kwak, S. K., Lee, G-A. and Kim, G. T., 2017, Beyond rice farming: evidence from central Korea revealed wide resource utilization in the Songgukri culture in the Late Holocene, Holocene 27, pp.1092-1102
  31. Lucquin, A., Gibbs, K., Uchiyama, J. et al. 2016, Ancient lipids document continuity in the use of early hunter-gatherer pottery through 9,000 years of Japanese prehistory, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113, pp.3991-3996
  32. Mottram, H. R., Dudd, S. N., Lawrence, G. J., Stott, A. W. and Evershed, R. P., 1999, New chromatographic, mass spectrometric and stable isotope approaches to the classification of degraded animal fats preserved in archaeological pottery, Journal of Chromatography A 833, pp.209-221
  33. Reber, E. A. and Evershed, R. P., 2004, How did Mississippians prepare maize? The application of compound-specific carbon isotope analysis to absorbed pottery residues from several Mississippi Valley sites, Archaeometry 46, pp.19-33
  34. Salque, M., Bogucki, P. I., Pyzel, J., Sobkowiak-Tabaka, I., Grygiel, R., Szmyt, M., and Evershed, R. P., 2013, Earliest evidence for cheese making in the sixth millennium BC in northern Europe, Nature 493, pp.522-525
  35. Steele, V. J., Stern, B. and Stott, A. W., 2010, Olive oil or lard?: Distinguishing plant oils from animal fats in the archeological record of the eastern Mediterranean using gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry, Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 24, pp.3478-3484