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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

Abstract

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.

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