Heavenly Horse Tomb (천마총) (5th to 6th centuries)
Cheonmachong tomb dates from the Silla era between the fifth and sixth centuries AD. Until 1973 the tomb remained uncatalogued and unexcavated, lying undisturbed in the densely populated Gyeongju valley. Excavation began on April 6, 1973 as part of a comprehensive archaeological study of the Gyeongju area.
The tomb is 47 meters in diameter and 12.7 meters in height. A coffin was the first artifact to be discovered after months of digging, and treasures were found about 100 days later.
On July 15 artifacts such as golden jewelry, beads, a sword, belts, and shoes were found. The most important find was a gold belt about 125 centimeters long, probably worn by the king. Also found on that day was an unglazed stoneware pot with a dragon head and turtle body, which probably once functioned as a lamp.
Within the area of the coffin the greatest discovery was a sword 98 cm long. long and a chest containing personal effects of the ruler. A painting of a galloping horse in the treasure chest is regarded as the most significant findï¿½giving the tomb the name "heavenly horse."
In style the painting resembles the murals found in Goguryeo tombs of northern Korea. The horse is a favorite motif of Asian nomadic tribes, who used horses on the plains of the northern Korean peninsula.
Today, the tomb has been hollowed out and vaulted with river stones. The coffin has been reinterred where it was found, and visitors can step into the tomb to examine it.
Numerous tombs of later and earlier rulers surround this tomb. Many have not been excavated, owing to the proclivity of Koreans not to disturb their ancient dead.
The approximate location of the tomb is 35.836742' N, 129.213400' E (WGS 84 map datum).
All images copyright 1998 Timothy M. Ciccone & Abraham C. Ahn
Adams, Edward B. Korea's Kyongju: Cultural Spirit of Silla in Korea
Seoul International Tourist Publishing Company, 1983. Seoul
Korean Office of Cultural Properties