Prehistoric Site in Yeoncheon

2013-04-29

Relics from the late Paleolithic age were discovered en masse in the Yeoncheon area in Gyeonggi Province, known for its prehistoric remains. The Institute of Korean Prehistory reported on April 24th that a month-long excavation in Yeoncheon County yielded some 500 pieces of stoneware.

Discovery of Paleolithic Relics

The latest discovery of relics from the Paleolithic period was made along a 520-meter segment marked for road expansion and pavement in Tonghyeon-ri of Yeoncheon County. The relics found consisted of flakes and micro-blades made of obsidian and small tuff tools, as well as scrapers of various shapes and sizes. Judging from the symmetrical two-sided blade at the end, the scrapers appear to have been used to separate animal hide from the underlying fat layer, or to peel off tree bark. Yeoncheon County officials said the relics were unearthed from a geological strata composed of three layers, which would provide enough information to interpret the Paleolithic culture in a diachronic manner.

Relics from Yeoncheon County

Yeoncheon County has been the treasure trove of historical relics from the Paleolithic era and the Goguryeo Kingdom. The Paleolithic remains in particular have been quite instrumental in studying the culture of the Stone Age. The most well-known Paleolithic discovery in the area was made in Jeongok-ri in 1978, which put Yeoncheon on the map as the center of Korea’s Paleolithic research. The county even hosted a meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Center in 2012 in which 22 experts from 16 countries and 30 local archaeologists gathered to examine the relics from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods and to compile a list of remains found in the area. In most cases UNESCO designates structures and natural monuments as World Heritages, but this time UNESCO has reviewed the Yeoncheon archaeological site for its value in the process of human evolution. Therefore, there is a chance that the Paleolithic site of Yeoncheon may be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Gyeonggi Province sponsors the Yeoncheon Jeongok-ri Paleolithic Festival, celebrating its 21st opening this year. More than 950,000 visitors enjoyed last year’s festival, which featured archaeological remains from Spain, India, and China. The International Prehistoric Heritage Education Expo, a rather recent addition to the Yeoncheon Jeongok-ri Paleolithic Festival, is attended by thirteen foreign museums, including the ones from Austria, Spain, and Japan, and eight local museums, making the festival a worldwide event.

Relics from Jeongok-ri

The most renowned relic discovery site in Yeoncheon County is in Jeongok-ri, surrounded by the Hantan River and located at 40 to 50 meters above sea level. The site is designated Historic Site No.268. Since its initial discovery in 1978, six excavation projects were carried out between 1979 and 1983, and one each in 1986 and 1991. The relics were unearthed over a very large area, about one square kilometer, and it is believed that the excavations have revealed only a fraction of what still remains buried underground. Areas surrounding Jeongok-ri – Namgye-ri, Shindap-ri, Gungpyeong-ri, and Yangwon-ri – have also yielded Paleolithic remains. Stoneware is mostly discovered in the sedimentary layer above the basal bed. The uppermost layer of the Jeongok basal strata is estimated to have formed about 280 thousand years ago, burying relics from the early to mid-Paleolithic period, and sometimes even from later in the era. Some archaeologists even claim that the items discovered here predate those used by the Neanderthals. Small stone instruments found there include scrapers, sawteeth, and grooving tools, and the hand axes and cutters are supposedly very significant in the archaeological sense. The Acheulean hand axe unearthed in Jeongok-ri busted the conventional theory that that type of hand axe existed only in Europe. Choppers of various sizes and other stone tools have also been discovered frequently in Jeongok-ri.

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