Friday, October 10, 2014

Amsa Prehistoric Site

Amsa is the site of a Neolithic village that used lattice-design earthenware (4,000~3,000 BCE). The site was discovered in 1925 as a result of a flood, and excavations began in 1967. Various forms of Neolithic house sites, lattice-design earthenware, stone axes, stone arrowheads, stone mortars, and stone pestles were unearthed. Nine pit houses have been recreated within the park precincts and an exhibition hall of primitive life gives explanation and visuals to some of the archeological discoveries.

The Neolithic culture is characterized by a household being established and settled. Use of polished stone tools and pottery, which began a guestimated 12,000 years ago, are other characteristics of the culture. The relics at this location have been excavated from Amsa-dong, Songjung-ni, Jigyeong-ni, Yul-li, Sangsi, and Gyodong. The Neolithic people from this area resided in groups along riverbanks and seashores where they found abundant water and food. In other regions Neoliths lived in caves. Neolithic people sustained themselves with hunting, fishing and the gathering of wild plants. Many relics discovered in the Amsa area suggest a well-organized community. Relics include residential sites, tombs, shell mounds, comb-patterned pottery, and other household accessories, while evidence of a hunting-fishing culture are reflected in the animal bones, shellfish, and various tools made of stone and/or bone including stone spears, arrowheads, fishing spears and net sinkers. Farming tools include stone plowshares, stone sickles, stone mortars, and grinding stones. With the variety of tools a well-established society peeks at us from several millennium ago.

Neolithic sites of the Han River basin
What is known about the Neoliths is they adapted to seasonal changes—hunting and fishing in season, gathering plants and farming in others. It is surmised that they migrated some based on seasons but returned to a home area for wintering and perhaps another for the farming season. While at home, they made pottery and stoneware and repaired their houses damaged by wind and rain. They also performed rituals and held festivals, made music and demonstrated aesthetics in their earthenware texture and design.  

In addition to the fish and meat they hunted for, they gathered fruit such as acorns, walnuts, apricots, as well as edible grasses and roots. Later when grain farming became popular (around 5,000 years ago), millet became an important staple food for the Neoliths, and in later house construction Neoliths even had stone-ovens in their homes. Their homes were either circular or of rounded-square constructions, and their floors were dug down to 50-100 centimeters below the ground while the walls were made of heavy grasses, twigs, branches and other fibrous materials.

Many types of pottery have been found in excavations, but it is the comb-patterned pottery that is representative of the Neolithic period. There are several types of the comb-patterned pottery according to when, where and how each was made—such as appliqued, stamped, incised, and doubled-rimmed. The shapes of the pottery vary, for instance, bowl-shaped, bottle-shaped, funnel-shaped and spout-shaped; however, the most common is the bowl-shaped. Other variations to the comb-patterned pottery include colored, bull’s horn-shaped, pear-shaped, among others. The comb-pattern in Amsa-dong is speculated to have been made for the first time some 6,500 years ago. Most of the discovered comb-pattern discovered in the Amsa-dong vicinity were pointed at the bottom and decorated with engraved lines and dots.

types of patterns (based on region, how it was made, etc) on Neolithic pottery
a comb-patterned piece of pottery
There are over 500 relics in the Amsa Prehistoric Experience Village Museum. Around the museum are various representative houses, statues of Neoliths performing various stone age tasks, and a lot more. Since I went during a festival, a huge stage had been set up with various dancers scheduled to perform throughout the day. I watched a few performances and certainly my favorite was the women drum-dancers with their swirling vibrant hanboks. And since this is Korea and this place was mainly built for children's entertainment (and thus the vast majority of this site is rather cheesy), a little hands-on archery is located in more than one place around the park site. 

Archery is such a national sport and can be traced back to the cultural roots of the nation and further back when the population were tribes of the steppe culture.
Visiting was a nice little outing. Seeing the dancing women performers was great. I wouldn't recommend this place, however, as the whole park was not really designed for academics but for kids' entertainment. That said, learning about and seeing shards of comb-patterned pottery was pretty awesome.

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