Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Gold Crown from Seobongchong Tomb

The National Museum of Korea presents the special exhibition "New Scientific Revelations about the Gold Crown from Seobongchong Tomb", which sheds light on one of Korea's most sublime artifacts: the gold crown. To date, South Korea has excavated only five gold crowns (three of them are currently on display in this museum) and each is considered a treasure.

Unlike the heavy gold crowns of Europe, the Korean version of gold crown is delicate and has thin branches encrusted not with emeralds, diamonds and rubies but with dangling jade teardrops, or gogok. The branches are rather soft and testing is being done to discover the metals used as the crowns have a tendency for the branches to weep or sag under their weight.

Seobongchong Tomb in Gyeongju, constructed by the people of Silla, was initially investigated in 1926. The excavation uncovered a gold crown with a very unique feature - a phoenix decoration on the top. Throughout history, the phoenix has been a favored symbol of royalty, and even now, the phoenix continues to symbolize the highest power and authority. Indeed, the people of Silla believed that the emergence of a phoenix would mark the arrival of peace and stability for the entire world.

This gold crown recently underwent rigorous scientific analysis to enhance the understanding of the production and original state of the crown. In the research it was discovered that the crown had been altered over the years and the museum and other scientists are petitioning for the crown to be returned to its original form, as it was when it was discovered in 1926. At that time, small tear-shaped pendants dangled from the headband of the crown, but in subsequent years these dangling pieces of jade have been removed and the crown displayed in its "entirety" without them. The National Museum officials, curators and others in Korea are actively pursuing the crown to be restored to its original glory. Treasure No. 339.
The bottom picture for 2015 shows how the crown could be restored with jade pendants properly reattached.

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