Anat Biol Anthropol.  2020 Jun;33(2):69-77. 10.11637/aba.2020.33.2.69.

Animal Sacrifice Rituals in Ancient Korea - with Focus on Silla Tombs of the Three Kingdoms Period

  • 1Department of Archaeology and Art History, Seoul National University


This paper aims to explore the way in which rituals involving animal sacrifice were undertaken at Silla elite tombs by approaching and analyzing animal remains excavated from the high-mounded tombs of the Three Kingdoms Period as the remnants of ritual practices. As with funerary practices, each step of an animal sacrifice ritual is also imbued with different meanings. Based on this premise, it is assumed that the different contexts of animal remains represent different forms of ritual practices; accordingly, ‘the deposition of animals as grave goods’ and ‘animal sacrifice rituals’ were distinguished. ‘Animal deposition as grave goods’ took place within the tomb (in either the main burial chamber or the auxiliary grave goods chamber), an involved the burial of birds, fish, shellfish, mammals, etc. that had been placed in ceramic and other containers. Such remains may represent the use of animals as foodstuffs (both prepared or as ingredients), but this may not necessarily have been the case. ‘Animal sacrifice ritual’, on the other hand, took place after the main burial chamber and the auxiliary grave goods chamber were sealed off, and its remains can be found outside the chambers, above the stones used to seal off the chambers, in and around the mound, and around the tomb. The remains of ‘animal sacrifice rituals’ can be further divided into that which had been placed with containers, which are likely to represent ritual food offerings made during the process of tomb construction or the following funerary ceremony. These remains can be distinguished from those found within the main burial chamber or the auxiliary grave goods chamber, are likely to have been in the form of edible dishes. Animal remains that are likely to represent ritual sacrifice, on the other hand, have been discovered above the stones used to seal off the tomb’s chambers, about the tomb’s protective stones, and in detached deposition pits; the animals retained the form of their living state and the absence of containers in notable. The well-known horse burials or horse deposition pits are an example of this.


Animal sacrifice rituals; Animal sacrifice rituals; Silla; Tombs; Archaeology
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