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North and South Korea Unite in A Joint Archeological Excavation

A Metal Movable Type Block Excavated at Goryeo Palace Manwoldae

On November 14, 2015 at Manwoldae in Kaesong, North Korea, where the official royal palace of the Goryeo Dynasty was located, a metal movable type printing block was discovered during an archeological excavation. It is considered the first metal movable type block invented. It was developed an entire century before the Gutenberg print block. For this reason, the discovery of a metal movable type block is valuable not only for Korean archeologists and historians, but also for academics from around the world.

The excavation at Manwoldae Palace began under the supervision of the North Korean government, but soon morphed into an inter‐Korean cultural project. Many valuable relics of the late Goryeo period have been uncovered at the site, including ceramics, metal items, ancestral tablets, mirrors, and over 3,000 roofing tiles. It is on a list of locations planned by North Korea to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2IN THE PHOTO: RUINS OF THE PALACE OF GORYEO DYNASTY
3IN THE PHOTO: JOINT EXCAVATION PROJECT OF SOUTH – AND NORTH KOREA AT KAESONG MANWOLDAE

From 2007 to 2015, the two Koreas have conducted six rounds of joint excavations of the site; the 2015 round of excavations lasted 6 months, the longest excavation period to date. Manwoldae, where 500 years of Goryeo Dynasty’s history is buried Manwoldae is located within the ruins of Hwangseong, the official royal palace of the Goryeo Dynasty and at the southern foot of the Songak Mountains (489m). The Goryeo Dynasty was founded in 918 by King Taejo Wang Geon and its capital city was Kaesong (in modern North Korea), which is now the Kaesong industrial Zone(KIZ). Construction of the palace began in 919. Taejo Wang Geon built a shrine and named it Manwoldae, which means “looking at the moon.”


Related article: “JUNG-SUNG GIL: KOREA’S HERITAGE


The palace was divided into two major sections: the Kungseong, where the king and royal family resided, and the Hwangseong, where affairs of state were conducted. Large buildings such as the Changhwa, and Wondeok Halls contained shrines and living quarters, while Hoegyeoung Hall, the largest and most impressive building, contained the throne room. The complex also contained a stone astronomy tower known as Cheomseongdae, which was used by royal astrologers.

4IN THE PHOTO: JOINT EXCAVATION PROJECT OF SOUTH – AND NORTH KOREA AT KAESONG MANWOLDAE
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IN THE PHOTO: JOINT EXCAVATION PROJECT OF SOUTH – AND NORTH KOREA AT KAESONG MANWOLDAE
6IN THE PHOTO: RUINS OF THE PALACE OF GORYEO DYNASTY
7IN THE PHOTO: JOINT EXCAVATION PROJECT OF SOUTH – AND NORTH KOREA AT KAESONG MANWOLDAE 

The palace was burned to the ground in 1361 during the reign of King Gongmin when the Red Turbans from what is today China invaded of Goryeo. It wasn’t until Korea wrested its independence from Japan in 1945, did restoration of the site begin. North Korea took responsibility in refurbishing the palace and restored its many stone structures. North Korea has currently designated Manwoldae as National Treasure Article 122 to protect the cultural relics.

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IN THE PHOTO: JOINT EXCAVATION PROJECT OF SOUTH – AND NORTH KOREA AT KAESONG MANWOLDAE 
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IN THE PHOTO: JOINT EXCAVATION PROJECT OF SOUTH – AND NORTH KOREA AT KAESONG MANWOLDAE 
10IN THE PHOTO: CULTURAL RELICS, EXCAVATED AT MANWOLDAE

Discovery of the oldest metal movable type block Manwoldae is part of the ‘Kaesong historic district,’ UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 7th Joint Manwoldae excavation was terminated last year on November 30. South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and the Korean Central History Museum’s excavation team from North Korea performed jointly the research that represents public‐private partnerships between South and North.

11IN THE PHOTO: CULTURAL RELICS, EXCAVATED AT MANWOLDAE
12IN THE PHOTO: CULTURAL RELICS, EXCAVATED AT MANWOLDAE

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IN THE PHOTO: JOINT EXCAVATION PROJECT OF SOUTH – AND NORTH KOREA AT KAESONG MANWOLDAE 

According to Historian Council briefings and experts review, the excavated metal block type has various characteristics that can be considered as Goryeo Dynasty’s metal movable type. Horizontal size 1.36 , vertical 1.3 , 0.6  height and the thickness of the body surface except the letter 0.16 . It looks similar to the form of photographic images’ 전 (嫥 : prior to the day before) ‘, character stroke of right bottom could be also ‘방 (方 : room)’. More researches should be carried out to clarify this.

14IN THE PHOTO: CULTURAL RELICS, EXCAVATED AT MANWOLDAE
15IN THE PHOTO: CULTURAL RELICS, EXCAVATED AT MANWOLDAE

The Council has set the latest time limit of excavated a metal movable type block in 1361, when the previous Manwoldae was burned down, and has future plan to deepen north‐south collaboration. Currently, two metal type blocks are officially confirmed as Goryeo metal movable type. One is in the Korean Central History Museum (方 角 頁 room hemoptysis) in North Korea and the other one is in the National Museum (山 + 復 clothing) in South Korea. The one excavated this time is regarded as being an especially sophisticated and well‐made letter. The excavation of the metal type is important not only as national heritage. It is significant in viewpoint of world history because Goryeo metal movable type is considered to be invented prior to Gutenberg print more than one century.


For a full mindmap behind this article with articles, videos, and documents see #archeology


16IN THE PHOTO: RUINS OF THE PALACE OF GORYEO DYNASTY
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IN THE PHOTO: JOINT EXCAVATION PROJECT OF SOUTH – AND NORTH KOREA AT KAESONG MANWOLDAE 

However, only two metal movable type blocks were excavated and the research was very limited until now. The Joint‐excavation project between South and North Korea will continue in 2016 and this can become a potential opportunity for more research on cultural relics of Goryeo Dynasty and especially the first metal movable type in the world.

19IN THE PHOTO: RUINS OF THE PALACE OF GORYEO DYNASTY
20IN THE PHOTO: RUINS OF THE PALACE OF GORYEO DYNASTY
21IN THE PHOTO: RUINS OF THE PALACE OF GORYEO DYNASTY

Recommended reading:PHOTOGRAPHER ON THE HUNT: DISCOVERING INDIA’S ANCIENT STEPWELLS


Photo Credit: Geulmaru / Historian Council of South‐ and North Korea
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com.

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