All that Glitters is Not Gold: Bronze and Stone in the Three Kingdoms Period
Lauren Glover, PhD Candidate, The University of Wisconsin-Madison Fulbright Junior Researcher During the Three Kingdoms period (300-668AD), various regions in South Korea were divided into several kingdoms, each with their own unique decorative style, but also involved in heavy trade with each other, China, and Japan. This time period is extremely important because within it classical aspects of Korean culture were established that influenced later social, political and ideological developments, such as the use of bronze for rituals. Bronze and stone ornaments, especially in the form of jade, were important items to the elites of these kingdoms and were used for both displays of wealth and legitimacy, and for the ideological rituals required to maintain control in both the physical and spiritual world. Elites continued to use bronze and stone even when more economical, practical and prestigious options were available such as gold, iron and glass. This suggests that the materials themselves had significance to Three Kingdoms period people which could not be fully divorced from mundane issues. I am especially interested in tracing the manufacture and use of gokuk 곡옥(curved beads) during this period since they were used specifically by elites in unique displays of wealth, power, and ideology. My research objective is to use a combination of new and traditional analysis to learn the “biography” of an artifact from raw material to final deposition. I utilize an XRF (X-Ray fluorescence) scanner on both bronze and stone to determine a rough composition of the artifact. The compositions are used both in lead isotope analysis and in determining the origin of the stone artifacts. An extremely new method of lead isotope analysis called EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid) solution analysis is also being utilized. All other methods of lead isotope analysis require harming the artifact so using this method has allowed me to analyze artifacts which would otherwise not be examined. The results of the lead isotope analysis will be compared to lead isotope ratios across East Asia to determine where the copper in the bronzes was coming from. I use silicon impression material to take impressions of the holes in the ornaments (usually beads). Those impressions will eventually be scanned with an SEM (scanning electron microscope) to determine what type of drill was used and if there is any wear on the inside of the hole. Until then, I use a digital microscope, a scanner, and my own measurements of the beads to look for patterns in manufacturing methods and style in the hopes of identifying specific groups of people or workshops that were dealing with creating these ornaments. I also hope to use the data from this project to replicate artifacts in the future in order to learn more about the manufacturing process.
Lauren is a PhD candidate in archaeology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has a MA in Archaeology from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, a MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Leeds in Britain, and a MA in Anthropology (Archaeology) from UW-Madison. Lauren studies the trade, exchange and manufacture of bronze and stone ornaments in the Korean peninsula and the Japanese archipelago from 250-668AD. She is also interested in mortuary rituals, ideology and religion, experimental archaeology, gender, and nationalism. Feel free to visit her website: laurenglover.com.