BKS Virtual Event held on 18th February 2021

Written by: Ian Simm  |  Posted on: February 23rd, 2021

Presentation by Hari Blackmore

A whistle-stop archaeology and history of Korea:  

from the Palaeolithic to the Three Kingdoms Period 


On Thursday 18 February, BKS held its first on-line meeting. Hari Blackmore gave us an excellent overview of Korean pre-history which was followed by a lively Q&A session. Hari went well beyond his own specialism in Mahan and Baekje states in the early par to the 1st millennium CE, beginning in about 700,000 BCE with the arrival of homo erectus and other hominins in the Korean peninsula and leading up to the unification of Korea under Silla in 668 CE.


I have been personally fascinated by Korean pre-history since I first visited Ganghwa-do and saw the well-known dolmen there.   As it happened, a few months earlier I’d been inspecting a remarkably similar structure in Pembrokeshire, which led me to some wild speculation about links across the globe about 3000 years ago.   Hari was unable, not surprisingly, to confirm any links between bronze age Korea and Celtic Europe, though he did speak about the possible similarities in social structure between early Korea and early Ireland.


Of course, if you set out to cover a period of over 700,000 years in a 25-minute talk then details can only be sparse.   Naturally, too, there are more details about later periods, though I wasn’t aware that the nature of the soils in Korea makes analysis of such organic remains as can be found very difficult.   It is to be hoped that Hari can be persuaded to give another presentation where he goes into more detail about a shorter period of time.   This first meeting provoked interest in a number of topics, notably about how innovations such as wet rice farming arrived in the Korean peninsula – were they brought by migrants from the north or developed locally?   And did the Korean language arrive with rice cultivation?  We would have liked to learn more about the ways in which the legends and myths about the Buyeo civilisation, which extended into Manchuria and flourished in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, were appropriated by later peoples to bolster their legitimacy.   We heard about how archaeology and the written records (mostly from later Korean sources) are inconsistent in helping to date some developments.  Later, the ways in which the traditional Three Kingdoms of Baekje, Goguryeo and Silla existed alongside the Gaya and Mahan cultures in the south of the peninsula also merit further detail in a future meeting.


But all this is cavilling.  We can say that BKS’ first foray into on-line meetings was a success – 45 people joined the session, which was rather fewer than had expressed interest but still a good turnout.   Given that COVID restrictions are likely to be with us for some time, we can be confident that this will not be the last BKS event conducted via Zoom, and indeed we can look forward to a similar format for the AGM on 25 March.







Leave a Comment