The Role of Warfare in the Formation of the State in Korea: Historical and Archaeological Approaches
Kang, Bong Won, 1954-
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Kang, Bong Won, 1954-
This dissertation is concerned with the formation of the Silla Kingdom, a protohistoric state located in the southeastern portion of the Korean peninsula. Combining theoretical issues and empirical data concerning state formation, I present a case study of how one prime mover, warfare, played a role in the formation of the Silla Kingdom between the first and fifth centuries A.D. Two hypotheses associated with the significance of warfare were formulated and tested against both historical and archaeological data. To examine alternative models about the role of irrigation works and long-distance exchange in the development of the Silla Kingdom, I analyzed relevant historical documents, stelae, and selected archaeological data. Both documentary and archaeological data suggest that irrigation works and long-distance exchange were not sufficiently influential to claim critical roles in the emergence of the state in southeastern Korea. To test hypotheses formulated about the role of warfare, a number of bronze and iron weapons excavated from burials in southeastern Korea were quantified and analyzed in conjunction with data on wars mentioned in the historical documents. In particular, an analysis of empirical data on various kinds of metal weapons that probably were used in battles strongly supports the premise that warfare was a significant factor in the state formation process of the Silla Kingdom between the first and fifth centuries. Both historical and archaeological sources also reveal that there was a continuous local indigenous development from lower-level sociopolitical stages to higher-level ones in southeastern Korea, finally dominated by the Silla kingdom. Furthermore, based upon the results of mortuary analysis, I conclude that the Silla Kingdom became a state-level society sometime between the middle of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries during the reign of King Naemul (356-402 A.D.).