Map of The Goryeong Jisandong Daegaya Tumuli
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
So far 704 tombs have been identified at Jisan-dong, dates range from 400 - 562 CE. The Gaya Confederacy was located between Baekje and Silla, and ultimately annexed by the later during the 6th century. Important elements of these tombs are its connection to human sacrifice, the largest evidence yet found in any single tomb site in Korea. In addition, there are artifacts that originate from the Okinawa Islands.
During my visit to the numerous tumuli (tombs literally cover the hillsides), the Daegaya museum, and the Tomb 44 exhibition hall, I learned quite a lot about this ancient culture. Both similar, yet different from Silla and Baekje, I was surprised by the tremendous artifacts being unearthed as recently as 2013.
Being in late June, the heat and humidity while climbing the steep trail to view the tombs was really a workout. The location is spectacular in both its view, but also the recognition of how many tombs there are here. Keep in mind Goryeong is not too far from Haeinsa Temple, Dodong Seowon, and Upo Wetland. So if you are driving, it might prove to be an excellent region of Korea to explore.
There is an interesting history connected to these tombs. Japan between the 1910's to 1940's spent significant resources in conducting archeological digs in Goryeong. Their purpose was to find evidence of a link between the Gaya Confederacy and the Yamato State in Japan. In their view Gaya must have been a military outpost of Yamato, but no evidence was ever discovered. In fact, archeologists today recognize that Gaya actually exported technology to Japan during this period.
I found the Goryeong Daegaya site to be interesting and worth visiting. However, there are 2 Goguryeo Tomb WHS, 1 Baekje Tomb WHS, 1 Silla Tomb WHS, and 1 Joseon Tomb WHS. That means there are already 5 world heritage sites on the Korean Peninsula where the primary (or nearly so) justification for OUV is based on burial designs and rituals. Gaya culture is a little-known but important state during this period, not only for Korea, but also Japan.
What ICOMOS will recommend is anyones guess, but we may know as early as 2019. I lean more toward regional importance instead of outstanding universal value, but I would not be surprised if it was inscribed. An excellent dossier, which seamlessly combines the Gimhae/Haman Gaya sites with Goryeong Daegaya might go a long way to establish OUV.
One unique bonus in visiting this site, upon entering the museum all foreigners receive a free book about the Daegaya State and the tombs found in Goryeong. Its a real book, maybe around 200 pages, and it includes excellent photographs, information about the history, artifacts, archeological digs, and more.
Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.