Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Yabba Dabba Do Time

Ever since reading Jean Auel's imaginative depiction of prehistoric man in her novel Clan of the Cave Bears, I've been interested in all evidence of prehistoric life. I was excited, then, when I realized that Gangdong-gu, in the suburbs of Seoul (several subway transfers and then a short bus ride), held key artifacts from Korea's biggest Neolithic settlement.

A total of 29 dwelling pits exist in Amsa-dong, as well as 4 storage pits, all semi-circular in shape, buried 50 to 100 centimeters into the ground. Of course, the 9 thatched huts made of weathered straw are recreations, but the large pits over which they stand guard are quite genuine and have existed there for over 6,000 years. Radio carbon dating indicates these pits were originally dug between 4000 to 3000 BC.

The Neolithic site was first discovered in 1925, after a flood caused many pieces of the ancient pottery to surface, but excavations did not begin until 1967.

The museum's offerings are sparse but several beautiful vases, with bottoms rounded like bullets, are on display, as well as a collection of pottery shards featuring a comb-tooth pattern, various fishing instruments, and some jewelry constructed of bone and shell, in addition to a miniature polymer clay diorama of the prehistoric lifestyle once prevalent in the area.

The best thing about Amsadong, though, is that it is quiet, very nearly deserted.

You can walk through the little pathway among the pines hearing nothing louder than birdsong. You can stroll past the row of huts with no one else in sight. My favorite feature of Amsa-dong is inside the 1 thatched hut that allows for entry. Inside this hut, archelogists have built a small glass case that encapulates 2 clay vessels half-buried in the rubble. They lie there, as they have for the past 6,000 years, undisturbed by the touch of time or man.

Amsa-dong Information
Admission Price: 500 won
Subway Line 8, Amsa station, then Bus 2.

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