Gold Silla Necklace

Gyeongju, the capital of the kingdoms of Old Silla (57 B.C.–668 A.D.) and Unified Silla (668–935), is dotted with impressive mounds of royal tombs. Their occupants range from kings, queens, and princes to relatives and nobility blessed into the inner circles of power. From the time of their construction, these tombs have stood as symbols of political authority and cultural grandeur. Beyond objects of splendor, gold ornaments from Silla tombs also served as status symbols. Whereas gold earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings were appropriate accessories for both royalty and nobility, gold crowns and belts were reserved for the royal family. Furthermore, the objects' quality and design reflected the social and political rank of the deceased, so that a king's cache is indisputably more dazzling and complex than those of a royal kin or an aristocratic leader. To some degree, burial objects were also gender-coded. Decorative swords, for example, have been found only in the tombs of males. In general, however, many jewels, including elaborate earrings and necklaces, were made for members of both sexes.



The Silla practice of building large mound-tombs and interring scores of gold ornaments gradually declined following the official adoption of Buddhism as the state religion in 528. Instead, cremation became the standard postmortem practice. Accordingly, urns replaced jewelry as the main burial accoutrement. By the end of the sixth century, opulent ritual accessories made of gold and other precious metals were destined for Buddhist temples rather than royal tombs.

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