• 폰트크기작게
  • 폰트크기크게
  • TTS
  • 단어장
  • 기사스크립
  • SNS
2017-09-01 17:12
By Choe Chong-dae



 
Jeongok-ri in Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi Province, conjures up wonderful memories of my years as a young student interested in archeology. When my eldest brother lived there from 1960 to 1972, I visited him many times though was initially unaware that Jeongok-ri is Korea's earliest Paleolithic site.

Sitting at the confluence of the Hantan and Imjin rivers at the center of the Korean Peninsula, the Jeongok-ri Prehistoric Site is on a basalt deposit of the river terrace likely formed during the Precambrian era.

Upon the milestone discovery of a stone hand axe and chipped stones by Greg Bowen, then stationed in Dongducheon with the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division, Jeongok-ri became a prime site for the study of Paleolithic relics and early human existence.

The year was 1978, and Bowen, who had studied anthropology at a university in U.S, was strolling along the riverside of the Hantan River in Jeongok-ri.

The first excavation in 1979 led to the site being designated as National Monument No. 265. Since then, through systematic archaeological excavations and geological surveys, tens of thousands of stone artifacts such as chopping tools, scrapers, saw teeth, cutters and axes have been unearthed. Significantly, the stone hand axes discovered at Jeongok prehistoric site were identified as Acheulean Paleolithic stone implements which rebutted the conventional theory that this type of hand axe existed only in Europe approximately 1 million years ago during the Stone Age period.

This created quite a sensation in the world of archeology and was critical evidence in invalidating the widely accepted conception of European superiority in stone tools technology during the Paleolithic era. The discovery shattered the theoretical Movius Line, in which American archeologist Hallam Movius put forth that prehistoric inhabitants of Asia could not have developed stone tools due to lower brain capacity. Stone hand axes, however, represent one of the artifacts requiring extremely sophisticated technology. The artifacts discovered at Jeongok-ri are now believed to have been used as tools in Korea during the Lower Paleolithic Age, which predate those used by Neanderthals.

Our earlier ancestors made hand axes by using another rock to hammer down the sides and then trimming the edges until they became sharp. Although this process may sound a bit crude today, the production of stone tools involved several steps that required selecting the appropriate raw materials and then systematically shaping and sharpening them.

The very symmetric and geometric tools were first made and used by Homo erectus, an ancient human ancestor that achieved a fully orthograde posture, bipedal walking and advanced intelligence. Homo erectus first appeared in Africa and migrated eastward into East Asia via Europe more than one million years ago. Consequently, artifacts discovered at Jeongok-ri are closely related to human evolution and the development of human intelligence.

If it were not for Bowen's insight into Korean archeology, the precious Jeongok-ri Paleolithic Site and its stone axes could have remained hidden from the rest of the world because readjustment of the arable land was scheduled to take place there.

Now the site even boasts a newly built Paleolithic Museum whose building was designed by a noted French architect. There are also outdoor sculptures erected with the intent of preserving natural aesthetics and representing daily life from that era.

The Paleolithic relics have not only helped us better understand the lifestyle of the earliest inhabitants on the Korean Peninsula, but have also shed light on human evolution dating back to prehistoric times. They deserve being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Choe Chong-dae is a guest columnist of The Korea Times. He is president of Dae-kwang International Co. and Director of the Korean-Swedish Association. He can be reached at choecd@naver.com


  • 폰트크기작게
  • 폰트크기크게
  • TTS
  • 단어장
  • 기사스크립
  • SNS