The Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites are the location of hundreds of stone dolmen which were used as grave markers and for ritual purposes during the first millennium BCE when the Megalithic Culture was prominent on the Korean Peninsula. The sites were designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. Korea is said to contain more than 40% of the worlds dolmen, which are mostly concentrated in these three sites. The megalithic stones are invaluable because they mark the graves of the ruling elite. Pottery, comma-shaped jewels, bronzes, and other funerary artifacts have been excavated from these dolmen.
The culture of the people during this time can be gleaned from the evidence left by the dolmen. Additionally, the stones show how stone was quarried, transported, and used to build dolmen. Dolmen in Korea have been dated to the seventh century BCE in locations such as Gochang and the practice ended around the third century BCE. The dolmen culture is linked with the Neolithic and bronze cultures of Korea. Excavation at the sites did not begin until 1965. Since, then multiple digs have been sponsored and an extensive program of inventory and preservation has been initiated by the Korean government.
Dolmen are generally classified in two types in East Asia. The table/northern-type and the go-board/southern-type. In the former, four stones were positioned to make the walls of a box and were capped by a stone which lay on top of the supports. The latter is characterized by underground burial with stones that supported the capstone.
Gochang Dolmen Site
This group of dolmen are the largest and most varied. They are known as the Jungnim-ri dolmens and are centered in Maesan village, Gochang County, North Jeolla province. The dolmen were built from east to west at the foot of a series of hills at an altitude of 15 to 50 meters/49 feet to 164 feet. Generally, the capstones of the dolmens are around 1 to 5.8 meters/3.2 to 19 feet in length and may weigh up to 225 tons. 442 dolmen have been documented and classified based on the size of the capstone.
Hwasun Dolmen Sites
Found in Hwasun County, South Jeolla, these dolmen are also located on the slopes of hills and follow the Jiseokgang river. The Hyosan-ri group contains 158 dolmen and the Dasin-ri group, 129. These dolmen are less well preserved than the Jungnim-ri group. The quarry where some of the stones of this group were carved out has been located. This group is dated to around the sixth or fifth century BCE.
Ganghwa Dolmen Sites
These dolmen are located on Ganghwa Island, Ganghwa County, Incheon. They are located on the slopes of mountains and are thus higher in elevation than their counterparts. These dolmen are believed to be earliest ones made because the dolmen groups in Bugeun-ri and Gocheon-ri resemble the early dolmen. However, this has not been conclusively proved.