12th-century dike discovered in Nakdong River

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : June 21, 2010, 10:58 | Updated : June 21, 2010, 10:58
Ruins of an ancient embankment dating back to the 12th century have been discovered along the Nakdong River in the southeastern region of the Korean Peninsula, where a state-initiated refurbishment project is underway, archaeologists said Monday.

The embankment is presumed to be the oldest such facility to be unearthed in the country and the first from the Goryeo Dynasty (901-1392), possibly revealing landmark clues to Korea's ancient irrigation and river control measures, said scholars from the Foundation of East-Asia Cultural Properties Institute.

"The construction period for the embankment is supposed to be as early as the early 12th century," an archaeologist said.

The remnants were unearthed as part of excavation projects that have been underway prior to the refurbishment of the Nakdong River, one of the four rivers where the government's contentious cleanup and reconstruction projects are underway.

The archaeologists believe the ruins are likely of the "Hwangsan-eon" (Hwangsan embankment), which historic records say formed "a long stretch from right to left of the Hwangsan stopover" on the route linking Seoul and Busan, where foot travelers frequently passed. The Hwangsan dike lost its function in the mid-19th century likely due to frequent floods that plagued rice fields along the Nakdong River.

The archaeologists said the embankment ruins discovered were 5 meters long and 2 meters high. They contained blue celadons that can be traced back to the early 12th century.

"It seems that a cultural stratum was first formed, and then the embankment was built and another cultural stratum was created simultaneously," an archaeologist for the foundation said.

Other cultural remains from the Silla and Goryeo kingdoms have also been unearthed from the Nakdong River region, but it remains to be seen how the discovery will affect the government's push for the four-river project.

The Lee Myung-bak administration launched the 22-trillion-won (US$19 billion) project last November to clean and refurbish the four major rivers -- the Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan -- in a bid to help prevent floods and attract tourists. Critics say it will only devastate the environment and that economic benefits are questionable. The issue will be at the center of debate when the parliament opens this week.//Yonhap

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