1st Edition

Gyeongju The Capital of Golden Silla

By Sarah Milledge Nelson Copyright 2017
    164 Pages
    by Routledge

    164 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Gyeongju, the capital of the Kingdom of Silla, grew from a loose confederation of villages, called Saro, to become the capital of most of the Korean peninsula. Its relationships with Japan, the Eurasian Steppes, and countries along the Silk Road leading to Europe helped to make the city one of the most prosperous and significant in ancient East Asia. In this seminal new volume, Sarah Milledge Nelson draws on over 30 years’ experience to offer the first complete history of this fascinating city.  Gyeongju explores culture, class and rank, industry, international relations, rulers, and socio-cultural issues such as gender, and examines in detail the complex systems of class and rank, Gyeongju’s position as the royal seat of Silla, and the influence and legacy of the ancient city.


    Excavations in Gyeongju have provided evidence not only of the wealth and power of the monarchy, but also of production and agriculture, and the reach of Gyeongju’s trade routes, making this city a fascinating case study for the region. Augmented with extensive maps and images which illustrate the city’s rich history, this volume is crucial reading for anyone interested in the city, the kingdom of Silla, the history and archaeology of Korea, and early urbanism and state formation in East Asia.

    Preface and Acknowledgments

    1. The Ancient City of Gyeongju

    2. Saro/Silla and the Historic Record

    3. Gyeongju Archaeology

    4. Production: Ceramics, Bronze, Iron, and Gold

    5. Silk Roads and Trade Routes

    6. Ranking and Sumptuary Rules

    7. Rulership in Silla

    8. Religions in Gyeongju

    9. Gyeongju and Japan

    10. Gyeongju in East Asian Perspective: A Summary and Critique




    Sarah Milledge Nelson is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Denver, USA. Some of her authored books are The Archaeology of Korea; Shamans, Queens and Figurines; and Spirit Bird Journey, a novel about Korean archaeology, as well as several other books and journal articles. She has been working on Korean archaeology since 1970.

    Gyeongju, the capital of the ancient Korean kingdom of Silla, is known for its majestic gold crowns and earrings excavated from mounded tombs. Recent archaeological findings from Silla sites demonstrate a culture that extends far beyond these gold adornments. Nelson's book highlights the implications of archaeological contexts and gendered perspectives to shed light on the intersection of archaeology and written texts. This book is an excellent addition to the field, challenging genderless perspectives of material culture in the study of early historic Asia.

    - Professor Junko Habu, University of California at Berkeley, USA


    Archaeologist Nelson (Univ. Denver) has written a compact and accessible book that succinctly combines archaeological and historical information on the organization and development of the early Korean kingdom of Silla through a recounting of the rise and fall of its capital city, Gyeongju.

    -C. E. Peterson, University of Hawai'i at Manoa