A Critical Examination of Models Regarding a Han 韓 – Ye 濊 Ethnic Division in Proto-Historic Central Korea, and Further Implications

Date
2019-04-09
Authors
Blackmore, Hari
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Abstract
This critical review re-considers the logic behind accounts of ethnic groups represented in the proto-historic records of Korea, specifically in terms of the 'Han' 韓 and 'Ye(maek)' 濊貊 in the Central Region of South Korea, dated about 100 b.c.e.–c.e. 300. In the prevailing Chungdo (RR: Jungdo) type Culture model, the 'Han' 韓 people were part of the Mahan confederation of polities in the west, while the 'Ye(maek)' 濊貊 people lived in the north and east. Details vary in the criteria used to define these two 'peoples', for example in classifying Stone Mound Tombs as 'Ye', hypocaust systems as 'Han', or pots with externally angled rims as 'Han'. The present review reveals that Stone Mound Tombs did not appear until perhaps c.e. 250–300, near the end of the period thought to be associated with the 'Ye'. Additionally, some form of boundary appears to have existed between the Han River Basin and the southwestern part of Korea, although such would be unclear in conventional models of Han and Ye territories. Potential implications can now be discussed more productively regarding the formation of the Paekche state and interactions between the Korean peninsula and maritime Siberia, previously overlooked due to a focus on the Yellow Sea and Lelang commandery. This review recommends that future work would be more fruitful and reflective of past lived reality if based upon material use contexts and the identification of common social institutions.
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Korean Iron Age, Mahan 馬韓, Ye 濊–Malgal 靺鞨, proto-history, ethnicity, archaeological practice
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