Ancient History of Korea: Pre-Dynastic Period

Paleaolithic: c. 700,000 BCE - 8,000 BCE

Some 700,000 years ago, hominids took their first steps on the fertile land of Korea. They were hunters, gatherers, and fishers, as proven by the ancient stone tools found across the peninsula. They lived in caves heated by fire, where they cooked their food and made their lives for hundreds of thousands of years until c. 8,000 BCE. This period in Korea’s history is referred to as the Palaeolithic period.

The years in between 700,000 BCE and 8,000 BCE are split into three eras, named the Lower, Middle, and Upper Palaeolithic ages. Each period is defined by the introduction of more advanced lithic tools. For example, the Upper Palaeolithic period saw the usage of more advanced techniques that allowed for the creation of tools such as the blade. The break up of the three ages is seen below:

Lower Palaeolithic: c. 700,000 BCE - 100,000 BCE

Middle Palaeolithic: c. 100,000 BCE - 40,000 BCE

Upper Palaeolithic: c. 40,000 BCE - 8,000 BCE

Neolithic: c. 8,000 BCE - 300 BCE

The Neolithic period of Korea begins around 10,000 BCE. During this time, Palaeo-asiatics coming from Siberia migrated to the Korean peninsula, settling in fertile areas around rivers and coasts. Stone caves were still widely used for habitation, but pit dwellings from this era have also been found, with 4-6m² of round or square floor plans, along with primitive storage facilities.

The Neolithic period is split up into eras based on their pottery styles and techniques:

Jeulmun Pottery Period: c. 8,000 BCE - 1,500 BCE

Mumun Pottery Period: c. 1,500 BCE - 300 BCE

The oldest pottery on the Korean peninsula by archaeologists dates back to c. 8,000 BCE, and is found across the peninsula. After around 7,000 BCE, comb patterns across the vessels define the most typical Jeulmun pottery. It was during the Jeulmun pottery period that the cultivation of rice and millet was introduced to Korea. It is also believed that Korea’s bronze culture was born toward the end of this period.

The usage of bronze as a weapon made banding together in groups necessary, and the Mumun pottery period marks the beginning of complex societies in Korea. Remains of villages from this time have been found, as well as the development of iron technology.

The end of the Mumun Pottery period marks the beginning of the Proto-Three Kingdoms period or Several States period. Many small states emerged at this time as a result of the fall of Korea’s first dynasty, the Gojoseon dynasty, which, according to legend, was founded during the Jeulmun Pottery period in 2,333 BCE.



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