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Ancient India › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Joshua J. Mark

India is a country in South Asia whose name comes from the Indus River. The name `Bharata' is used as a designation for the country in their constitution referencing the ancient mythological emperor, Bharata, whose story is told, in part, in the Indian epic Mahabharata. According to the writings known as the Puranas (religious/historical texts written down in the 5th century CE) Bharata conquered the whole sub-continent of India and ruled the land in peace and harmony. The land was, therefore, known as Bharatavarsha (`the sub-continent of Bharata'). Homonid activity in the Indian sub-continent stretches back over 250,000 years and it is, therefore, one of the oldest inhabited regions on the planet.
Archaeological excavations have discovered artifacts used by early humans, including stone tools, which suggest an extremely early date for human habitation and technology in the area. While the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt have long been recognized for their celebrated contributions to civilization, India has often been overlooked, especially in the West, though her history and culture is just as rich.


The areas of present-day India, Pakistan, and Nepal have provided archaeologists and scholars with the richest sites of the most ancient pedigree. The species Homo heidelbergensis (a proto human who was an ancestor of modern Homo sapiens ) inhabited the sub-continent of India centuries before humans migrated into the region known as Europe. Evidence of the existence of Homo heidelbergensis was first discovered in Germany in 1907 and, since, further discoveries have established fairly clear migration patterns of this species out of Africa. Recognition of the antiquity of their presence in India has been largely due to the fairly late archaeological interest in the area as, unlike work in Mesopotamia and Egypt, Western excavations in India did not begin in earnest until the 1920's CE. Though the ancient city of Harappa was known to exist as early as 1842 CE, its archaeological significance was ignored and the later excavations corresponded to an interest in locating the probable sites referred to in the great Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana (both of the 5th or 4th centuries BCE) while ignoring the possibility of a much more ancient past for the region. The village of Balathal (near Udaipur in Rajasthan), to cite only one example, illustrates the antiquity of India's history as it dates to 4000 BCE. Balathal was not discovered until 1962 CE and excavations were not begun there until the 1990's CE.
Archaeological excavations in the past fifty years have dramatically changed the understanding of India's past and, by extension, world history. A 4000 year-old skeleton discovered at Balathal in 2009 CE provides the oldest evidence of leprosy in India. Prior to this find, leprosy was considered a much younger disease thought to have been carried from Africa to India at some point and then from India to Europe by the army of Alexander the Great following his death in 323 BCE. It is now understood that significant human activity was underway in India by the Holocene Period (10,000 years ago) and that many historical assumptions based upon earlier work in Egypt and Mesopotamia, need to be reviewed and revised. The beginnings of the Vedic tradition in India, still practiced today, can now be dated, at least in part, to the indigenous people of ancient sites such as Balathal rather than, as often claimed, wholly to the Aryan invasion of c. 1500 BCE.


The Indus Valley Civilization dates to 5000 BCE and grew steadily throughout the lower Ganetic Valley region southwards and northwards to Malwa. The cities of this period were larger than contemporary settlements in other countries, were situated according to cardinal points, and were built of mud bricks, often kiln-fired. Houses were constructed with a large courtyard opening from the front door, a kitchen/work room for the preparation of food, and smaller bedrooms. Family activities seem to have centred on the front of the house, particularly the courtyard and, in this, are similar to what has been inferred from sites in Rome, Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia.

Excavation site at Mohenjo-daro

The most famous sites of this period are the great cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa both located in present-day Pakistan (Mohenjo-Daro in the Sindh province and Harappa in Punjab) which was part of India until the 1947 CE partition of the country which created the separate nation. Harappa has given its name to the Harappan Civilization (another name for the Indus Valley Civilization) which is usually divided into Early, Middle, and Mature periods corresponding roughly to 5000-4000 BCE (Early), 4000-2900 BCE (Middle), and 2900-1900 BCE (Mature). Harappa dates from the Middle period (c. 3000 BCE) while Mohenjo-Daro was built in the Mature period (c. 2600 BCE). Harappa was largely destroyed in the 19th century when British workers carried away much of the city for use as ballast in constructing the railroad and many buildings had already been dismantled by citizens of the local village of Harappa (which gives the site its name) for use in their own projects. It is therefore now difficult to determine the historical significance of Harappa save that it is clear it was once a significant Bronze Age community with a population of as many as 30,000 people. Mohenjo-Daro, on the other hand, is much better preserved as it lay mostly buried until 1922 CE. The name `Mohenjo-Daro' means `mound of the dead' in Sindhi. The original name of the city is unknown although various possibilities have been suggested by finds in the region, among them, the Dravidian name `Kukkutarma', the city of the cock, a possible allusion to the site as a center of ritual cock-fighting or, perhaps, as a breeding centre for cocks.
Mohenjo-Daro was an elaborately constructed city with streets laid out evenly at right angles and a sophisticated drainage system. The Great Bath, a central structure at the site, was heated and seems to have been a focal point for the community.The citizens were skilled in the use of metals such as copper, bronze, lead and tin (as evidenced by art works such as the bronze statue of the Dancing Girl and by individual seals) and cultivated barley, wheat, peas, sesame, and cotton. Trade was an important source of commerce and it is thought that ancient Mesopotamian texts which mention Magan and Meluhha refer to India generally or, perhaps, Mohenjo-Daro specifically. Artifacts from the Indus Valley region have been found at sites in Mesopotamia though their precise point of origin in India is not always clear.
The people of the Harappan Civilization worshipped many gods and engaged in ritual worship. Statues of various deities (such as, Indra, the god of storm and war ) have been found at many sites and, chief among them, terracotta pieces depicting the Shakti (the Mother Goddess) suggesting a popular, common worship of the feminine principle. In about 1500 BCE it is thought another race, known as the Aryans, migrated into India through the Khyber Pass and assimilated into the existing culture, perhaps bringing their gods with them. While it is widely accepted that the Aryans brought the horse to India, there is some debate as to whether they introduced new deities to the region or simply influenced the existing belief structure. The Aryans are thought to have been pantheists (nature worshippers) with a special devotion to the sun and it seems uncertain they would have had anthropomorphic gods.
At about this same time (c. 1700-1500 BCE) the Harappan culture began to decline. Scholars cite climate change as one possible reason. The Indus River is thought to have begun flooding the region more regularly (as evidenced by approximately 30 feet or 9 metres of silt at Mohenjo-Daro) and the great cities were abandoned. Other scholars cite the Aryan migration as more of an invasion of the land which brought about a vast displacement of the populace. Among the most mysterious aspects of Mohenjo-Daro is the vitrification of parts of the site as though it had been exposed to intense heat which melted the brick and stone. This same phenomenon has been observed at sites such as Traprain Law in Scotland and attributed to the results of warfare. Speculation regarding the destruction of the city by some kind of ancient atomic blast (possibly the work of aliens from other planets) is not generally regarded as credible.


The Aryan influence, some scholars claim, gave rise to what is known as the Vedic Period in India (c. 1700- 150 BCE) characterized by a pastoral lifestyle and adherence to the religious texts known as The Vedas. Society became divided into four classes (the Varnas ) popularly known as `the caste system' which were comprised of the Brahmana at the top (priests and scholars), the Kshatriya next (the warriors), the Vaishya (farmers and merchants), and the Shudra (labourers). The lowest caste was the Dalits, the untouchables, who handled meat and waste, though there is some debate over whether this class existed in antiquity. At first, it seems this caste system was merely a reflection of one's occupation but, in time, it became more rigidly interpreted to be determined by one's birth and one was not allowed to change castes nor to marry into a caste other than one's own. This understanding was a reflection of the belief in an eternal order to human life dictated by a supreme deity.
While the religious beliefs which characterized the Vedic Period are considered much older, it was during this time that they became systematized as the religion of Sanatan Dharma (which means `Eternal Order') known today as Hinduism (this name deriving from the Indus (or Sindus) River where worshippers were known to gather, hence, `Sindus', and then `Hindus').The underlying tenet of Sanatan Dharma is that there is an order and a purpose to the universe and human life and, by accepting this order and living in accordance with it, one will experience life as it is meant to be properly lived. While Sanatan Dharma is considered by many a polytheistic religion consisting of many gods, it is actually monotheistic in that it holds there is one god, Brahma (the Self), who, because of his greatness, cannot be fully apprehended save through the many aspects which are revealed as the different gods of the Hindu pantheon. It is Brahma who decrees the eternal order and maintains the universe through it. This belief in an order to the universe reflects the stability of the society in which it grew and flourished as, during the Vedic Period, governments became centralized and social customs integrated fully into daily life across the region. Besides The Vedas, the great religious and literary works of The Upanishads, The Puranas, The Mahabharata, and The Ramayana all come from this period.
In the 6th century BCE, the religious reformers Vardhaman Mahavira (549-477 BCE) and Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BCE) broke away from mainstream Sanatan Dharma to eventually create their own religions of Jainism and Buddhism.These changes in religion were a part of a wider pattern of social and cultural upheaval which resulted in the formation of city states and the rise of powerful kingdoms (such as the Kingdom of Magadha under the ruler Bimbisara). Increased urbanization and wealth attracted the attention of Cyrus, ruler of the Persian Empire, who invaded India in 530 BCE and initiated a campaign of conquest in the region. Ten years later, under the reign of his son, Darius I, northern India was firmly under Persian control (the regions corresponding to Afghanistan and Pakistan today) and the inhabitants of that area subject to Persian laws and customs. One consequence of this, possibly, was an assimilation of Persian and Indian religious beliefs which some scholars point to as an explanation for further religious and cultural reforms.

Map of India, 600 BCE


Persia held dominance in northern India until the conquest of Alexander the Great in 327 BCE. One year later, Alexander had defeated the Achaemenid Empire and firmly conquered the Indian subcontinent. Again, foreign influences were brought to bear on the region giving rise to the Greco- Buddhist culture which impacted all areas of culture in northern India from art to religion to dress. Statues and reliefs from this period depict Buddha, and other figures, as distinctly Hellenic in dress and pose (known as the Gandhara School of Art). Following Alexander's departure from India, the Maurya Empire (322-185 BCE) rose under the reign of Chandragupta Maurya (322-298) until, by the end of the third century BCE, it ruled over almost all of northern India.
Chandragupta ’s son, Bindusara reigned between 298-272 BCE and extended the empire throughout the whole of India. His son was Ashoka the Great (lived 304-232, reigned 269-232 BCE) under whose rule the empire flourished at its height. Eight years into his reign, Ashoka conquered the eastern city-state of Kalinga which resulted in a death toll numbering over 100,000. Shocked at the destruction and death, Ashoka embraced the teachings of the Buddha and embarked on a systematic programme advocating Buddhist thought and principles. He established many monasteries and gave lavishly to Buddhist communities. His ardent support of Buddhist values eventually caused a strain on the government both financially and politically as even his grandson, Sampadi, heir to the throne, opposed his policies. By the end of Ashoka's reign the government treasury was severely depleted through his regular religious donations and, after his death, the empire declined rapidly.
The country splintered into many small kingdoms and empires (such as the Kushan Empire) in what has come to be called the Middle Period. This era saw the increase of trade with Rome (which had begun c. 130 BCE) following Augustus Caesar ’s conquest of Egypt in 30 BCE (Egypt had been India's most constant partner in trade in the past). This was a time of individual and cultural development in the various kingdoms which finally flourished in what is considered the Golden Age of India under the reign of the Gupta Empire (320-550 CE).
The Gupta Empire is thought to have been founded by one Sri Gupta (`Sri' means `Lord') who probably ruled between 240-280 CE. As Sri Gupta is thought to have been of the Vaishya (merchant) class, his rise to power in defiance of the caste system is unprecedented. He laid the foundation for the government which would so stabilize India that virtually every aspect of culture reached its height under the reign of the Guptas. Philosophy, literature, science, mathematics, architecture, astronomy, technology, art, engineering, religion, and astronomy, among other fields, all flourished during this period, resulting in some of the greatest of human achievements. The Puranas of Vyasa were compiled during this period and the famous caves of Ajanta and Ellora, with their elaborate carvings and vaulted rooms, were also begun. Kalidasa the poet and playwright wrote his masterpiece Shakuntala and the Kamasutra was also written, or compiled from earlier works, by Vatsyayana. Varahamihira explored astronomy at the same time as Aryabhatta, the mathematician, made his own discoveries in the field and also recognized the importance of the concept of zero, which he is credited with inventing. As the founder of the Gupta Empire defied orthodox Hindu thought, it is not surprising that the Gupta rulers advocated and propagated Buddhism as the national belief and this is the reason for the plentitude of Buddhist works of art, as opposed to Hindu, at sites such as Ajanta and Ellora.

A Bodhisattva, Gandhara


The empire declined slowly under a succession of weak rulers until it collapsed around 550 CE. The Gupta Empire was then replaced by the rule of Harshavardhan (590-647) who ruled the region for 42 years. A literary man of considerable accomplishments (he authored three plays in addition to other works) Harshavardhan was a patron of the arts and a devout Buddhist who forbade the killing of animals in his kingdom but recognized the necessity to sometimes kill humans in battle.He was a highly skilled military tactician who was only defeated in the field once in his life. Under his reign, the north of India flourished but his kingdom collapsed following his death. The invasion of the Huns had been repeatedly repelled by the Guptas and then by Harshavardhan but, with the fall of his kingdom, India fell into chaos and fragmented into small kingdoms lacking the unity necessary to fight off invading forces.
In 712 CE the Muslim general Muhammed bin Quasim conquered northern India, establishing himself in the region of modern-day Pakistan. The Muslim invasion saw an end to the indigenous empires of India and, from then on, independent city states or communities under the control of a city would be the standard model of government. The Islamic Sultanates rose in the region of modern-day Pakistan and spread north-west. The disparate world views of the religions which now contested each other for acceptance in the region and the diversity of languages spoken, made the unity and cultural advances, such as were seen in the time of the Guptas, difficult to reproduce. Consequently, the region was easily conquered by the Islamic Mughal Empire. India would then remain subject to various foreign influences and powers (among them the Portuguese, the French, and the British) until finally winning its independence in 1947 CE.

Ancient Korean Architecture › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Mark Cartwright

The architecture of ancient Korea is epitomised by the artful combination of wood and stone to create elegant and spacious multi-roomed structures characterised by clay tile roofing, enclosures within protective walls, interior courtyards and gardens, and the whole placed upon a raised platform, typically of packed earth. The immediate topography of buildings was also important as architects endeavoured to harmoniously blend their designs into the natural environment and take advantage of scenic views. The work of Korean architects is also seen in fortification walls and tombs across the peninsula ranging from Bronze Age dolmens to the huge vaulted enclosures of ancient Korean kings.
The architecture of ancient Korea (in this article the period prior to c. 1230 CE) is best described in relation to the three most distinct periods of Korean history within our timeframe: the Three Kingdoms period from the 4th to 7th century CE when the Silla, Goguryeo ( Koguryo ), and Baekje ( Paekche ) dynasties ruled the peninsula; the Unified Silla Kingdom, which ruled from 668 to 935 CE; and the Goryeo (Koryŏ) Dynasty which ruled from 918 to 1392 CE. Before covering these periods, though, Prehistoric Korea does provide some interesting examples of monumental architecture in the form of dolmen tombs.


Bronze Age Korean villages were characterised by small semi-subterranean houses built into hillsides. They were either circular or square in design, dug 1.5 metres into the ground, and had thatched roofs. They typically had several hearths and were sometimes protected by wooden fencing. An example of such a village is Hunam-ri near the Han River which has 14 houses and dates to c. 1200 BCE.
Dolmens (in Korean: ko'indol or chisongmyo ) - simple structures made of monolithic stones - appear most often near villages, and the archaeological finds buried within them imply that they were constructed as tombs for elite members of the community.200,000 are known in Korea (with 90% of them in South Korea). They take three forms: the 'table' form where one large stone rests horizontal on two upright stones, one large flat stone set on top of a mound of smaller stones, and a single large stone laid flat above a small buried tomb lined with stone slabs. The first type most often occurs in isolation while the others are sometimes found set in rows or groups. Outstanding examples of ancient Korean dolmens are the table-type structures on Ganghwa Island which date to c. 1000 BCE in the Korean Bronze Age. Single standing stones (menhirs), unrelated to a burialcontext and perhaps used as marker stones, are also found across Korea.

Table Dolmen, Ganghwa, Korea


Unfortunately, there are few surviving public buildings from ancient Korea and no palaces prior to the 16th century CE.However, archaeology and surviving tombs and their wall -paintings have permitted historians to identify the principal characteristics of palace and temple architecture throughout our period. Three Goguryeo-period Buddhist temples have been excavated at Pyongyang, but there are few remains except indications that one had an octagonal pagoda in the centre.
Some of the more substantial surviving archaeological remains from the Goguryeo towns are walls and fortifications from Tonggou, Fushun, and Pyongyang. Tonggou had 8 km of stone wall around the town while Fushun had 2.3 km of wall, which included four gates. Pyongyang, one-time Goguryeo capital, had very large buildings measuring up to 80 x 30 m and palaces with gardens which had artificial hills and lakes. Buildings were decorated with impressed roof tiles carrying lotus flower and demon mask designs which are found in abundance at the sites. In 552 CE a new town was built nearby on the Taesongsan hill with 7 km of fortification walls which had 20 gates and towers as well as various storehouses and wells incorporated into it.
Better survivors than external buildings are tombs, and the earliest Goguryeo ones took the form of stone cairns using river cobbles. However, by the 4th century CE, square tombs were placed within pyramids made of cut-stone blocks. The largest example is at the former capital Kungnaesong (modern Tonggou) and thought to be that of King Gwanggaeto the Great (r. 391–412 CE). 75 metres long and using blocks measuring 3 x 5 metres, it also has four smaller dolmen-like structures at each corner.
Another important tomb is that of Tong Shou, last ruler of Taebang. Located near Pyongyang, an inscription dates the tomb to 357 CE. Its central chamber has 18 limestone columns and wall-paintings; it is surrounded by four smaller chambers. More typical, though, of Goguryeo-period tombs than these two examples are more modest hemispherical earth mounds built over a square base and with an interior tomb of stone. Other architectural features seen in various Goguryeo tombs include corbelled roofing, octagonal pillars, and pivoted stone doors.
The art and architecture of the Baekje kingdom are generally considered the finest of the three Kingdoms but, unfortunately for posterity, these have also suffered the greatest destruction thanks to warfare with the Silla, Goguryeo, and Chinese Tangdynasties over the centuries.
The Miruk temple at Iksan had two stone pagodas and one in wood. One stone pagoda survives, albeit with only six of its original 7-9 storeys. The only other surviving Baekje pagoda is also of stone and located at the Chongnim temple at Puyo.Finally, elements of Baekje architectural design can be seen in many surviving wooden buildings in Japan as many Baekje craftsmen went there when Wa Japan was an ally.
Perhaps one of the most impressive tombs from the Baekje kingdom in this period is that of King Muryeong-Wang (r. 501–523 CE) which, within its huge earth mound, has a semi-circular vault lined with hundreds of moulded bricks, many decorated with lotus flower and geometric designs. The structure, located near Gongju, dates to 525 CE, as indicated by an inscription plaque within the tomb.
Typical Silla tombs of this period are composed of a wooden chamber set in an earth pit which was then covered with a large pile of stones and a mound of earth. To make the tomb waterproof, layers of clay were applied between the stones. Many tombs contain multiple burials, sometimes as many as ten individuals. The lack of an entrance has meant that many more Silla tombs have survived intact in respect to the other two kingdoms and so provided treasures from golden crowns to jade jewellery. The largest such tomb, actually composed of two mounds and containing a king and queen, is the Hwangnam Taechong tomb. Dating to the 5-7th century CE, the tomb measures 80 x 120 m, and its mounds are 22 and 23 m high.
At Gyeongju (Kyongju), the Silla capital has the unique mid-7th century CE Cheomseongdae observatory. 9 metres tall, it acted like a sundial but also has a south-facing window which captures the sun's rays on the interior floor on each equinox. It is the oldest surviving observatory in East Asia.

Cheomseongdae Observatory, Gyeongju


The capital of Gyeongju became even more splendid in this period and is described in the Samgungnyusa collection of texts as having an astonishing 35 palaces, 55 streets, 1360 districts, and 178,936 houses. The palaces had their own gardens and lakes, but all that survives of the buildings themselves are decorative floor tiles. Notable surviving structures at the capital include two surviving stone pagodas – the Dabotap and Seokgatap – which both date to the 8th century CE, traditionally 751 CE. Stone pagodas are Korea's unique contribution to Buddhist architecture, and this pair were originally part of the magnificent 5th-7th century CE Bulguksa temple (Temple of the Buddha Land) which now stands restored but only a fraction of its original size.
One of the outstanding stone structures from the Unified Silla period is the Buddhist Seokguram Grotto (Sokkuram) temple east of Gyeongju. Constructed between 751 and 774 CE, it contains a circular domed inner chamber within which is a massive seated Buddha. The walls are decorated with 41 figure sculptures set in niches.
From the 7th century CE, Silla tombs became more like the earlier tombs of the Goguryeo and Baekje with a smaller earth mound on top, which was then faced with stone slabs. The slabs are frequently decorated with relief carvings of the twelve animals of the oriental zodiac. Each figure carries a weapon and so offers symbolic protection of the tomb. Two of the finest examples are the tombs of the general Kim Yu-sin (7th century CE) and King Wonseong (8th century CE) at Kwaerung.

Seokgatap Pagoda, Gyeongju


As already noted, there are no surviving temples from the Goryeo dynasty, made as they were largely of wood, which is a poor archaeological survivor. A good idea of the architectural style is seen in the 13th-century CE Hall of Eternal Life (Muryangsujeon) at the Pusok temple in Yongju. It is one of the oldest wooden structures surviving in the whole of Korea. Its roof displays a dual edge and is supported by three-tiered supports. It also has the more complex roof brackets at the top of supporting columns typical of the period. The wooden columns taper and permit ceilingless openwork. Stone pagodas have survived better, and these are eclectic depending on location. Some continue the style of earlier periods while others have an octagonal or pentagonal form (influenced by Song China ) or a more bulbous shape, perhaps imitating the flat round discs seen in Shamanistic art. Stone lanterns are another indicator of Goryeo architectural design. Many take the form of pairs of lions, columns, or octagonal platforms.
The best-preserved tomb from the Goryeo period is beyond our time frame but, nevertheless, deserves mention and, in any case, continues the architectural traditions of the whole period. Located near Kaesong, it is that of king Kongmin (r. 1330-1374 CE) and his Mongolian wife Noguk. The two mounds of the tomb have stone balustrades with statues of tigers and sheep, which represent yin and yang. Within the mound are two stone chambers decorated with wall-paintings and constellations on the ceilings. 11th and 12th century CE tombs are also to be found at Kaesong and are similarly decorated, the animal zodiac occurring in several as it does in Kongmin's tomb.


Having considered this long history of architectural development, we can now summarise some of the basic elements and features common to most traditional buildings in ancient Korea. The first decision to be made by Korean architects was where exactly to build their structures. The topography was considered an important factor which could influence the design of a building so that it blended into its local surroundings ( pungsu ). The best possible place was a site backed by mountains to block the wind and opening onto a wide plain with a river running through it. Both features were thought to provide energy or giwhich would flow into the building. Such a location was described as baesan imsu. Also important was to have a pleasant view, the andae, which meant that not only single buildings but sometimes entire villages faced a particular direction.

Korean Hanok Architecture

Construction began with the timber columns (pine was preferred) of the building but these were very often set not directly on the ground but on large stones gathered locally. The use of these stones represented an immediate harmony between the artificial structure and nature, so much so that the stones were not cut but rather the bottom of the wooden column was carved so as to fit exactly over the rough stone. This process is called deombeongjucho. Columns could be round, square, hexagonal or octagonal, although round columns were generally reserved for more important buildings. As in ancient Greek architecture columns were purposely made thinner at the base, thicker in the middle and taller at the corners of the building to make them appear truly straight from a distance, an art known as baeheullim. An additional strategy was to have all the columns lean slightly inwards, a feature called ansollim.
Once the supporting columns were in place, then the rest of the structure was built using wooden beams carefully selected for their strength and with their natural curvature maintained. The Daeungjeon (Main Hall) building at the Cheonynyongsa temple is an excellent example of this approach. Walls were made with earth packed into moulds and about 40 cm thick, or with mud applied to a bamboo framework. Mud was made stronger by mixing in straw and sometimes made waterproof by adding water which had been boiled with seaweed. Windows were made using wooden slats.
Roofs of Korean buildings are typically high-pitched to allow easy drainage of rainwater, which can be heavy in the monsoon season, and strong enough to resist the weight of snow in winter. They are also high to permit air-flow in the warmer months.Ancient roofs were made of wooden beams and then tiled ( giwa ) over a layer of earth to provide extra insulation. The roofs are concave for aesthetic purposes and the eaves also gently curve upwards ( cheoma ). This curvature permits extra sunlight in winter to enter the building and at the same time provide a little extra shade in summer.
Finally, many public buildings were enclosed within a wall which carried a small tile roof. The entrance was formed by a tiled-roof gate, sometimes taller than the wall ( soseuldaemun ) or level with it ( pyeongdaemun ). The most important temples and palaces often had a triple gate or sammun. Tomb sites usually have a simpler gate ( hongsalmun ) made of two red columns supporting a row of vertical red beams.


A traditional Korean private home ( hanok ), or at least those of the upper classes, employed much the same materials as larger Korean public buildings and had similar roofing, but on a smaller scale. The most important structures were, again, timber supporting columns, which defined room space. Between these columns, the external walls were constructed using brick, stone, or earth. Interior walls or temporary room divisions were made using plain sliding paper doors ( changhoji ) made from mulberry bark. In Korea, only public buildings such as temples, administrative offices, and palaces were permitted to carry colourful wall decoration. External doors and windows were made using interlocking grids of wood ( changsal ), often carved into highly decorative latticework ( kkotsal ). The roof was built using wooden beams and then tiled using clay tiles.Roofs could either be in the form of a gable or have overhanging eaves as in public buildings.

Hanok Interior

A single home often enclosed several inner courtyards and sometimes a garden. There was a separation of living areas for males, females, and servants. Rooms were also divided into functional areas such as hosting guests, sleeping quarters, food preparation, storage, and space for domestic animals. The floors of rooms could be either in wood and slightly elevated (the maru system) to keep the room cool in hot months or used the ondol system of underfloor heating necessary for winter months. This latter type, made of stone with a waxed paper covering, has a system of flues through which hot air flows from the main hearth of the house. It was first employed in the 7th century CE and widely used throughout Korea. Those rooms which were heated in this way had lower paper ceilings while unheated rooms reached the bare roof timbers.
More modest homes for the peasantry were, of course, much simpler affairs than these larger residences having only a few rooms and roofed with thatch ( choga ), most often using rice straw, laid over a layer of earth spread over wooden boards.Indeed, the presence of roof tiles almost certainly became a status symbol and they were only permitted on the residences of individuals of rank in ancient Korean society.
This article was made possible with generous support from the British Korean Society.

The Statuary of Maatkare Hatshepsut › Origins

Ancient Civilizations

Author: Elsie McLaughlin

One of the most fascinating aspects of the female pharaoh Maatkare Hatshepsut ’s reign (1479 - 1458 BCE) is the artwork she left behind. Art served an important purpose in Egyptian society; every statue, mural, and motif had a significant meaning.Pharaohs frequently used art as a way to disseminate information about themselves, a propaganda tool to justify their rule and emphasize their divine nature to the common people (many of whom were illiterate). Hatshepsut was no exception to this rule.
By commissioning statues depicting herself in traditionally male pharaonic poses, Maatkare Hatshepsut was trying to explain her unique situation of a woman occupying a man's job to the public in a simple, accessible way. However, the art from Hatshepsut's reign also suggests that the switch from depicting herself as fully feminine to fully masculine did not occur overnight. Elements of Hatshepsut's femininity remain evident in many of her artistic depictions, and evidence of her true gender is even observable in pieces where the king is portrayed as a man.

Osiride Heads of Hatshepsut


In ancient Egypt ’s long line of powerful queens and female rulers, Maatkare Hatshepsut stands out as the most successful of them all. She reigned for over 20 years, leading her people into an age of peace, stability, and prosperity. Unlike many of her predecessors and successors, there is little evidence of any major conflicts or military operations during Hatshepsut's rule.Instead of waging war, the king set out on a massive infrastructure campaign, building temples and erecting monuments across the land.
The daughter of Pharaoh Thutmose I, Hatshepsut held a number of impressive positions before proclaiming herself Pharaoh: first, she was the God's Wife of Amun, and then, upon her father's death in 1493 BCE, became Queen of Egypt by marrying her half-brother, Thutmose II. She had one child with Thutmose, a daughter named Neferure.
When Thutmose II died in 1479 BCE, Hatshepsut was presented with a dilemma. She had not borne her husband a son, and Thutmose's only male heir, Thutmose III (his son by a secondary wife), was only a toddler. Following the precedent established by a number of great queens before her, Hatshepsut assumed control of Egypt, crowning Thutmose III Pharaoh and serving as Queen Regent until the boy king came of age. Then, in 1473 BCE, Hatshepsut took a shocking next step: she proclaimed herself pharaoh of Egypt and ruled alongside Thutmose as his (senior) co-regent. As a woman occupying a traditionally male role, Pharaoh Hatshepsut needed to find a way to justify her unusual kingship in the eyes of her court and her subjects. In order to do so, Maatkare Hatshepsut turned to art.

Diorite Statue of Hatshepsut


There is a clear progression from female to male form evident in artistic representations of Hatshepsut over the course of her lifetime, with the most fascinating and unusual pieces dating from the early years of her reign. For instance, statuary from the beginning of Hatshepsut's co-regency with Thutmose III very clearly portrays the queen as fully female, donning the long, plain sheath dress of a royal Egyptian woman. However, Hatshepsut wears the pharaonic nemes headdress, typically worn only by male kings. This odd combination is evident in a red granite piece on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: it depicts a seated Hatshepsut in female clothing wearing the nemes crown, and is inscribed with her pharaonic throne name “Maatkare” (“Truth is the Soul of the Sun”), and feminized versions of her kingly titles (“Daughter of Re,” etc). Another seated statue from this period, also at the Met, paints a similar picture. Carved from black diorite, it shows a female Hatshepsut donning the kingly khat headdress of a male pharaoh.
The next phase of Hatshepsut's statuary is where things get even more interesting. One piece depicts a seated Maatkare Hatshepsut with a distinctly female face and torso, wearing the nemes crown and sitting on a throne. However, Hatshepsut has lost the sheath dress and instead sports a short male kilt and a bare chest. Again, this piece is inscribed with her throne name and feminized versions of traditional male titles.

Portrait of Queen Hatshepsut

From this point forward, Hatshepsut commits to depicting herself in a fully male form. There is a collection of statues both large and small, which show Hatshepsut in devotional positions, offering to the gods. Here the pharaoh is again barechested and wearing a kilt, with no evidence of female breasts or facial features. She is wearing the nemes headdress (adorned with the royal uraeus serpent), and also sports the traditional false beard of a male pharaoh. In some cases, the female king is even shown as a sphinx, with the body of the lion and the crowned head of a man.
Similarly, many osiride statues of the king survive, depicting a bearded, mummified Hatshepsut as the god Osiris. Some of these pieces guard the halls of her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari to this day. Interestingly, from the remnants of ancient paint still visible on these statutes, it appears that Hatshepsut continued experimenting with her artistic depictions throughout her reign. Although fully male in form, the pharaoh had her statues painted with a unique, almost orange skin tone, a combination of the deep red ochre typical of an ancient Egyptian man and the lighter yellow complexion of a woman.

Sphinx of Maatkare Hatshepsut


It is highly unlikely that the way Hatshepsut appears in official artistic pieces is how the queen looked and dressed in real life.All Egyptian art is highly idealized, each piece meant to easily convey a message about the person it represents. Maatkare Hatshepsut probably did not walk around her palace barechested and wearing a fake beard: her true gender was no secret, and she never intended it to be so. Just look at the inscriptions found on much of her statuary: “Daughter of Re,” and “Lady of the Two Lands.”
Even in pieces where she is portrayed as fully male, Hatshepsut still found ways to accent her femininity and true nature. She depicted herself as a male pharaoh simply to legitimize and help explain her rule.Si bien ha habido varias mujeres gobernantes antes que ella, y no había leyes conjunto en contra de tener un rey femenina, un faraón de la mujer en el trono de Egipto teniendo la antigüedad más de un heredero varón viables (Thutmosis III) era todavía una, situación casi inexplicable inusual. Al representar a sí misma como un rey tradicional masculino, joven y fuerte, y piadoso, Hatshepsut estaba explicando a sus temas que ella era tan resistente y apto para el trono como cualquiera de sus homólogos masculinos. Aunque muchas de sus estatuas fueron destruidas y desfigurada después de su muerte (muy probablemente por Tutmosis III para reforzar los ideales de la realeza masculina y la sucesión macho-macho), el arte que sobrevive desde el reinado de Hatshepsut dice mucho de su creatividad, no convencional, y la astucia política.


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