Korea has an amazingly rich history. When one starts looking into the nation’s past, focus usually rests on either the Joseon or the Goryo Dynasties. No doubt that doing this will uncover an impressive amount of historical information, especially if one wants to travel the nation sight-seeing. However, if one really wants to look into the past of the people currently residing on the peninsula, the dial on the way-back machine will need to be turned back some 6400 years.
Located in Amsa-Dong, the Prehistoric Settlement Site (선사주거지) was unearthed in 1925 when a massive flood washed over the banks of the Han River. To date, this Neolithic era settlement has been the largest discovered in Korea. The Amsa-Dong Prehistoric Settlement Site depicts the average life of these primitive humans as well as many relics recovered from archeological excavations. The number and quality of these finds is so great, that the site and its artifacts were designated National Historic Relic #267 in 1979. Humans that called this area home not only lived here during the Neolithic period, but also the during the Bronze Age and Baekje.
The first to excavate the settlement site were two Japanese scholars. Yokoyama and Fujita began the project during Korea’s occupation period in 1925 to learn more about the recently uncovered earthenware and stone items found after the flood. While this early work formed some of the founding knowledge about the people who first settled in what we call modern-day Seoul, it wasn’t until a team from Kyung Hee University revisited the site in 1957 that interested was renewed. While numerous individuals uncovered scores of artifacts during these two digs, the first official excavation of the site lead by the Korean government wasn’t performed until 1968. The National Museum of Korea built upon that excavation when they conducted their own digs between 1971 and 1975.
In total, these archaeological digs uncovered some 30 houses, annexes, and stone mounds. Dwellings were dug into the soil and had thatched roofs for protection. When building these homes, they were arranged so the entrances faced south. A central fire pit was also placed in each home to provide warmth during Korea’s chilly winters and provide an area for cooking. This building design is common for the time period. In addition to the homes uncovered here, shards of earthen pottery were examined. Researchers found the inhabitants utilized the top soil for the base mixture. Primitive tools, such as arrows and axes were found throughout the settlement site, leading researchers to believe that those that called Seoul home so long ago were active hunters.
The large experience hall gives visitors an opportunity to look closely at the uncovered dig sites. While these are only recreations, the attention to detail is superb. The Hall also has many of the artifacts and relics found during the digs on display. The education hall provides numerous programs for youths, including a traditional fire-starting experience, fishing experience, and pottery making program. Most information is presented only in Korean, so non-fluent speakers are encouraged to bring a friend that can translate many of the plaques on display.
Address: 233 Seonsa-ro, Gangdong-gu, Seoul (139-2 Amsa-dong)
Hours: 9:30am – 6pm
Admission Fees: W500 (adults), W300 (students), Under 7- Free