A team of archaeologists from the Naju National
Research Institute of Cultural Heritage in South Korea’s South Jeolla
Province has uncovered a remarkable pair of shoes
in a tomb. The gilt-bronze shoes date to the fifth century A.D. and are
the best preserved of only 17 similar pairs found in the country. They
are also the most elaborately decorated, with images of lotus
flowers and goblin-like creatures covering the surface, and a dragon
leaping from each toe. Because they are oversized and not very sturdy,
archaeologists believe the shoes
weren’t for daily wear, but rather for a burial ritual, perhaps
reflecting the hope that the dead’s spirit would rise to a better place.
In addition to the shoes, the team also uncovered gold
jewelry, jade, weapons, a harness, and pottery, suggesting that the
tomb’s occupant was likely one of the rulers of Mahan, a confederacy of
statelets that existed beginning in the first century B.C. at the
southern end of the peninsula, alongside the more famous Three Kingdoms of Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje. The shoes, which are Baekje-style, were likely a gift to the Mahan ruler.