Gyerim-ro dagger and sheath

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Gyerim-ro Dagger and Sheath (36cm, 14.1/8'')

The Gyerim-ro Dagger and Sheath are ornately decorated treasures that were excavated in from an ancient Korean tomb from the Silla Kingdom (57 BCE-935 CE). The Dagger and Sheath are understood to originate from the Black Sea area and testify to the expansive network of the Silk Road in the ancient world. The Gyerim-ro Dagger and Sheath were excavated from the Gyerim-ro Tomb No. 14 in 1973. They are made from gold with colorful glass and garnet jewel inlays for elaborate decoration. The treasure is 14 1/8 in. (36 cm) in length and belongs to the Gyeongju National Museum of Korea. It has been listed as Korea’s Treasure No. 635.  By comparing the dagger and sheath to other items of similar construct or depiction (through wall paintings and fragments), the dagger is understood to have originated from the Black Sea area of Central Asia sometime during the 5th century but came to Korea through trade or as a diplomatic gift. [1] The dagger has a decorative and functional head at the end of the handle and the sheath has two side appendages that bump out. These were used to attach the dagger to the carrier’s belt, from which it hung horizontally. [2]

A deeper understanding of this double-appendage suspension system supports the theory that the Hephthalite invasion of Central Asia brought with it an introduction of the two-point hanging system to (as seen in the Gyerim-ro dagger and sheath), which has since become recognizable as the Eastern Eurasian dagger and sword suspension systems. The two-point suspension system was carried on from Central Asia to China. [3] The two-point suspension system's arrival in China is likely a result of the Silk Road, where information, technology, and religion was fluidly shared between cultures. Vast scholarship on the Silk Road informs that trade between Central Asia and East Asia was affluent and thriving during the 5th century, and thus the occurrence of a Black Sea area item in a Korean tomb should not come as a surprise.

Choe Kwangshik, scholar and professor in the Department of Korean History, Korea University, argues that Northern and Western influences are found in Silla art, specifically those from the Scythian nomadic peoples which provided a direct link between Silla and coastal area of the Black Sea. [4] Other examples of Scythian influence on the Silla Kingdom include the Bronze Horse-shaped Buckle and Silla Gold Crowns that contain animal motifs characteristic of the Scythian art. Korea's connection to the Scythian peoples not only speaks to Korea's involvement with the Silk Road, but also provides an explanation for the value of a dagger and sheath to be placed in a tomb.[4] The Gyerim-ro Dagger and Sheath were likely symbols of social class and the achievements of the person who wore them. Similar to the Sutton Hoo burial site, the purpose of laying someone to rest with their treasured weapon was to signify worth and aspirations for life after death.


  1. ^ "Imported Luxuries and Exotic Imagery".
  2. ^ "A Dagger and Gold Scabbard from the West: The Excavation of Gyerim-ro Tomb No. 14, Gyeongju | Current Exhibitions". NATIONAL MUSEUM OF KOREA. Retrieved 2018-11-22.[dead link]
  3. ^ Kagayama, Etsuko (2016). "Change of suspension systems of daggers and swords in eastern Eurasia: Its relation to the Hephthalite occupation of Central Asia" (PDF). Institute for Research in the Humanities Kyoto University. 46: 199–212 – via ZINBUN.
  4. ^ a b Choe, Kwangshik (2014). "Silla Art and the Silk Road" (PDF). International Journal of Korean History. 19: 1–22.