Mark ByingtonJul 1, 2013
The Rediscovery of Kaya in History and Archaeology
University of Hawaii Press 2012
Early Korea is a resource like no other: in an ongoing series of volumes produced by the Early Korea Project at the Korea Institute of Harvard University, the series provides surveys of Korean scholarship on fundamental issues in the study of early Korean history, archaeology, and art history. The volumes, produced with full-color illustrations and biographies of each of the contributing authors, each contain a thematic focus section and several auxiliary essays that cover various aspects of the study of early Korean history and archaeology, notes from the field, and key primary sources in translation. Collectively, the contributions to each volume provide a representative picture of the state of the field of various aspects of early Korean studies in Korea today. This is an incredible resource for specialists in Korean studies, for non-specialists who want to incorporate attention to early Korea into their teaching or research, and for interested general readers. Early Korea 3: The Rediscovery of Kaya in History and Archaeology (University of Hawaii Press, 2012) is the latest volume in the series, and it explores the history of Kaya, an ancient polity centered on a region in the southernmost part of the Korean peninsula. Though I was unfamiliar with this particular aspect of Korean history before reading the volume, I quickly found that Kaya history offered a fascinating example through which to reconsider some of the most fundamental issues that face all historiography: the challenges of reconstructing a story from a conflicting, multilingual, and partial textual record; the use of ancient records to justify modern political and imperial interests; and the ways that incorporating attention to archaeological evidence can profoundly transform historical accounts of a region. I spoke with its editor, Mark Byington, about both the broader context of the Early Korea Project and the specific historical and thematic focus of this most recent offering.