Our ancestors believed that a spirit resided in great stones. They erected dolmens as objects of worship and had faith in the spirit. Dolmens sometimes appear in groupings of several dozens in one block, symbolizing groups of blood relatives. These groupings were an important part of ancestor worship, as they symbolized life force and immortality.
On the whole Korean Peninsula, some 36,000 dolmens have been recorded by academics. Two distinct styles of dolmens exist, a southern style and a northern style. Among the ones that have been recorded, there are more southern-style dolmens than northern style dolmens. The Korean name for dolmens, Goindol, comes from the southern-style dolmen. It literally means a stone that is propped up by other stones. This is the primary method to discriminate dolmens from other rocks.
Today, people think that the functions of dolmens were more diverse than previously thought. While the majority of dolmens functioned as graves for blood relatives, some were grave markers, while others marked gathering places for groups, or altars for religious ceremonies.
Natural and Geographical Location of Dolmens
The dolmens are generally located on riversides, level grounds, hills, the foot of mountains, and hilltops. It appears that they were built in areas where it was easy to move and acquire heavy stones.
Gochang-gun is composed of an eastern mountainous area from Gochang-eup to Gosu, Seongsong and Daesan-myeon and a northern mountainous area from Gochang-eup to Asan, Buan, Haeri, and Simwon-myeon, with mostly low hilly areas. Dolmens are concentrated in the eastern and northern mountainous areas. From this mode of distribution, we can guess that people lived in mountains and hills beside the river, and gradually moved inland.