Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) Eung-Tae
Age 31
Sex Male
Status Unknown
Height 5 feet and 9 inches
Culture Korea's ancient Goseong Yi clan
Date(s) Discovered in April 1998
Site South bank of the Nakdong River flowing through Andong City
Current Location
Location Andong National University Museum
Catalog #

Eung Tae was the name of a 16th century elite member of the Joseon Dynasty, who was buried in the traditional neo-Confucian manner called LSMB by archaeologists, resulting in the excellent preservation of his corpse and his grave goods. One of approximately 100 Joseon royal tombs excavated to date, Eung Tae's tomb is rare in that it contained perfectly preserved written documents, including letters written to the 31-year-old man from his family. According to the letter, Eung-tae was about to become a father. He was taller than most Korean men at the time, and his mummy measures 5 feet 9 inches. His well-preserved body, showed a dark beard and a 'charming appearance'.


The tomb in which the mummy was found was lime-soil-mixture-barrier tombs, a kind only found in Korea. They consist of wooden coffins, tightly closed by a lime-and-soil mixture that hardens like a concrete shell on contact with moisture in the earth. Koreans learned about this tomb structure around the mid-16th century from a book on family rites written by Chinese Confucian scholar Zhu Xi (A.D. 1130-1200) This practice was meant to show respect for Confucianism, which was popular during the Joseon dynasty; it was not intended to mummify the dead as it may seem.


Research following the excavation focused on the content of the letters compared that content to the historical records of the Kosung Yi clan, specifically the surviving Clan Lineage Book of Kosung Yi, published in 1753. The comparison led the researchers to the identification of the man in the tomb, and the story of his life and family.
The letters in the tomb included those written by the wife, elder brother, and father of a man named Eung Tae. According to the Clan Lineage Book, Eung Tae [1556-1586] was the younger son of Yo Shin [1523-1611], an official of the Joseon Dynasty. Other letters are from his elder brother, Mong Tae [1551-1642], and his wife, unnamed in the historical documentation.


Eung-Tae died at age 31, the reason for his death remains unknown.


Including in the clothing worn by the mummy, 72 pieces of clothing were found with the body, including complete outfits for a woman and a child. Such deposits were typical of Joseon royal tombs. However, most unusually, 18 paper documents written by members of Eung Tae's family and friends were found placed between the inner and outer coffins, on top of the body and within a leather pouch.

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