Archaeological Discovery
2014. Vol.2, No.1, 6-12
Published Online January 2014 in SciRes (
The Ethnic Composition of Bohai State on the
Archaeological Materials
Olga V. Dyakova
Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East,
Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok, Russia
Received October 28th, 2013; revised December 8th, 2013; accepted December 19th, 2013
Copyright © 2014 Olga V. Dyakova. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights ©
2014 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Olga V. Dyakova. All Copyright © 2014
are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Setting the Problem: Pohai State (698-926), being situated on the territory of the Russian Primorye,
North East of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and North East of China, was created by Tun-
gus-Manchus tribes Sumo Mokhe. Pohai was a poly-ethnic (multinational) state. T r ib es Mokhe were the
basic population of it. Besides, there lived Koguryo, Paleo-Asian and Chinese residents. Each ethnic
community had its own social status that could be determined by archaeological material. For deciding
such a task the author worked out methods for determining the structure of archaeological culture. In the
Russian archaeology the term “archaeological culture” means a complex of archaeological sites situated
on one and the same territory and possessed common indications of material culture (ceramics, artifacts
out of metal, necropolis, dwellings, etc.). Structure of Mediaeval Archaeological Cultures: The author
proposes to single out three layers in material culture: aboriginal layer contains the information about
ethnic belonging; state layer characterizes handcraft production and gives a possibility to determine the
state borders; epoch layer gives a poss ibility to date sites and single out military-trade-economic ties. The
aboriginal layer is represented with artifacts being made by residents themselves. They are molded ce-
ramics, traditional decorations, the specificity of dwelling construction, funeral rites, etc. The state layer
is represented with handicraft artifacts, mainly, made by alien masters and with technology different from
the aboriginal one. For example, ceramics being produced on the potter’s wheel; types of fortifications
that were built by special (foreign) masters invited for it, and etc. The epochal-making layer is repre-
sented with artifacts that were spread on the ver y vas t territory, for example, girdles (belts) of Turk type,
ceramics of Tan dynasty, armament, etc. Three Tasks of th e Investigation: According to such methodic
principles there were set three tasks: on the archaeological material to single out the ethnic (aboriginal)
structure of Pohai state; to determine state signs; to define social status Koguryo residents in Pohai. Anal-
ysis of the Material: Ceramics. The analysis of molded ceramics exposes that on Pohai sites there was
present only Mokhe type of the vessels. There is no molded Koguryo ceramics there. The analysis of ce-
ramics, being finished off on potter’s wheel, exposes handicraft traditions and the presence of kilns, i.e.
potter’s wheel ceramics of Koguryo type were produced there. The analysis of potter’s grey-clay ceramics
exposes handicraft traditions of Tan dynasty but the absence of centers of its production. It is indicative of
trade relations. Fortifications: The appearance of stone mountain sites in Pohai is connected with fortifi-
cation traditions. The appearance of valley (plain) square sites is connected with Chinese fortification tra-
ditions. Conclusions: So, the basic (aboriginal) population of Pohai was Tungus-Manchus tribes Mokhe.
Koguryo residents in Pohai were used as potters—handicrafts men and fortification masters and, may be,
warriors. The geography of stone fortresses shows up that they were constructed for defending marine and
land roads.
Keywords: Mediaeval Archaeological Culture; Koguryo Residents; Pohai State
It is known from written sources that as for structure of pop-
ulation the Tungus-Manchu state Pohai (698-926) was poly
ethnic (multinational) one and consisted of tribes: Mokhe
(Malgal), Paleo-Asiatics, Chinese, Koguryo residents. The so-
cial status of t hes e tribes and ethnic communities in Pohai state
has not been determined yet. It is known that a considerable
number of Koguryo residents came to Pohai after the fall of
Koguryo state. Moreover, scientific debates are continued con-
cerning to ethni c belonging of the first Van of Pohai state
whether he was of Mokhe origin or belonged to Koguryo tribe.
But in this report I intend not to analyze the ethnic origin of the
first Van of Pohai but to determine the role, significance and
social status of Kogurye residents in Pohai state. Written
sources are quite scanty and give no opportunity to solve this
problem objectively. In fact only archaeological artifacts are
preserved. And I intend to use them.
Structuring Mediaeval Archaeolodgical Culture
There have been three sources of information about the me-
diaeval Far East: 1) written evidence dealing with affairs of state,
political boundaries, and the economies of the states of Bohai
and Jurzhen; 2) the remains of fortified sites, roads and craft
centers; and 3) handicraft products such as wheel-made pottery
or metallic articles found in profusion, along with many other
objects during excavations at the urban and burial sites of the
Bohai and Jurzhen cultures. Most scholars are still quite content
with the existing interpretations of this information, even though
many are merely romantic exaggerations, among which, un-
fortunately, must be counted some descriptions of the cultures of
these particular societies. It is our contention, however, that
these interpretations display instead the apparent failure of an
approach to the s t udy of mediaeval archaeological cultures
restricted to the considering of only one aspect, namely, the
urban cultural sphere, whose characteristics are very much alike
throughout various cultures due to the effects of industrial de-
velopment, yet whose origins are not necessarily nat i ve . It is
hardly questionable that governments, not excluding medieval
ones, often promoted crafts with the help of foreign craftsmen
brought in for just such a purpose. As a result, new types of
wheel-made clay ware, as well as other goods, came into being.
They had neither intrinsical links to the culture and traditions of
the local populace nor any domestic prototypes. Therefore, we
conclude that within the existing approach to a survey of me-
diaeval sites in the Russian Far East, the genuine aboriginal
culture ha s literally fallen out of the sphere of mos t researchers
attention. Attempts have been made to solve bas ic problems of
ethnical and cultural processes in their full complexity1 while
drawing on rather irrelevant materials. This situation has
prompted us to work out a structural scheme of mediaeval arc-
haeological culture to make it clear how a given group of traits
relates to a broad analysis of a given culture. An analysis of t he
entire body of mediaeval data brought from each of t he Far
Eastern sites allowed us to speak of the three major subdivisions
within an archaeological culture. They may be defined as 1)
culturally indicative (aboriginal), 2) regional (th ose characteris-
tic of a particular state), and 3) epochal. As culturally indicative
we define those traits represented by items embodying abori-
ginal traditions, and thus suitable for reconstructing not solely
the processes of cultural development (culturogenics), but eth-
nical dy namic s as well (ethnogenics). Among such items the
foremost importance belongs to handmade clay ware produced
by t he cultural tradition bearers of a given culture themselves. It
can serve as a clear-cut recognition symbol of a culture. Hand-
made ware could not spread outside a limited area and as a rule,
this area coincided precisely with that of the archaeological
culture. To regional traits (those characteristic of a state) we
attribute objects produced, to a greater or lesser degree, with the
use of industrial methods of manufacture, including, of course,
wheel-made ceramics. Their distribution was related with the
activi ty of craft centers (workshops, “schools”, “families”,
“kilns”), whose influence seldom reached beyond the official
state boundaries. Therefore, traits of this type can be indicative
of a particular state. Items of this category may reflect both
domestic and adopted foreign traditions. This may lay the
groundwork for reconstructing patterns of political and merce-
nary contacts but is of little use when it comes to understanding
the ways of ethnical changes (ethnogenecs). Shapes and deco-
rations of vessels and other objects within this category could
change easily, subject to vogues of the time, a ruler’s tastes, or
requirements imposed by a certain social straum, whereas tech-
nique and technological traditions were usually prone to sta bi l-
Classified as epochal need to be those cultural elements
which prove more or less ubiquitous, regardless of geographical
or political barriers, and, as characteristic traits, belong to no
particular society but to a definite time span. Such would be
Turkic belts, Mongol arrowheads, selected types of wheel-made
pottery, or certain designs of ornamentation, to mention just a
few. They are good for dating complexes and cultures, or at-
testing to martial, economic or religious events and interactions,
but are in no way suitable for building reconstructions of the
patterns of ethnical changes.
To sum up, we believe that any mediaeval archaeological
culture has to be analyzed as a triplex structure that comprises
three groups of traits: aboriginal, regional (those relating to a
state) and epochal. Thi s approach makes not only answering
questions about cultural roots, changes and chronology possible,
but also lets us advance to more adequate historical associations
and realistic interpretations, n ot in the least those helping to
solve the problem of the genesis and development of particular
states in this area.
Task One
To answer the question: what ethnic communities were the
native (indigenous) population of Pohai state? Ceramics is the
most objective material in this case. Vessels out ceramics, that
were discovered in archaeological sites of Pohai culture in the
North-East of China and on the territory of the Russian Pri-
morye are the basic material (Figure 1). My analysis of ceram-
ics revealed that as for techniq ue it is represented by thre e cat-
egories of articles: modeled vessels, ceramics, being completed
on potter’s wheel and potter’s ceramics. All these three catego-
ries a re done w ith different technique, th at is on different ethnic
traditions. The first category-modeled ceramics made with cir-
cular band model (Figure 2).
Its forms are vases, pots, jars with modeled cylinder under
the top, decoration and technique of modeling are traditional for
Mokhe tribes (Malgal). Modeled earthenware was made by
native indigenous population. Such type of vessels—Mokhe
one—was developing on the territ ory of North East China and
the Russian Far East (Priamurye and Primorye) for more than
one thousand years. Such earthenware is characteristic for
Mokhe culture (Malgal), culture of the Amur Jurchen and it
could be met almost on all Pohai sites. In Koguryo state the
other modeled earthenware was traditional, and it is absent on
Pohai sites. So, the main indigenous residents of Pohai state
were the tribes of Mokhe (Malgal), that is the Tungus-Man-
Task Two
To determine Kogurye materials on Pohai sites. In this case
we could use the second category of ceramics—handicraft p ot s
of definite form, decoration and proportions, modeled on pot-
ter’s wheel. They are met on all Pohai sites and are analogous
to Kogurye handicraft pots (Figure 3).
Such type of earthenware is marking Pohai cultures and is
defined as Pohai ceramics of Koguryo origin. Besides of Pohai
Ethnogenesisor ethnogenics, and culturogenesis” or culturogenics, re
spectively, as Russian terminology puts it.
Figure 1.
The map of Pohai sites of the North East Primorye.
Figure 2.
Bohai culture of P rimorye Group 1. Handmade pottery; Novogordeevskoye town site,
Konstantinovskoye village, Kraskinskoye town site, Petrovskoye village.
pots, in Pohai culture of sites of North East Primorye—Sine-
gorye 1—ther e appeared long potter’s kilns being traditional for
Kogurye. That is, the appearance on Pohai sites handicraft Ko-
guryo earthenware is not a result of trade-economic relations
when earthenware would be bring over from anywhere. The
presence of potter’s kilns—is an index of native production and
indirect presence on Pohai monuments of Kogurye potters.
Judge by a number of potter’s articles, the r e we re quite a num-
ber of Koguryo potters in Pohai and such was the situation not
only in central provinces but on the outskirts of stat e. For ex-
ample, it was so in the north-east of Primorye where the re were
discovered kilns of Koguryo type and the very ceramics itself.
So the conclusion is that in Pohai state Koguryo residents re-
presented the strata of crafts-men.
(a) (b)
(c) (d)
Figure 3.
Bohai culture of Primorye. Group 2. Bohai pottery; Novogrdeevskoye town site, Nikolaevskoye-II town site, Kunaleiskoye tow n site, Bogopol town
site, Kuznetsovskoye town site, Dzhigitovskoye town site Sinegorye dwelling site Nikolayevskoye-2 town site.
Task Three
To show: what function, besides handicraft one, was exer-
cised by Koguryo residents? This task could be seen through
analyzing fortification constructions. After the fall of Koguryo
state on the territory of Primorye, in particular in the north-east,
there appeared stone fortresses that were constructed according
to Koguryo traditions. They wer e built out of stones (rocky)
and without cement linking. Stones had g ot special trim, and
walls became solid. Stone fortresses on isolated hills are located
on the tops of separately standing hills, often rock outcrops, and
are built of stones without cementing. Positioned so as to do-
minate local landscapes, such fortifications permit a good view
of neighboring valleys and obviously must ha ve served strateg-
ic purposes. Today we know of ten stonework fortresses in
Primorye, six of the m are located in central Sikhote-Al in
mountain range and on East Sea’s (Sea of J a pa n’ s ) eastern and
northeastern coasts: Shmyrkov Klutch, Zabolotnoye (Altar) in
Serebryanka rive r basin, Klutchi (Dzhigitovka river basin),
Vaskovskoye (Rudnaya river basi n ), Seselevskoye (Zhivopis-
naya river basin), Yashu. Pla nigraphy of stone fortre sse s
is simple. The builders chose flattened areas and adjacent sur-
faces available on suitable hills. Fortifications consist of round
or serpentine stonework walls encircling a hill. Constructing
technologies are interesting for the presence of persistent tech-
nical patterns and ultimate skill. Building s t o ne was usually
procured on the locality. Durability of walls highly depended
on methods of stone processing. Prior to raising of wall, build-
ers would flatten an underlying surface. The width of a stripe to
be flattened was up to 2 - 6 m. It was to be covered with a layer
of big stones, specially processedeach piece of stone had a
raised border on its edge so that an overlying stone would not
slip. Stones in the upper layers are pyramidal in shape. The
higher the laye r, the smaller the stones. It seems that the size of
stones was standardized for each layer. T he shape of the stones
has some notable particularities—each stone was rectangular in
the base, had rounded corners in the middle, and was tapered at
the top. T he lowest part of the wall on the inside was stair-
case-shaped (Figures 4 and 5).
To sum up, the stone-built mountain fortresses can be cha-
racterized by the following features: placement in strategically
important localities atop dominating heights; the use of
Figure 4.
Stone fortress of the North East Primorye; Zabolotnaya.
Figure 5.
The map of the Stone Fortresses of Northeastern Primorye.
local building material; lack of cementing; standardized stone
shapes and sizes of certain wall parts; staircase-shaped inner
wall configuration; absence of continuous vertical seams; ar-
tificial flattening of hill surface before construction. According
to collected data, stonework fortresses were built during the
Mohe and Bohai times.
This method was widely used only by Koguryo representa-
tives. The Mokhe residents never built such fortresses. These
fortresses were situated on separate hills, usually on bare terri-
tory, on dominating hills giving opportunity to control all en-
trances to the valleys. There are ten such fortresses: in Yashu,
Zabolotnaya, Shmyrkov Kliuch, Vas’kovskoye site, Kliuchi,
Soenskon site. So, a definite part of Koguryo residents was on
military service, and judging to location of s t one fortresses,
Pohai used them for defending his boundaries, in particular, of
North East Primorye.
By choice of location, constructing methods, a nd purposes,
stone fortresses of Primorye derive from fortification traditions
of Koguryo fortresses, often bei ng virtually identical with those.
Perhaps this tradition of arranging a fortified site was adopted
by t he Mohe and Bohai not before 7th century AD, i.e. after the
downfall of Koguryo state and Koguryo people having become
the Bohai citizens.
The Koguryo traditions in medialval town-planning in Pri-
morye. The construction technology used in northeastern Pri-
morye to erect stone fortresses (Shmyrkov Klu tc h, Zabolotnaya,
Klutchi, Vaskovskoe Ozero) obviously reproduces the Koguryo
technology and actually derives from the latter.
With Koguryo bulders, just the same way as with the Jurzhen
from East Xia State, the main criteria of choosing a building
location were precipitous mountainous landscape and presence
of lar ge ri ve r.
Of 176 Koguryo town sites found in northeastern China and
North Korea only 56 have been researched. Among them th e re
are 47 stonework fortresses and only 9 earthen ones (Sokson,
Ensonja, Thapsan, Koi, Puksansondja, Rendam, Sariho, Mokki,
Hongenno in Manchuria and Anhak in North Korea). The au-
thor have already published her stu dy of links between me-
diaeval stone fortresses of Russian Primorye and Koguryo, thus
no point in elaborating on this here. We must remember though
that construction technology used in northeastern Primorye to
build sto ne fort re sse s (Shmyrkov Klutch, Zabolotnaya, Klutchi,
Vaskovskoe Ozero) obviously reproduces the Koguryo tech-
nology and actually derives from the latter (Dyakova, 2005).
All the more so because ceramic materials from the above men-
tioned Primorye’s fortresses are comparable with the Mohe and
Bohai traditions, contemporaneous with the Koguryo culture. It
is known that military and technical innovations spread fast
enough. Koguryo’s fortified earthen mountain towns, as op-
posed to stone fortresses, are scarcely explored for various rea-
sons. For a l o ng time Korean, Chinese, and Russian scholars
worked separately in their own countries. Today we have got an
opportunity to analyze and compare the results relevant to the
problem of genesis and development of mediaeval fortifications
in the Far East. Geophysical parameters of Russian Primorye,
northeastern Korea and northeastern China are similar enough,
and this fact should have in similar way influenced the process
of choosing a location by inhabitants of these territories when it
came to building a fortified site. The choi ce woul d be dictated
by landscape. The Koguryo pe op l e as well as the Jurzhen from
East Xia preferred a s teep mountainous topography and pres-
ence of large river. Korean written sources state that, as a rule,
the Koguryo placed their mountain towns on hillto ps facing the
lowlands. “… Outside the fortresses they raised earthen bul-
warks to prev e nt the use of ladders and v isibility of actions
inside the fortress… Even if enemies fiercely attacked, their
hike from the ba se of the hill to the fortress exhausted them,
they breathed interruptedly, their ardor died away, while our
soldiers remained calm, inspired and ready to fight against in-
truders by letting big boulders roll down t he hillenemies fell
right on the run” (Un, 2005). Kim Gi Un wrote that the Ko-
guryo mountain towns were always found in the presence of
water source. Water not only provided means of transportation,
but served as a natural border helping to control an enemy’s
movement and limiting the latter’s maneuverability (Nosov,
2001). To build mountain towns, the Koguryo chose places
near the valleys inhabited by people who could supply human
force as well as food, yet find shelter in the fortress in danger-
ous situations. Such pattern is comparable to the Jurzhen of
East Xia’s. An unconditional rule for the Koguryo to choose a
place to build a town was the presence of convenient means of
transportation, i.e. waterways and roads, permitting both ma-
neuverability and communicability with neighboring fortresses.
The Jurzhen obeyed the same rul e , as we noted before. All of
the Koguryo’s mountain towns were crossed by rivers or
streams, otherwise had ponds and wells. For example, accord-
ing to ancient scripts, the Koguryo town of Taeson had 99
ponds plus a brook. The East Xia’s Jurzhen provided t he m-
selves with water the similar way. To ensure the combatant
value of their towns the Koguryo paid ultimate attention to
reinforcement of fortress walls, the basic fortification element.
Like the Jurzhen, the Koguryo builders erected watch posts and
towers over gates. Near a gat e the fortress’ wall was usually
duplex, while in front of the gate there was a protective wall
with embrasures at sides, known as “chokte”. Watch posts, as a
rule, helped to strengthen wall corners and served as command
posts. Similar constructions are typical for mountain towns of
Jurzhen too. With Koguryo fortresses, an important defensive
role played embrasures placed so as to permit shooting at an
enemy directly or from sides. Before the invention of embra-
sure it was impossible to shoot at the troops which had made
their way right under the walls. Korean scholars believe em-
brasures to be a Koguryo’s invention while protective walls,
gates in the wall without tower, defensive lin es, and double
walls to be distinctive features of Koguryo mountain fortresses.
Having analy zed Primorye’s mountain towns belonging to the
Jurzhen of East Xia and Koguryo’s mountain fortifications, we
come to the conclusion that the influence of Koguryo’s fortifi-
cations on the development of Jurzhen type of mountain towns
was an immense one. To say the least, the Jurzhen people did
adopt Koguryo’s principles of placement of fortresses in
mountainous landscape. Those principles include the following:
protection by hills on three sides, while on one side, usually
southern, the presence of water-containing ravine; methods of
obtaining and keeping fresh water; distribution of fortification n
elements (on the wall, at gates, by corners). At the same time
Jurzhen’s mountain towns retained some Chinese fortification
traditions, Hantu earthen wall-mounds in the first place. It is
known that from the ancient times Chinese tow ns were sur-
rounded with earthen walls where the filling soil was put in
layers, each layer being rammed by special wooden rollers. As
a re su lt, the walls became ve ry firm and reached eight meters in
height. This method ha ve been known in China since 4th cen-
tury BC, and since 6th century BC the Chinese ha ve used stone
lining of curtain-walls and built the towers. Apparently the
Koguryo adopted the method of erecting earthen walls from the
Chainese as early as in antiquity, but further adapted it to
mountainous environment. On the other hand, by geomorphol-
ogy as well as fortification and constructing technologies the
stonework mountain fortresses built by the Mohe and Bohai
peoples correspond well with Koguryo traditions and appear to
be derived from the latter. Thus we are to co nc l ud e that in Pri-
morye the two types of mountain fortified sites built by me-
diaeval Tungus-Manchurians—the Mohe, Bohai, and Jurzhen
peoples—obviously meet the requirements typical of Ko-
guryo’s town-building traditions, having been, as it seems,
founded on the latter.
Thus, the an a l ysis of archaeological material let such conclu-
sions be made: the indigenous residents of Pohai state were
tribes of Mokhe (Malgal). After the fall of Koguryo a consi-
derable number of Koguryo residents joined Pohai state. It was
so significant tha t Koguryo earthenware became the princ ipal
indicator. Therefore, a certain part of Koguryo residents got the
status of crafts-men, in particular, potters. The presence of
stone fortresses, being built according to Koguryo building
traditions, shows that in Pohai there were a considerable num-
ber of Koguryo fighting men and fortification builders (masters)
building st o ne fortresses and defending borders. Undoubtedly,
some part of Koguryo residents bore a rela tion to administrative
sys t em of Pohai, but it is difficult to trace it according to arc-
haeological data. Evidently, Koguryo peasants inculcated agri-
cultural practice to Tungus Manchus population of Pohai, b ut
there are fe w archaeological facts on it yet.
The work is done under financing of grant by RGNF No.
Dyakova, O. V. (2005). Gorodischa i kreposti Dalnego Vostoka (seve-
rovostochnoye primorye). (Ancient Town Sites and Fortresses of Far
East. (Northeastern Primorye)). Vladivostok, 171.
Nosov, K. S. (2001). Zamki i kreposti Indii, Kitaya i Japonii (Castles
and Fortresses of China and Japan). Rejttarj, Moscow, 27.
Un, K. G. (2005). Research of Particulariries of Koguryo Mountain
Towns (pp. 138-152). Separately printed copy. Similar characteriza-
tion of Koguryo towns was offered by Prof. Na m Il Ren, University
Kim Il Sung, at Second International Conference on Korean Studies.