[Q&A for the Curious about Jeju]
When did Jeju become an island?
During ice ages, when glaciers hold much more of the earth's water than warmer periods like today, sea levels are much lower. Up until about 15,000 years ago, Jeju was connected to the Asian continent by land. It was possible to walk to and from the Korean peninsula, China and the southern islands of Japan, and animals migrated to Jeju during that time. Evidence for this was provided by brown bear bones found in Jeju in a cave called Billemot in Aewol. The bones date back to 25,000 years BP. The remains of other cold-weather animals such as red deer have also been discovered on the island.
The water is deepest off the east coast of the island, and any evidence of human settlements along the former coastlines is now dozens of meters under water. However, archeologists have uncovered evidence that people have been living on Jeju since 18,000 to 25,000 years ago. Paleolithic stone tools have been unearthed at rock shelter sites known as ‘saengsugwe’ in Seogwipo, Samyang-dong and Oedo-dong. The tools include choppers, scrapers, and stone blades. Paleolithic people in Jeju must have hunted wild game, fished and collected seafood along the shoreline. Their diet would also have included wild berries, grains and other plant food gathered from the fields and forests.
Come to the museum and see ancient brown bear bones, stone tools and other evidence of paleolithic life on Jeju, when it was not yet an island!