The heart-breaking love letter found in a mummy’s tomb
I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings towards you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. Where would I put my heart now and how can I live with the child missing you… When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father?
These are the heart-breaking words of a pregnant woman grieving for her dead husband, and for nearly half a millennium they lay buried in earth placed on top of the mummified body of Eung-tae, a member of Korea’s ancient Goseong Yi clan, which was unearthed in Andong City, South Korea.
A pair of slippers woven from the woman’s hair and wrapped in a delicate paper parcel was also found next to the mummy’s head in the tomb. Written on the package were the words: “with my hair I weave this […] before you were even able to wear it”. While slippers made of hair might seem unusual, they reoccur in Korean literature as a symbol of love and hope for recovery from an illness.
The letter, which was addressed to “Won’s Father”, was discovered and translated in 2000, and reveals the woman’s sense of loss and sorrow. Since then, the moving story has inspired an opera, film, and numerous novels.
Although the author of the letter is anonymous, a little more is known about her husband. Eung-tae is thought to have been a member of Korea's ancient Goseong Yi clan, a group indigenous to the area of Andong City. He was taller than most Korean men at the time and thanks to his well-preserved body, archaeologists know he had a dark beard and a “charming appearance”. The age at which Eung-tae died and the reason for his death remains unknown.
Eung-tae’s body was found in a wooden coffin which was sealed in concrete, which enabled the body to be preserved. Chris Scarre, head of archaeology department at the University of Durham, explained that such a discovery brings to life the personal or human side to the field of archaeology. He said: “As well as studying changes in rank and ideology, archaeologists who investigate tombs are often moved to wonder about the character of the deceased, the thoughts of the mourners and their hopes and fears on the passing of a person dear to them. In this extraordinary burial from Korea, we hear these voices directly’
The sorrowful letter finishes with a plea for the deceased to visit her in her dreams. “Come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail… Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say”
Read the full transcript of the letter here.