Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
Antiquities of Zhang Zhung
by John Vincent Bellezza
Edited by Geoffrey Barstow, Mickey Stockwell and Michael White
Tibetan & Himalayan Library
Published under the THL Digital Text License.

3. Criteria Used in the Determination of Archaic Archaeological Sites6

4) The siting of monuments in desolate environmental niches

The specific geographic setting of archaeological sites provides some clues to their cultural identity. Many archaic residential monuments were built at high elevation and in special environmental niches that have long since been abandoned. These sites were not the objects of sustained sedentary settlement in any way associated with the Lamaist cultural milieu of later times. A significant number of archaic sites are concentrated in defunct agricultural enclaves in far western Tibet, and on headlands and islands across the breadth of the Upper Tibetan lake belt. Archaic residential sites are also found on lofty, inherently defensible summits and ridges, or at the heads of valleys at elevations sometimes exceeding 5000m. Environmental degradation and changed cultural realities appear to be the motive forces behind the geographic shift from these specialized locations to the patterns of population distribution witnessed in more recent centuries. For the most part, the Lamaist religions chose lower-elevation basins and valleys for their major residential sites. Even when escarpments and mountain slopes were selected for the establishment of religious and political edifices, these are consistently located at a lower elevation than their archaic counterparts. Gang TiséGangs ti se is an excellent case in point: all around this sacred mountain one must climb well above the existing Buddhist sites in order to reach those established in earlier times. The same patterns of settlement hold true for Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho where the archaic cultural horizon looms over the contemporary BönBon villages.


[6] This section of the work was derived from Bellezza, Zhang Zhung.

Note Citation for Page

John Vincent Bellezza, Antiquities of Zhang Zhung: A Comprehensive Inventory of Pre-Buddhist Archaeological Monuments on the Tibetan Upland (Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010), .

Bibliographic Citation

John Vincent Bellezza. Antiquities of Zhang Zhung: A Comprehensive Inventory of Pre-Buddhist Archaeological Monuments on the Tibetan Upland. Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010.