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.


5. A Typological Outline of Archaic Monuments and Rock Art

Herein is an outline of the archaic cultural horizon monument and rock art typologies distributed above the ground in all areas of Upper Tibet. The monument typologies fall into two major divisions: residential (structures in which people resided or temporarily lived) and ceremonial (non-residential structures chiefly used for religious and burial purposes). Residential monuments are further divided according to their primary design traits and situational aspects. Ceremonial structures are subdivided according to their morphological and functional aspects. In Upper Tibet there are also minor physical remains associated with the ancient agricultural economy. Earthworks located in Damzhung’Dam gzhung and NyingdrungSnying drung may have had a residential and/or ceremonial function. Rock art of all types forms the aesthetic or graphic division of Upper Tibetan archaeological assets, while rock inscriptions are the epigraphic component.

  • I. Residential Monuments
    • 1) Residential structures occupying summits (fortresses, breastworks, religious buildings, palaces, and related edifices)
      • a. All-stone corbelled buildings
      • b. Edifices with roofs built from timbers
      • c. Solitary rampart networks
    • 2) Residential structures in other locations (religious and elite residences)
      1. a. All-stone corbelled buildings
      2. b. Other freestanding building types
      3. c. Buildings integrating caves and rock overhangs in their construction
  • II. Ceremonial Monuments
    • 1) Stelae and accompanying structures (funerary and non-funerary)
      • a. Isolated pillars (doringrdo ring)
      • b. Pillars erected within a quadrate stone enclosure
      • c. Quadrangular arrays of pillars appended to edifices
      • d. Domestic pillars
    • 2) Superficial structures (primarily funerary superstructures, burial and non-burial in function)
      • a. Single-course quadrate, ellipsoid and irregularly-shaped constructions (slab wall and flush-block)
      • b. Double-course quadrate, ellipsoid and irregularly-shaped constructions (slab wall and flush-block)
      • c. Heaped-stone wall enclosures
      • d. Quadrate mounds (bangsobang so)11
      • e. Terraced constructions
    • 3) Cubic mountaintop tombs
    • 4) Shrines and miscellaneous constructions
      • a. Stone registers (totho)
      • b. Tabernacles (lhatsuklha gtsug, sekhargsas mkhar, lhatenlha rten, and tenkharrten mkhar)
  • III. Agricultural Structures
    • 1) Stone irrigation channels
    • 2) Terracing
      • a) Retaining walls
      • b) Partition walls
  • IV. Earthworks
    • 1) Rampart-like walls and platforms
  • V. Rock Art and Epigraphy
    • 1) Petroglyphs
    • 2) Pictographs
    • 3) Inscriptions and ciphers


[11] For the purposes of this study, the Tibetan term bangsobang so is only used to denote burial mounds. In the Tibetan language this term can also be applied to a larger range of burial structures.

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.