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.

I.1. Residential Structures Occupying Summits: Fortresses, breastworks, religious buildings, palaces, and related edifices

Naktsuk KharNag gtsug mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Naktsuk KharNag gtsug mkhar
  • English equivalent: Black Top Castle
  • Site number: A-57
  • Site typology: I.Ib
  • Elevation: 4280 m
  • Administrative location (township): Change Place of Residence Mountain Face (Dongpogdong spo)
  • Administrative location (county): TsamdaRtsa mda'
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: May 3, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS V, UTRS X, HAS C3
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Naktsuk KharNag gtsug mkhar is situated 80 m above the left bank of the Pangtra ChuSpang bkra chu, in one of the Transhimalayan gorges of GugéGu ge lho smad. This site occupies the top of a steep dark-colored hill, some 300 m below an esplanade dividing Transhimalayan drainage basins. It consists of a single structure, the remains of a castle or palace (10.5 m by 13 m). Built of both stone and mud bricks, the age of this type of architectonic composition is unclear. The lack of Buddhist constructions and the oral tradition suggest a relatively early foundation date. In any case, the refined design of Black Acme Castle suggests that this was once an important cultural center. The establishment of an elite edifice at this location is likely to be related to the extensive agricultural lands found upstream in PangtraSpang bkra. The locale has been completely abandoned.

Oral tradition

Agriculture was once carried out in the valley bottom near Black Acme Castle, which some GugéGu ge residents say was built by the ancient MönMon.

Site elements


Black Acme Castle is an unusually designed edifice with a deeply recessed entrance and exterior wall spans of multiple alignments. Only two other examples of this architectural form have come to light in Upper Tibet: Hala KharHa la mkhar East (A-58) and KölkharKol mkhar (A-122), which are also located in GugéGu ge. Black Acme Castle consisted of at least five conterminous rooms set at two or three different levels. Remaining wall partitions are highly deteriorated, precluding a detailed assessment of its ground plan. The long spans between the walls and the fact that they are not buttressed, indicates that the structure was built with a wooden roof. Moreover, appropriate building materials for the construction of corbelled stone roofs are lacking in this locale, as they are in much of GugéGu ge. The dark-colored stone-walls were finely built of hewn blocks 35 cm to 75 cm in length. These random-rubble walls appear to have been heavily cemented with a mud-based mortar. The stones are highly weathered and cracked, attesting to significant age. This seems to justify the local belief that this was an ancient “MönMon” or archaic cultural horizon site.

The deeply recessed entrance is on the south side of the building. Massive stone-walls on the south face of the stronghold reach 3.5 m in height and are still topped by adobe-block (mud-brick) courses, adding as much as another 70 cm to the elevation. On the north side of the edifice adobe-block walls up to 1.5 m in height surmount a stone revetment. These adobe walls have lost more than 50% of their mass (much more loss than is typically found in Lamaist era buildings of GugéGu ge). It is only in a sheltered niche that the techniques of construction and the seams between individual blocks are discernable. The top of this interior wall niche (35 cm by 50 cm by 1 m) is supported by small rounds of brushwood. An integral part of this north wall structure, this wood might hold important clues as to the age of the castle. The upper extent of scrub willow (langmaglang ma) trees in the Sutlej valley coincides with the gorge below the fortress.

Affiliated sites

Buddhist ruins

In the escarpments surrounding the Pangtra ChuSpang bkra chu there are at least two cave complexes that were used by Buddhist practitioners. Near the contemporary settlement of PangtraSpang bkra there are around 100 caves at DzongkarRdzong dkar, on the right side of the valley (see B-121). Reportedly, a few of the caves contain Buddhist frescos. The site known as Black Acme Meditation House (Naktsuk Tsamkhangnag gtsug mtshams khang), located above Black Acme Castle, hosts about 12 caves and significant evidence of Buddhist occupation such as discarded folios, a ruined chötenmchod rten and tsa tsatsha tsha figurines.


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.