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

Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar
  • Site number: A-138
  • Site typology: I.1c
  • Elevation: 4820 m to 4860 m
  • Administrative location (township): Götsang MéRgod tshang smad
  • Administrative location (county): GarSgar
  • Survey expedition: THE
  • Survey date: May 26, 2006
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS V
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The rampart network of Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar is found on the top of a limestone mount, which rises above a bifurcation in the ArongA rong valley. This limestone bulwark in the ArongA rong valley rises some 400 m above the east side of the TritsoKhri tsho basin. The high quality pasturage and plentiful water of the TritsoKhri tsho basin and the adjoining larger basin of Pangar ZhungDpa’ ngar gzhung (in the Senggé TsangpoSeng ge gtsang po flood plain) have been magnets of settlement since early times. Other archaic strongholds in the proximity are Sharo MöndurSha ro mon dur (A-32) and Pangar Zhung KhargokDpa’ ngar gzhung mkhar gog (A-31). The tawny-colored formation of Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar is very precipitous and inherently defensible. It has commanding views to the north in the direction of the big basins. This site probably served as a refuge from attack and the final line of defense for the locality. Its inhabitants must have faced a very fierce enemy to have built such a high and isolated safehold. It is only accessible via the southeast branch of the ArongA rong valley via a steep and narrow slope. There are no signs of permanent dwellings at Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar. The dry-stone random-work ramparts were constructed using uncut hunks of limestone. They form a highly developed symmetrical defensive array on the summit. It is unclear how the inhabitants of Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar obtained drinking water. Presently, there is no water in the ArongA rong valley (except when there is snow melt or possibly during a heavy bout of summer rains).

Oral tradition

According to local residents, Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar was an ancient MönMon facility.

Site elements

Upper summit

The low end (4820 m) of Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar is comprised of a breastwork that protected this constricted approach (only 3.5 m wide) to the stronghold. Only two fragments of the wall built at this strategic juncture have survived (2.9 m long and 1.3 m high, 9.6 m long and 1.1 m high). This was the forward line of defense for Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar. Above the breastwork the slopes rise to a saddle (4840 m) with a precipitous drop on its southwest side. The top end of this saddle connects to a narrow rib of rock with the vestiges of a defensive wall and steps that lead up to the summit. This fortified access route inclined at 45° is 21 m in length and reaches the southeast edge of the summit installation. The base of what appears to have been a breastwork (3.8 m by 3.8 m) straddles the top at this spot. Although it is up to 2.5 m in height (on its forward or southeast flank), no freestanding walls are left in this structure. This guarding gateway to the summit, the tallest structure remaining at Arong MönkharA rong mon mkhar, is likely to have been a significant defensive feature. It accesses the upper summit, which is up to 15 m wide. The remains of a parapet wall line the northeast edge of the upper summit. With a long vertical rock face below, no such wall was necessary along the part of the summit overlooking the southwest branch of the ArongA rong valley.

Lower summit

The upper summit admits to the lower summit, a zone 55 m in length and a maximum of 30 in width. The lower summit along its north-south axis is oriented at a 30° angle. There are traces of a parapet wall on the rim of the lower summit overlooking the southeast branch of the ArongA rong valley. On account of large vertical expanses of rock, a parapet wall was not needed on the side of the summit that soars above the southwest branch of the ArongA rong valley. The lower summit is dominated by two parallel series of ramparts. There appear to be seven ramparts in each series built at graded elevations. Each of these walls is between 4 m and 11 m in length and are 80 cm to 1 m high on their forward or downhill side. Some of the ramparts form platforms up to 2 m in width, which could have been used for domestic functions (by erecting temporary shelters of some kind). Conceivably, bowmen could fire in unison from behind these walls, unleashing a curtain of arrows. Perhaps this wall network was also used for ritual purposes.


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.