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.2. Residential Structures in Other Locations: Religious and Elite Residences

Lung NgakLung ngag

Basic site data

  • Site name: Lung NgakLung ngag (sp. ?).
  • Site number: B-80
  • Site typology: I.2b
  • Elevation: 4360 m to 4400 m
  • Administrative location (township): DerokSde rog
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: May 24, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

The abandoned settlement of Lung NgakLung ngag sits upon a bench on the right side of the Lung NgakLung ngag valley. The site has a northeastern aspect and is situated near the mouth of the valley. Most of the structural remains of Lung NgakLung ngag are highly degraded and only fractional footings and wall sections have endured. The main or east sector (41 m by 35 m) consists of a dense collection of what appear to have been residential units. It is difficult to discern how many buildings were located on the bench making up the east sector. There are also middle and west sectors containing a variety of ceremonial and utilitarian structures, which probably reflect differing stages in the historical development of the Lung NgakLung ngag site. Among these structures are shrines and what appear to be threshing pads.

Oral tradition

According to local sources, Lung NgakLung ngag was an ancient Kel MönSkal mon village. There is a local belief that this settlement was politically and culturally connected to the fortress of KharpochéMkhar po che (A-86), located on the opposite side of the RusumRu gsum valley. These two archaeological sites are separated by about 3 km.

Site elements

East sector
Dominant stone structures

The east or main sector of Lung NgakLung ngag is dominated by structures that consist of walls of variable-sized pieces of granite that incorporate naturally occurring boulders into them. These structures appear to be the foundations of small buildings but the structural evidence is somewhat ambiguous. Based on evidence from other habitations attributed to the Kel MönSkal mon in the region, we can surmise that these structures were probably between 15 m² and 50 m² in size. It is not at all clear if such structures had permanent timber roofs or ones made of more perishable materials such as woven cloth or hides. Standing walls reach 50 cm in height and must have been heavily mud mortared, as the rounded granite stones used in construction require copious amounts of adhesive material to give walls their necessary structural integrity.

Other structures

At the southeast or upper end of the east sector there is a highly eroded, isolated adobe-block wall segment, 4 m in length and 2.5 m in height, which appears to have constituted the corner of a building. This wall was built on a stone footing, and may belong to a different phase of site development from that of the dominant stone structures. On the forward edge of the east sector bench there is a four-sided pillar of white granite (1.3 m by 1.4). It appears to be a natural hunk of stone that was in all probability planted vertically in the ground. Its function is not apparent.

East sector shrines

In close proximity to the lone adobe wall segment there are the remains of what appears to have been a shrine, a rectangular structure measuring 2.2 m by 90 cm by 1 m. At the lower end or northwest extremity of the east sector, near the edge of the bench, there is another shrine-like structure. This square masonry pedestal (2.2 m by 1.7 m by 40 cm) is surmounted by a highly dissolved earthen structure reduced to 70 cm in height. Just above the east sector at the top of the moderately sloping bench there is what appears to be a larger shrine. It consists of a stone plinth (6.3 m by 4.6 m) upon which a hollow cubic structure was erected (2.6 m by 2.6 m by 1.7 m). Tiny traces of red ochre are found on the mud plaster of the exterior walls. The outer walls of the plinth are 50 cm thick and built of granite. Unfortunately, the extant remains do not permit a detailed analysis of the design of this ceremonial structure. The contemporary yüllhayul lha of Lung NgakLung ngag is a local mountain deity called Ganglha KarpoGangs lha dkar po. Provided this was a deity of ancient times, its worship could possibly be linked to one or more of the shrines found at the site.

Middle sector

Beginning 8 m west of the main sector there is an irregularly shaped perimeter (27 m by 41 m) made from a single line of boulders embedded in the ground. These boulders are up to 1.8 m in length. The function of this 10° sloping enclosure is not known. At the lower end of the enclosure there are two structures that appear to be the foundations of two small buildings. Immediately west of the enclosure there is a shrine (9 m by 1.4 m) of which 75% has been leveled. On the east end of this ritual construction an adobe superstructure resembling a bumpabum pa is erected on top of the 1.1 m high stone plinth. This 80 cm high adobe superstructure is too degraded to discern its original form. Its stone base has remnants of mud plaster on it. Nearby, a single line of boulders protruding as much as 70 cm above the ground form a circle 5.4 m in diameter. The interior of this enclosure is clear and level, and it most resembles a threshing pad.

West sector

The west sector of the old Lung NgakLung ngag settlement is situated 110 m west of the east sector. It was built on its own bench, which is elevated 10 m above the valley floor. Overlooking the rim of the bench there is a line of four structures extending for 120 m. These appear to be the foundations of decimated buildings. From east to west they measure: (1) 17 m by 11 m, (2) 12.6 m by 4.4 m, (3) 7 m by 5.3 m (these foundation walls are set as much as 1 m into the ground), and (4) 18.5 m by 11 m (this appears to have been a multi-roomed structure). Above the east portion of this line of structures there are three more circular structures (up to 7 m in diameter) that resemble threshing pads. Above the bench on a level area of the slope there are the remains of two more buildings, spaced 10 m apart. These fragmentary foundations measure 12 m by 8 m and 18 m by 8 m.

Lung NgakLung ngag agriculture

Below the old settlement remains there are many defunct agricultural fields in the valley bottom, which are attributed to the Kel MönSkal mon. The modern village of Lung NgakLung ngag (around ten households), also located in the valley bottom, cultivates but a small fraction of the arable land-base of the valley. Factors accounting for this loss of productive capacity would appear to be depopulation and the deterioration of the regional climate. The lower Lung NgakLung ngag valley no longer enjoys a perennial watercourse.


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.