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

DotagaDo rta sga South

Basic site data

  • Site name: DotagaDo rta sga South
  • English equivalent: Horse Saddle Island
  • Alternative site name: Tsolinggi DoMtsho gling gi do South
  • English equivalent: Island of the Lake
  • Alternative name 2: TsodoMtsho do South
  • English equivalent: Lake Island
  • Site number: B-129
  • Site typology: I.2a
  • Elevation: 4590 m to 4610 m
  • Administrative location (township): LungkarLung dkar
  • Administrative location (county): Drongpa’Brong pa
  • Survey expedition: TILE
  • Survey date: February 20, 21, 2006.
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS VII, HAS D2
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Rounding the south shore of DotagaDo rta sga there is another series of dokhangrdo khang and caves built against an escarpment. This settlement of DotagaDo rta sga South is closely related chronologically and morphologically to its counterpart, DotagaDo rta sga East (B-128). DotagaDo rta sga South, however, has a more isolated and insulated aspect than DotagaDo rta sga East. The residential structures of DotagaDo rta sga South directly overlook the waters of DaroktsoDa rog mtsho which are generally within 10 m vertical of them. The placement of many of these residences in the furrows and hollows of the escarpment affords them a highly sheltered position. Usually open to the lake only along their south flanks, these buildings received a maximum amount of sun, while being protected from the fierce winds and severe weather emanating from other directions. Among the habitations is a small redoubt, adding to the bastion status of the site. It exhibits design features associated with ancient Upper Tibetan strongholds, and must have been active in the defense of the island. The buildings of DotagaDo rta sga South exhibit the same set of constructional features as those of DotagaDo rta sga East. Walls are around 70 cm in thickness and of a random-work configuration. Most of the structures are in a very poor state of preservation. Some of them were built around caves in the formation.

Oral tradition

According to the drokpa’brog pa of DaroktsoDa rog mtsho, DotagaDo rta sga was an ancient BönpoBon po center.

Site elements


The most easterly structure of DotagaDo rta sga South is an enclosure bounding a rock face above the shoreline (31° 10.08΄ N. lat. / 84° 05.46΄ E. long. / 4590 m). This enclosure (5 m by 3 m) is made up of a wall that is up to 60 cm in height. As it is so deteriorated, the identity of this structure could not be ascertained.

Residential Structure RS7, RS8 and RS9

Residential structure RS7, RS8, and RS9 form a residential group that is tucked into the base of the escarpment (10.07΄ / 05.42΄). Enveloped by the escarpment on three sides, rock falls originating from above have almost obliterated these structures. RS7 (6.3 m by 5 m) was deeply built into what is now a talus slope. It is set a maximum of 1.8 m below this loose slope. The forward/south wall of RS7 reaches a height of 1 m. Rockslides have wiped out most of the north and east sides of this dokhangrdo khang. A niche has survived in the bottom of the west wall of RS7. RS8 (5.8 m by 3.2 m) is situated 1.5 m west of RS7. RS8 is even more heavily degraded and only minor wall residue is discernable.

RS9 (6 m by 3.6 m) is situated 8.7 m northeast of RS7 at about a 5 m higher elevation. RS9 is tightly embraced by the walls of the escarpment and much of it is obscured by rock fall and rubble. This edifice appears to have been built at two distinct elevations. A forward wall segment 2 m long and 1.5 m high has endured. Against the cliff on the east side of RS9 structure there is an adobe and stone bay with a wide open interior (90 cm by 90 cm by 90 cm). Behind or to the northeast of RS9 there is a cave (3.4 m by 2.7 m) set about 2 m below the floor level of the freestanding structure. In the rear of this cave there is a mud plastered stone wall, 1.1 m long and 1.9 m tall. There is an opening (50 cm by 50 cm) at the base of this wall, which accesses a natural tunnel more than 5 m in length and around 1 m in width. In certain sections of this tunnel there is standing room. This walled off space may have been a sanctuary of some kind.

Residential Structure RS10

Residential structure RS10 (5 m by 5.5 m) was built near the lakeshore just above the rocky beach (10.06΄ / 05.43΄). This appears to be another dokhangrdo khang but presently its walls do not exceed 70 cm in height. The east wall of RS10 has completely vanished. The extremely poor condition of the structure is probably related to its fairly unstable location.

Residential structures RS11 and RS12

Residential structures RS11 and RS12 form another group of residential structures tucked into a fold in the escarpment (10.75΄ / 05. 40΄). Like the RS7 to RS9 group, RS11 and RS12 are only open to the elements on the south side. RS11 (3.8 m by 3 m) has been nearly annihilated by rockslides. Originally, it must have been significantly larger than the dimensions provided here. Small wall fragments up to 1.2 m high have survived in RS11. RS12 (7 m by 3.4 m) is situated about 5 m above RS11. Small sections of an outlying barricade wall are intact. Little else remains of RS12. An overhang covers part of the ruins. To the rear of the anterior portion of the RS12 structure there is a cave with both outer and inner chambers. The ruined façade that enclosed the cave is punctuated by a small window opening (35 cm by 30 cm). The ceiling of the outer chamber is very much fire-blackened, a sign of intensive occupation. In the rear of the outer chamber (5 m by 2.1 m) there is an adobe and stone bay with platforms on either side of it raised 50 cm above the cave floor. These structures probably had a religious function. On one side of this structural ensemble there is the entranceway (70 cm by 45 cm) to the rear chamber. This entrance is found in a stone wall thickly covered in mud plaster. The inner chamber of the cave (2.2 m by 2 m) is devoid of anthropogenic modification.

Residential Structure RS13

Residential structure RS13 (3.9 m by 4.2 m) is situated 11 m west of RS11. RS13 was built at the foot of the escarpment (10.07΄ / 05.39΄). Very little of this structure has survived; only small bits of the outer walls (up to 70 cm high) are extant.

Residential Structure RS14

Residential structure RS14 is larger than its counterparts and has geographic and architectonic features associated with archaic strongholds (10.09΄ / 05.31΄ / 4610 m). This facility is situated on a rocky prow 30 m above the lake. The only point of access is a stone buttressed trail that approaches the stronghold from the east. The single edifice of RS14 has maximum dimensions of 12.6 m by 8 m. The forward/lower rooms in RS14 have been destroyed, save for the most westerly one. In total, there must have been five or six rooms across the breadth of the forward tier. The one surviving specimen of the forward tier was built against an outcrop and has exterior dimensions of 3.8 m by 3.4 m. Its forward/south wall is 1.8 m high and its two side walls are 2 m high. The west wall of this room has an exterior height of 1.1 m and an interior height of 1.4 m. There are four niches in the west wall, and one niche each in the south and north walls. Some mud plaster is still attached to the interior walls. The lintel over the east-facing entranceway (1.1 m by 70 cm) is still intact. The west and east ends of RS14 have no rear/upper tier of rooms. Along the middle section of the edifice, however, there is a rear tier of two or three rooms (5 m by 3.7 m), which is somewhat elevated above the forward tier. On the back/north side of the rear tier there is a small, rubble-filled entranceway accessing a shallow cave. There is also a small opening in the north wall of RS14 leading to a small fissure in the formation. The entranceway to the rear tier of rooms is located in its south/forward wall. The relatively large and intact entrance measures 1.4 m by 50 cm. The wall in which it is situated reaches 2.5 m in height. In the rear tier of RS14 there is one corbel and one bridging stone yet in place.

Just west of the RS14 edifice there are the remains of defensive walls (reduced to 1 m or less in height) lining a rocky prominence. An east wall (10 m long) and a west wall (20 m long) enclose a fairly level area 7 m in width. These walls are suspended above the lakeshore and were probably used to defend the position from attack. On the extreme southern edge of the rocky prominence there is another defensive work consisting of an ovoid enclosure (5.6 m by 4.6 m), which is well integrated into rocky outcrops. The walls of this enclosure now stand 1.1 m or less in height. From this redoubt defenders could shower the lakeshore with arrows and stones. Even on an island in the middle of a deep lake, the ancient residents appear to have been preoccupied with defense. Perhaps in times of war, the inhabitants of DotagaDo rta sga retreated to the RS14 safehold. Its redoubtable position may also be related to the particularly high status of its occupants. The large entranceway leading to the rear tier of the buiding suggests an elite social identity.


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.