Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
by John Vincent Bellezza
Edited by Geoffrey Barstow, Mickey Stockwell and Michael White
Tibetan & Himalayan Library
Published under the THL Digital Text License.

II.1. Stelae and accompanying structures: Funerary and non-funerary structures

Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring

Basic site data

  • Site name: Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring
  • English equivalent: Black Corral Long-stones
  • Site number: C-91
  • Site typology: II.1b, II.2x
  • Elevation: 4450 m to 4460 m
  • Administrative location (township): JangpaByang pa
  • Administrative location (county): GegyéDge rgyas
  • Survey expedition: UTAE and WYLE
  • Survey date: May 22, 2001 and May 10, 2007
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS II, HAS A2
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring is located on the western fringe of the highly degraded Tsatsa KhaTshwa tshwa kha basin. With its many salt and soda flats, this was an attractive location for the placement of ritual and utilitarian facilities pertaining to the disposal of human remains. I refer to this area as the “Valley of the Dead” because of the concentration of funerary sites found here (see C-92, C-153, D-46, D-68). All of these sites have especially long views in the east. The extreme aridity of the area, rendering much of it uninhabitable and of little value to livestock, would appear to account for the concentration of funerary sites in the Valley of the Dead. The closest archaic residential site to this cluster of ceremonial sites surveyed is Mönkhar SernakMon mkhar ser nag (A-30), located 20 km to the west. The precise chronological and cultural relationships between the various Valley of the Dead funerary sites have yet to be determined. Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring is named for the small, dark conical formation standing on the western edge of the Tsatsa KhaTshwa tshwa kha basin. There are three individual archaeological installations at NaklhéNag lhas: two of stelae erected inside enclosures and one consisting of quadrate enclosures. The three sites of Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring are all in eyeshot of one another.

Oral tradition

It is generally thought in this region (GegyéDge rgyas) that sites such as Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring were constructed by the ancient MönMon for burial purposes.

Site elements

Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Northeast

Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Northeast consists of a row of nine in situ pillars, situated near the shores of the alkaline lake Tsatsa KhaTshwa tshwa kha (32° 37.278΄ N. lat. / 81.52.428΄ E. long. / 4450 m).169


The walls enclosing these pillars are highly fragmentary and their original configuration could not be determined with any precision. Quite an anomaly, the row of pillars (many of which are inclined) appears to stand near the east end of the enclosure. The west wall of the enclosure is situated 26 m west of the pillars. The extant west wall fragment is about 15 m long and fairly well aligned in the cardinal directions. This wall is double-course (40 cm to 50 cm thick), and contains variable-length (10 cm to 70 cm long) stones. The stones of the west wall are flush with the ground surface or project above up to a height of 20 cm. A small fragment of the enclosing north wall is also intact where it joins with the west wall. The area between the row of pillars and west wall of the enclosure is strewn with small pieces of white limestone. These stones either formed an element of the construction or were once part of votive offerings. Inside the enclosure, 5.8 m west of the row of pillars, there is a smaller enclosure (2.2 m by 2.4 m) or cell. This inner enclosure is offset towards the north side of the larger enclosure. The single-course perimeter walls of the smaller enclosure are composed of calcareous rocks up to 60 cm in length. These stones project as much as 30 cm above ground level. The smaller enclosure is of crude construction and sub-rectangular in form. This is one of the only examples of the stelae erected inside an enclosure typology (II.1b) that has a subsidiary inner enclosure discovered to date.


Five of the nine in situ pillars planted inside the enclosure are broken to varying degrees, and now stand 60 cm to 1 m in height. These broken pillars are all irregularly shaped. There are also two fallen pillars, 1.3 m and 1.4 m in length. All the pillars (except one) are made of an unhewn light-colored, grained igneous (?) rock. From south to north, the dimensions and characteristics of the four unbroken stelae are as follows:

  1. Long-stone DR1: four-sided (1.2 m [height] by 85 cm [basal girth]).
  2. Long-stone DR2: a tabular dark-colored stone (1 m by 70 cm).
  3. Long-stone DR3: four-sided (1.5 m by 1 m).
  4. Long-stone DR4: four-sided (1.25 m by 1 m).
Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Southwest

Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Southwest is situated about one-half km from Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Northeast, in close proximity to the NaklhéNag lhas rock formation (37.083΄ / 52.338΄ / 4460 m). The sandy terrain is nearly level and strewn with dark blue grained rocks that have reddish-colored varnish. This is the type rock with which the monument was constructed. Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Southwest is a conventional example of the II.2 typology.


The enclosure is aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 11.4 m (east-west) by 7 m (north-south). The east, west and south walls of the enclosure are largely intact, while the north wall is highly fragmentary. These double-course walls (65 cm to 80 cm thick) are composed of stones (primarily 40 cm to 60 cm long) that are even with the ground level or elevated up to 20 cm above it.


There is a single, irregularly shaped, pillar (approximately 1 m in height) erected inside the enclosure. The pillar stands next to the inner edge of the west wall and is quite well centered between its north and south walls of the enclosure. There are also three or four partly submerged larger stones inside the enclosure. These appear to have been smaller pillars.

Outlying funerary structure

A square structure (2.1 m by 2.2 m) is located 7.5 m directly west of the west wall of the Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Southwest enclosure, at slightly higher elevation. The base of this structure is made of large rocks upon which smaller stones are heaped. This probable funerary structure is elevated about 1 m above the surrounding ground level.

Interconnected funerary superstructures

At NaklhéNag lhas there is a third site, consisting of at least seven large rectangular funerary enclosures, located a couple hundred meters north of Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Southwest (37.17΄ / 52.29΄ / 4460 m). These structures are situated on level sandy ground in the mouth of a small side valley. This interconnected line of enclosures (with the possible exception of two structures that may have had spaces between them) is 82 m in length. Forming a single north-south line, these enclosures are about 13 m wide (east-west). As these structures are highly deteriorated, a detailed assessment of their design and construction qualities was not possible. The walls of the enclosures do not seem to be well aligned in the cardinal directions. Variable-length (primarily 25 cm to 50 cm long) stones of the type used to build Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Southwest were used in the construction of the walls. Some enclosure walls also exhibit chunks of a white calcareous stone but this is the exception. The largest stones in the construction reach 1 m in length. The stones of the enclosures tend to project 10 cm to 30 cm above ground level. The enclosures all appear to have been free from interior structural elements. This NaklhéNag lhas site with its interconnected line of enclosures somewhat resembles funerary structure FS4 of Zangdong MöndoZangs gdong mon rdo (C-170).

Approximately 50 m west of the interconnected enclosure complex there are the remains of a wall (8.5 m long, 1.2 m thick, 60 cm high). Farther west there is other minor structural detritus.


[169] This lake and basin is not to be confused with the much better known and larger Tsakha TsatsoTshwa kha tshwa mtsho located near the TsakhaTshwa kha township headquarters. In Bellezza, Zhang Zhung, I treat Naklhé DoringNag lhas rdo ring Northeast as a discrete type II.1a site (C-17). The 2007 survey of the site, however, revealed that it is rather a type II.1b monument, albeit highly aberrant in form.

Note Citation for Page

John Vincent Bellezza, (Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010), .

Bibliographic Citation

John Vincent Bellezza. . Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010.