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.2. Superficial structures: Primarily funerary superstructure

Keltra MöndurSkal khra mon dur

Basic site data

  • Site name: Keltra MöndurSkal khra mon dur
  • Site number: D-66
  • Site typology: II.2e, II.2x
  • Elevation: 4500 m to 4570 m
  • Administrative location (township): RawangRa bang
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: June 2, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS I, HAS A1
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Keltra MöndurSkal khra mon dur is located in the small tributary valley of KeltraSkal khra, which flows south into the RawangRa bang valley. The site is situated on the opposite side of the RawangRa bang valley from Tönkha LungkharMthon kha lung mkhar (A-95). The site surveyed is on the east side of the KeltraSkal khra valley but, reportedly, there are also funerary structures on the west flank of the valley. Keltra MöndurSkal khra mon dur mainly consists of a series of masonry structures with rectilinear proportions that are deeply set into steep slopes. The forward walls of these structures are fully exposed, the side walls progressively disappear into the ground and the rear walls are totally submerged. The earthen and talus slopes upon which they were built had to be specially excavated. However, the depth and extent of the portion of these structures that lies underground is not at all evident. This design and method of construction contrasts with the mountaintop cubic tombs (II.3), which were totally built above ground. The Keltra MöndurSkal khra mon dur terraced constructions are mostly made of variable-length (20 cm to 1 m or more in length) brown sandstone slabs laid in what appear to be dry-stone random-rubble courses. In addition to the ravages of time, the advanced degradation of the structures at Keltra MöndurSkal khra mon dur seems to be the result of looting sometime well in the past.

Oral tradition

According to residents of RawangRa bang, Keltra MöndurSkal khra mon dur is a burial site of the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

South sector

The five structures of the south sector are widely distributed along open slopes.

Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 (8.5 m by 7.5 m) is situated on a slope just above the valley floo. Although few stones (up to 90 cm long) remain in situ in this fragmentary enclosure, the amount of rubble lying about indicates that this was a robustly built structure. Signs of an old excavation (70 cm deep) are found on the west side of the enclosure. A 60 cm long stone set on the east/uphill side of FS1 boasts an ancient petroglyph of a horseman chasing a wild yak. On the same stone and exhibiting far less repatination, the manima ṇi mantra, Om A Humoṃ a hum and Om A Smi Sde WA Hraoṃ a smi sde wa’ hra were inscribed.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 consists of a single forward wall segment (5 m long by up to 90 cm high) built into the slope (07.123΄ / 13.479΄ / 4520 m). No other part of the structure is visible. The stones in the forward wall are primarily 20 cm to 30 cm in length.

Funerary Structure FS3

Funerary structure FS3 consists of a forward wall 6 m in length and up to 1.6 m in height (07.168΄ / 13.471΄ / 4530 m). Small sections of the side walls extending into the slope are visible. FS1, FS2 and FS3 are located within 100 m of each other.

Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 consists of a forward wall 3.9 m long and up to 1.4 m in height (07.225΄ / 13.499΄ / 4570 m). As much as 2.3 m lengths of the side walls are visible before they merge into the slope. Originally, the forward wall may have been around 50 cm higher because one of the side walls is elevated well above it. A 1.3 m length of a wall with an exposed 60 cm high face is situated 2.2 m to the south. This was either a companion structure or a structural extension of FS4.

Funerary Structure FS5

Funerary structure FS5 is situated 14 m down slope from FS4. Its forward wall is 4.5 m long and it has a maximum height of 70 cm. About a 1 m length of each of the side walls is visible.

North sector

The 11 structures of the north sector are located on a single narrow slope about 110 m in length with a vertical distance of about 25 m. This slope is sequestered by steep rocky slopes that flank all but its downhill side. Below the single line of terraced structures, the slope widens and gradually merges into the valley floor below. The structures were built in line with one another to create a series of tiers or steps. Unfortunately, these highly unusual funerary monuments are in a very poor state of preservation. It appears that each of the 11 quadrate structures measured are in the neighborhood of 5 m by 5 m with forward walls up to 2 m in height. Taken a whole, this stepped complex must have presented quite a sight when it was sound.

From top to bottom, each of the terraced constructions has the following dimensions and characteristics:

  1. Funerary structure FS6 is the highest structure in the north sector (07.296΄ / 13.495΄ / 4550 m). A forward fragment 3 m long and up to 60 cm high has survived.
  2. Funerary structure FS7 is situated 9.5 m downhill of FS6. A 1.8 m length of its forward wall up to 30 cm in height, has survived.
  3. Funerary structure FS8 is situated 6 m downhill of FS7. Its forward wall is 5.5 m long and up to 40 cm in height. Due to an old excavation, portions of the structure are visible 4 m upslope from the forward wall.
  4. Funerary structure FS9 is situated 5.7 m down slope of FS8. Only a forward wall fragment, 1.2 m in length, even with the ground surface is visible.
  5. Funerary structure FS10 is situated 11 m downhill of FS9. Only tiny traces of the forward wall are intact. A side wall segment, 2.2 m in length, with a maximum height of 30 cm is also visible.
  6. Funerary structure FS11 is situated 5 m downhill of FS10. Its forward wall fragment is 4 m in length and up to 40 cm in height.
  7. Funerary structure FS12 is situated 4.7 m downhill of FS11. Only a vestige of its forward wall (70 cm long by 20 cm high) has persisted. A 1 m long section of a side wall is also visible.
  8. Funerary structure FS13 is situated 4.7 m downhill of FS12. FS13 consists of the remains of an enclosure (5 m by 6.5 m) with a slight depression in the middle.
  9. Funerary structure FS14 is situated 14 m downhill of FS13. The forward wall is 5.6 m long and mostly level with the slope. Faint structural remains are found 1.9 m upslope, which may have been part of side walls.
  10. Funerary structure FS15 is situated 17.5 m downhill of FS14. Only a nebulous 3.5 m long section of its forward wall remains visible. There may have been intervening structures between FS14 and FS15, but this could not be confirmed from what remains on the surface of the slope.
  11. Funerary structure FS16 is situated 11 m downhill of FS15. It is the best preserved and lowest (4525 m) stepped construction in the series. Its forward wall is 4.2 m in length and up to 1 m in height. As much as a 3.8 m length of the side walls is exposed before being completely engulfed by the slope. There may have been intervening structures between FS15 and FS16, but this could not be confirmed with the evidence at hand.
  12. Funerary structure FS17 is situated adjacent to FS16. Its forward wall fragment is 2.5 m in length. The two side walls are visible for upwards of 3.3 m before disappearing into the slope.

Note Citation for Page

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

Bibliographic Citation

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