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


Basic site data

  • Site name: NyaNya
  • English equivalent: Fish
  • Site number: D-100
  • Site typology: II.2d
  • Elevation: 4330 m to 4380 m
  • Administrative location (township): Damzhung’Dam gzhung
  • Administrative location (county): Damzhung’Dam gzhung
  • Survey expedition: HTWE
  • Survey date: May 5 and May 6, 2004
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS IX
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

NyaNya is located on an esplanade that rises above the swampy Dam’Dam basin. The site is situated near the southwest end of the esplanade, which is bounded by the NyachuNya chu. Rising above the opposite side of the NyachuNya chu is KyelungSkye lung and LungsumLung gsum (D-4) and KyangtangRkyang thang (B-86). The NyaNya esplanade extends more than 2 km northeast all the way to Lagen DoLa rgan mdo. Being located at the foot of the Nyenchen TanglhaGnyan chen thang lha range, NyaNya has open views to the south, east and west. NyaNya consists of quadrate funerary mounds (bangsobang so) of the type found at the nearby DeurukRde’u rug site (D-99). The typological coherence between the funerary mounds of these two sites suggests that at least some of those standing at NyaNya had a burial function as well. NyaNya also has four extensive zones of superficial stone walls (totaling 4830 m²). These walls may possibly be the remains of clustered residential structures. Sedentary settlement appears to have been part of the region’s archaic cultural horizon, as sites of other superficial dispersions indicate (see B-84, B-85 and B-86). The ruins of palaces and fortresses with significant standing walls, which belong to the archaic cultural horizon, have not been discovered in the Damzhung’Dam gzhung region. If the NyaNya walls are indeed habitational in character, their proximity to funerary structures is not congruent with the JangtangByang thang and Stod where funerary sites generally lie sequestered from residential sites.

There are also extensive terraces in the vicinity of the funerary mounds with the roots of retaining walls that are still in situ. These may have once supported agricultural parcels. The oral tradition of Damzhung’Dam gzhung holds that agriculture was extensively practiced in the region in early times. In the modern period, the inhabitants are again experimenting with barley and black pea cultivation with mixed results. Most of what is grown is fit only for livestock forage. A fragment of a plaque inscribed with the manima ṇi mantra is found at nyanya. It probably came from a shrine wall located below the site in the bottomland.

The area between Bakha AraSba kha a ra (in the plain below KyangtangRkyang thang) and TredoKhre mdo, a settlement hub in modern Damzhung’Dam gzhung, also appears to have been a nucleus of early settlement in the region. This area has a number of perennial streams and excellent southern exposure. The modern habitations are all situated in the bottom of the Dam’Dam basin, while the major archaeological remains are on the slopes, shelves and esplanades at the base of the Nyenchen TanglhaGnyan chen thang lha range. These relative settlement patterns are echoed across Upper Tibet, whereby ancient habitations are located above their later historic and modern counterparts.

Oral tradition

The superficial stone walls of NyaNya are locally called Lhamo Drukmö KhangLha mo ’brug mo’i khang, and are supposed to have been the residence of the epic heroine Lhamo DrukmoLha mo 'brug mo. This residential complex is thought to have been destroyed by the 18th century CE Jungarjun gar. The Jungarjun gar destruction of ancient monuments is a common theme in the oral traditions of Dam’Dam and the far eastern JangtangByang thang, and is liable to be apocryphal in this case. The residential attribution of the site, however, may well be founded in historical fact. A mountain above NyaNya is called Jungar LatséJun gar la btsas. According to Sokpo NamséSog po rnam sras (born Earth Dragon Year, circa 1928),212 this mountain was the site of a Jungarjun gar surveillance post (sokhangso khang).

Site elements

Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 (17.5 m by 15 m) is situated on the southwest rim of the lower shelf of the esplanade. This conspicuous location adds to the physical prominence of the structure in the local landscape. This seems to suggest that such funerary structures were a celebrated part of the architectural heritage of the times in which they were built, not hidden or out of the way monuments. FS1 does not appear to have been oriented in the cardinal directions; rather, its position takes full advantage of the local topographic conditions. FS1 is 3 m high on its uphill/northwest flank and no less than 5 m high on its downhill/southeast flank. The mound is covered in turf and dramagra ma brush. There are also stones embedded in its surface but no coherent wall segments are discernable.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 (17 m by 20 m) is also situated near the rim of the lower shelf of the esplanade (32.537΄ / 07. 090΄ / 4330 m). FS2 has an uphill height of around 3 m and a downhill height of perhaps 5 m. The forward or downhill height in all the mounds of NyaNya is difficult to visually appraise because of the way in which they blend into the adjacent groundcover. Some excavation of the top of the structure has taken place. FS2 is covered in brush and turf. North of FS2 there is a rocky dispersion (30 m by 18 m), the remains of manmade structures of unknown identity.

Funerary Structure FS3

Funerary structure FS3 is situated on the southwest edge of the upper shelf of the esplanade and overlooks FS1 and FS2 (32.611΄ / 07.026΄ / 4350 m). FS3 is another large mound that is elevated around 3 m on its uphill flank and approximately 4 m on its downhill flank. The top of FS3 is relatively level and there are no visible signs that the structure was ever disturbed. FS3 is covered in brush and turf and has some stones embedded in its surface.

Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 is situated on the south rim of the upper shelf of the esplanade overlooking the NyachuNya chu (32.616΄ / 07.999΄ / 4350 m). Near the top of this small conical tumulus (around 2 m high) many stones are embedded on all sides of the structure. These stones cover a square area measuring 3.5 m by 3.5 m. The variable-length (up to 50 cm long) red sandstone and other types of rocks represented no longer form an integral structure. Nevertheless, it appears that these stones once constituted a significant masonry structure. FS4, given its distinctive morphological characteristics, may have served an alternative ritual function to that of the bigger mounds.

Residential Structure RS5

Residential structure RS5 is a dispersion of superficial stone walls and tumuli situated near the south rim of the esplanade (32.667΄ / 06.941΄ / 4350 m). The main dispersion of RS5 covers an area of 39 m by 26 m. Part of this zone consists of around one dozen building foundations or cells partially obscured by ground cover. It is not clear if these quadrate structures are the footings of buildings or the superstructures of funerary enclosures. The double-course and multi-course walls of the structures are well built and around 50 cm in thickness. They are composed of uncut pieces of red sandstone and other types of rocks. A large wall segment (6 m long) formed one side of two rooms or cells. It consists of lines of two or three stones laid abreast of one another. These stones slightly protrude from the ground. Another coherent wall fragment on the west side of RS5 is 80 cm thick and composed of three or more stones laid abreast. On the northeast side of the main RS5 dispersion there is a zone of tumuli around 2 m in height, which covers an area of 8 m by 8 m. Immediately north of the main RS5 dispersion there is another zone of superficial walls (20 m by 13 m). On the north end of this north dispersion there is a double-course east-west wall segment, 13 m in length and 30 cm thickness.

Residential Structure RS6

Residential structure RS6, another large rocky dispersion (47 m by 45 m), is situated near the west end of the esplanade (32.713΄ / 06.929΄ / 4360 m). RS6 occupies sloping ground and appears to consist of what are either building foundations or funerary structures. On the west end of the RS6 dispersion there is a wall segment (9 m long, 60 cm high) that is built into the slope. It is made up of several vertical courses of masonry. This wall type seems in keeping with residential architectural traces. There are also smaller such wall fragments in RS5. These random-rubble walls are composed of stones 10 cm to 50 cm in length. There are more minor structural remains that peer out of the surface of the upper shelf of the esplanade that are not a part of RS5 or RS6.

Residential Structure RS7

Residential structure RS7 is an L-shaped structure whose two arms measure 23 m by 10 m and 48 m by 14 m (32.718΄ / 06.866΄ / 4380 m). RS7 is situated on the prow of an adjoining hill and directly overlooks the NyachuNya chu gorge. This large structure is subdivided into around 12 rooms or cells. In some places the walls attain 80 cm in thickness and are composed of three stones laid abreast of one another. Although there are no freestanding walls, the morphological presentation of RS7 appears to be in keeping with residential architectural remains.

Funerary Structure FS8

Funerary structure FS8, a funerary mound, is situated on a fairly steep slope above the upper shelf of the esplanade (32.765΄ / 07.036΄ / 4370 m). This is another large bangsobang so that is not aligned in the cardinal directions. FS8 has a height of around 1.5 m to 2 m on its uphill flank and a height of perhaps 4 m on its downhill flank. The top is undulating, rocky and covered in turf. Cuts of around 70 cm in depth reveal a rocky interior.

Funerary Structure FS9

Funerary structure FS9 (20 m by 20 m) is another funerary mound with a highly eroded top. The upslope flank of FS9 is around 3 m in height and its down slope flank is around 5 m high. The top of the structure has been cleaved into two parts by the agency of water and possibly by human activity as well. Immediately upslope of FS9 there is a wall composed of smaller stones set 1.1 m to 1.4 apart in parallel courses. These stones are embedded into the ground surface. The wall is oriented perpendicular (northwest-southeast) to the uphill wall of the funerary mound. This superficial structure is somewhat sinuous and inclined.


[212] According to this individual, his clan lineage is derived from the Sokpo DedünSog po sde bdun, traditionally seven leading households of Damzhung’Dam gzhung, which are of Mongol origins. This clan grouping has control of a local protective deity known as Sungma MarnakSrung ma dmar nag.

Note Citation for Page

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

Bibliographic Citation

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