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.3. Cubic mountaintop tombs

Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra

Basic site data

  • Site name: Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra
  • English equivalent: Yellow Expanse Top
  • Site number: E-19
  • Site typology: II.3, II.2a, II.2b
  • Elevation: 4530 m to 4930 m
  • Administrative location (township): Oma’O ma
  • Administrative location (county): GertséSger rtse
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: June 7, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS VI
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra is the name of a dark-colored mountain that rises 500 m above the eastern margin of the large basin that cradles the lakes of Oma Tso’O ma mtsho and Tarap TsoRta rabs mtsho. Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra is one of five mountains with cubic tombs in eyeshot of Tarap TsoRta rabs mtsho (see E-8, E-17, E-18, E-23). There are good views north and south from the funerary structures of Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra. Structures on the east side of the mountain also have good views to the east, while those on the west side of the mountain have fine views in that direction. Various types of enclosures, cubic tombs and other ritual structures are found at the foot and on the slopes and summit of Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra. The cubic tombs were made of variable length, grayish stone slabs (up to 1 m long). Several of the cubic tombs were converted into rudimentary rock shelters. There is also an old cairn on the summit of Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra.

Oral tradition

In this region (SenkhorBse ’khor), sites such as Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra are generally associated with the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

Lower site
Superficial structure

There is a single-course square, funerary enclosure (6 m by 6 m) in the plain north of Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra (32° 24.798΄ N. lat. / 83° 18.785΄ E. long. / 4530 m). The terrain here is gently sloping and gravelly. Aligned in the cardinal directions, about 50 percent of this superficial structure is intact. Variable-length (up to 75 cm long) stones that project a maximum of 15 cm above ground level make up the walls of this enclosure.

Standing stone

At the east foot of Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra there is a standing stone (90 cm [height] by 1.2 m [basal girth]) of unknown identity (23.719΄ / 21.248΄ / 4670 m). Some stones were piled up around the west side of this pillar-like stone. It could not be determined if this standing stone was naturally occurring or raised through human activity.

Superficial structures on the east saddle

On a saddle connecting Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra with a ridge to the east there are the scant remains of what appears to be a platform-like structure (23.417΄ / 21.149΄ / 4770 m). This structure (3.7 m by 3.4 m minimum) is elevated about 1 m above the downhill slope. On top of the saddle, 25 m to the south, there are the remains of a double-course, sub-rectangular enclosure (17 m by 9.5 m). The perimeter wall fragments are well built and around 75 cm in thickness. Larger stones (primarily 40 cm to 70 cm long) were used to build these walls. The longest stone in this enclosure is 1 m, and some stones were inserted upright into the wall courses. The enclosure is divided by the remains of a wall into two roughly equal cells. The south cell is sunk about 50 cm below ground level.

Eastern ridgeback group
Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 is found on the talus strewn eastern ridgeback of Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra (23.429΄ / 21.079΄ / 4810 m). This structure is so highly disintegrated that it could not be positively identified as the remains of a cubic tomb.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 (2 m by 2 m) is a cubic tomb leveled to its foundation (23.433΄ / 21.064΄ / 4820 m). The remains of what appears to be two other cubic tombs are situated 9 m below and 3 m above FS2. However, there is very little to distinguish these structures from the surrounding talus-covered slopes.

Funerary Structure FS3

Funerary structure FS3 is situated higher up the same slopes as FS1 and FS2 (23.445΄ / 21.024΄ / 4830 m). This is another probable cubic tomb, which has been reduced to its fragmentary foundation.

Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 (3 m by 3 m by 70 cm to 1.3 m [height]) is situated on a small saddle perched above the lower east slopes of Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra (23.459΄ / 21.008΄ / 4830 m). This fairly well-preserved cubic tomb was built in the conventional manner with locally occurring slabs of stone up to 1 m in length. Its central depository is completely filled with rubble.

Funerary Structure FS5

Funerary structure FS5 is a highly unusual composite structure located 6 m west of FS4. It consists of a highly fragmentary outer enclosure that measures 11 m (north-south) by 7.5 m (east-west). Within this enclosure sits a cubic tomb (2 m by 1.8 m by 30 cm [maximum height]). The base of the central depository (reliquary) has endured. Inside the same enclosure, 1.6 m north of the cubic tomb, there is a small single-course slab-wall enclosure aligned in the cardinal directions. This subsidiary enclosure measures 2.5 m (north-south) by 3 m (east-west). Many of the upright stone slabs forming the perimeter walls of the subsidiary enclosure are elevated 20 cm to 40 cm above ground level. The largest slab used in its construction is 1.2 m in length. Through the agency of gravity most of these slabs are now inclined at various angles. There are also two pillar-like stones, 60 cm in height, in the subsidiary enclosure. The cubic tomb and subsidiary enclosure are symmetrically arrayed inside the large outer enclosure. Although all the individual structural elements of FS5 find common expression in Upper Tibetan archaic ceremonial structures, this is the only monument of this particular morphological configuration surveyed to date.

Funerary Structure FS6

Funerary structure FS6 (2.3 m by 3 m by 40 cm) is situated higher up the ridgeback on a small rock-strewn level area (23.447΄ / 20.929΄ / 4860 m). While there is little structural coherence left in this cubic tomb, the base of the central depository is recognizable.

Summit group
Funerary Structure FS7

Funerary structure FS7 (2 m by 2 m by 50 cm) is situated on the east edge of the summit ridge (23.464΄ / 20.863΄ / 4930 m). The central depository of FS7 seems to have collapsed. In close proximity are the crude walls of what appears to be a shepherd’s shelter (droklhé’brog lhas).

Funerary Structure FS8

Funerary structure FS8 is situated below the north side of the summit, on a talus-cloaked slope (23.488΄ / 20.880΄ / 4910 m). The north wall of this cubic tomb appears to have been rebuilt to serve as a rudimentary shepherd’s shelter.

West shoulder group

On a talus-covered shoulder of Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra, located west of the summit ridge, there is group of four cubic tombs spread out over a transection of 13.5 m (23.462΄ / 20.837΄ / 4900 m). There are also the remains of two other cubic tombs on this shoulder. The views from the shoulder are open in the north and south and particularly in the west.

Funerary Structure FS9

Funerary structure FS9 (2 m by 2 m by 70 cm to 90 cm) is the highest cubic tomb in the group of four. This structure was built against a small rock face. What remains of its central depository appears to be filled with debris.

Funerary Structure FS10

Funerary structure FS10 is situated just below FS9. This average-sized cubic tomb was gutted and transformed into a rudimentary shelter. Given their extreme location and the lack of good grazing ground, such rock shelters at Tsuk SerraGtsug ser ra may have been built as a refuge.

Funerary structure FS11

Funerary structure FS11 (2.3 m by 2 m by 70 cm) is situated below FS10. The central depository in this cubic tomb has collapsed.

Funerary Structure FS12

Funerary structure FS12 (2 m by 2 m) is the lowest cubic tomb in the group of four. It has been leveled to its foundation.

Funerary Structure FS13

Funerary structure FS13 is situated 27 m north of the group of four. It was gutted to produce a small rock shelter. Stones up to 1.5 m in length went into its construction.

Funerary Structure FS14

Funerary structure FS14 is situated 12.5 m north of FS13. Although the center of this cubic tomb was removed, it is in more of an original state than FS13. FS14 reaches a maximum height of 1.1 m.

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Note Citation for Page

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

Bibliographic Citation

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