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

Gyaruk MöndurRgya rug mon dur

Basic site data

  • Site name: Gyaruk MöndurRgya rug mon dur
  • Site number: E-20
  • Site typology: II.3
  • Elevation: 4650 m and 4710 m
  • Administrative location (township): RongmarRong dmar
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: June 12 and 13, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS IV
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

The two funerary structures of Gyaruk MöndurRgya rug mon dur are situated on ridge-tops of GyarukRgya rug (the rukrug, “side by side” part of this toponym refers to the juxtaposition of white and black rock formations in the locale). The site rises above the west shore of Yubuk TsakhaG.yu sbug tshwa kha (4560 m), a salt lake that greatly expands and shrinks in size. The presence of tombs and many petroglyphs (I-15) along the west side of the lake indicate that it has long been the focus of human settlement, despite being situated so far north. The relatively low elevation of the Yubuk TsakhaG.yu sbug tshwa kha basin and the 6000 m high meridian range to the west, providing ample fresh water, are the main geographic endowments accounting for this settlement. Although Gyaruk MöndurRgya rug mon dur has been classed as a type II.3 monument (due to its ridge-top aspect), it has little resemblance to the average cubic tombs of this typology. Gyaruk MöndurRgya rug mon dur is perhaps better classed as a type II.2 monument, but the in situ evidence does not permit a detailed analysis of its design and construction. Stones of various colors and lengths (up to 90 cm long) went into the construction of Gyaruk MöndurRgya rug mon dur.

Oral tradition

According to local residents, Gyaruk MöndurRgya rug mon dur belonged to the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 is situated in the middle of a fairly level ridge-top. It has morphological characteristics of both the double-course enclosure (II.1b) type and bangsobang so (II.2d) type of funerary structures, but its precise design could not be ascertained. This dissolute structure (8 m by 8 m) is elevated 1 m to 1.4 m above ground level. Small intact wall fragments suggest that it was square in shape, although it now has a round appearance. The center of FS1 appears to have been open, but dislodged stones are now scattered all around the structure.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 is located higher up the same ridgeback on a relatively broad and level portion of the summit. It is of similar construction to FS1. We might speculate that FS2 consisted of a central mound enclosed by a wall. Small traces of double-course walls make up the perimeter of this probable quadrate structure (11 m by 11 m). FS2 is elevated 1.2 m to 1.6 m above the summit. The construction of a shepherd’s shelter (droklhé’brog lhas) in the middle adds another 50 cm to the height of FS2. This concave rock shelter is measures 2.3 m across and 1 m in depth.

Affiliated sites

NgöndongSngon gdong

Two funerary structures are found at a locale called NgöndongSngon gdong (Blue Face), situated northwest of Yubuk TsakhaG.yu sbug tshwa kha.

Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 is a sub-rectangular double-course (6 m by 6 m) enclosure situated in the middle of the boulder-strewn slopes of NgöndongSngon gdong. More than 50 percent of its 50 cm thick walls are intact. The variable-length (primarily 30 cm to 50 cm long) stones in these walls are mostly flush with the ground surface. There are also at least two slabs in the walls, projecting 25 cm above ground level.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 is situated on a rocky shoulder, overlooking the south side of NgöndongSngon gdong. This structure now has the appearance of a rocky tumulus, elevated 70 cm above the surrounding terrain. The faint remaining wall fragments of this probable quadrate structure appear to be aligned in the cardinal directions. They contain variable-length stones. FS2 measures 2.8 m (north-south) by 3.7 m (east-west). Horns of domestic sheep and goats have been placed on the ruins of FS2, probably in the mistaken belief that a chötenmchod rten once stood here. For instance, the local guide to the site is under the impression that FS2 represents the base of an old chötenmchod rten.

Rongdeu KarpoRong rde’u dkar po

It is reported that several kilometers north of NgöndongSngon gdong, at a locale called Rongdeu KarpoRong rde’u dkar po (White Valley Knoll), a “möndurmon dur” of the enclosure type was excavated in the search for valuables (sometime before this survey). Digging down into the middle of the enclosure, the leg joints and hornless skull of a blue sheep are said to have been discovered but nothing else.

TroksharmaKhrog shar ma

What appears to be a minor funerary structure was detected in the pastoral hamlet of TroksharmaKhrog shar ma, in 2006 (33° 01.512΄ N. lat. / 86° 06.473΄ E. long. / 4880). This site is in GomoRgo mo township, GertséSger rtse county. The terrain is sandy, level and open. This squarish enclosure (1.1 m by 1.3 m) has single-course perimeter walls, which are mostly made up of nine blue-gray grained stones. These upright stones are up to 60 cm in length and project as much as 25 cm above the ground surface. There is also one section of the perimeter wall that is composed of small pieces of milky quartz, a highly unusual feature.

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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.