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

PaktukPags mthug

Basic site data

  • Site name: PaktukPags mthug
  • English equivalent: Thick Hide
  • Site number: E-23
  • Site typology: II.2a, II.3
  • Elevation: 4870 m to 4900 m
  • Administrative location (township): Oma’O ma
  • Administrative location (county): GertséSger rtse
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: June 8, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS II
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

PaktukPags mthug is located on one of a group of ridgelines of the same name. This ridge rings a portion of the Tarap TsoRta rabs mtsho basin. From the site there are fairly open views in all directions. At least eleven funerary structures, many of which appear to have been cubic graves, are situated on the northeast-southwest running rocky spine. There are also the traces of walls and at least one enclosure at PaktukPags mthug. The tombs and other structures are spread out over more than 1 km along the talus-blanketed ridgeback. Many of them are so deteriorated that they have been almost reabsorbed into the depositions of talus. The cubic tombs among them appear to have been of standard design and construction. All structures at the site are made of variable-length (30 cm to 80 cm long) reddish and purplish slabs of volcanic talus. These funerary structures are closely associated spatially and functionally with a small array of pillars appended to an edifice (C-158). These monuments constitute two distinctive components of what appears to have been an integrated (functionally and chronologically) necropolis. On high ground around the Tarap TsoRta rabs mtsho basin there are four other sites of the cubic tomb typology (E-8, E-17, E-18, E-19).

Oral tradition

According to the folklore of Oma’O ma, there was once a local chieftain who was extremely fond of wild yak (drong’brong) hunting. One day because of all his killing there were no wild yaks left in the region. In order to survive he was reduced to boiling the skins of wild yaks and eating them. The name of the site, “Thick Hide” is said to refer to this incident.

Site elements

Southwest group

Funerary structures FS1 to FS7 are situated southwest of the other structures on the lower end of the site. These cubic tomb traces were not individually surveyed because of their extremely poor condition and the inability, in some cases, to positively differentiate between manmade structures and natural heaps of talus.

Funerary Structure FS8

Funerary structure FS8 (1.7 m by 2.3 m) is situated off the spine of the ridge just below FS9 and FS10. FS8 is one of the best preserved cubic tombs at PaktukPags mthug. Although it has been reduced to 30 cm or less in height, its quadrate form is still discernable. Stones up to 1 m in length went into the construction of FS8. Several in situ stones of the central depository (reliquary) still mark this cubic tomb.

Funerary Structure FS9

Funerary structure FS9, a highly deteriorated structure, is situated on the high point of the ridgeline.

Funerary Structure FS10

Funerary structure FS10 is located on the high point of the ridgeline, in close proximity to FS9. This cubic tomb has been reduced to an amorphous heap of stones. FS10 is connected to FS9 by a single-course wall, 15 m in length. The stones of this meandering wall appear to have stood erect with their two broad sides oriented perpendicular to the axis of the ridgeline. A continuation of this wall follows the ridgeback for at least 100 m in a downhill direction and perhaps for the entire 460 m to the base of the ridge. Due to its advanced state of degradation, the original extent of this wall is difficult to judge. In the upper section of the wall there are several upright stones, protruding 30 cm to 40 cm above the talus mantle. Most other stones, however, have collapsed in a domino fashion along the slope gradient. This wall appears to have been closely linked with other structures at PaktukPags mthug and is likely to have had a funerary ritual function.

Funerary Structure FS11

Funerary structure FS11 (2.2 m by 2.2 m) is situated between FS10 and the array of pillars (C-158). This single-course enclosure consists of stones that protrude upwards of 30 cm above the talus-covered slope. In addition to the outer perimeter walls, there appears to be a rectangular inner enclosure (1 m across) that is also composed of upright stones.

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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.