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

Yadra TrikG.ya’ sbra khrigs

Basic site data

  • Site name: Yadra TrikG.ya’ sbra khrigs
  • English equivalent: Slate Tents in Rows
  • Site number: E-24
  • Site typology: II.3
  • Elevation: 5000 m
  • Administrative location (township): GyatsoRgya mtsho
  • Administrative location (county): GertséSger rtse
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: October 12, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS II
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Yadra TrikG.ya’ sbra khrigs is located on the summit of a flat-topped black outcrop rising above the southern end of a huge basin. This outcrop is part of a series of blackish formations known as Yadra TrikG.ya’ sbra khrigs. The site enjoys open views in all directions. The outcrop is covered in dark blue slates some of which have weathered to a reddish color. These slates were used to construct six sub-rectangular above ground tombs. These structures are of a more rudimentary construction than the typical mountaintop cubic tomb. Through subsidence and the ravages of time, the structures of Yadra TrikG.ya’ sbra khrigs now have a rounded appearance. Each specimen contains a large central cavity (reliquary) encased in the outer walls. These walls are made from slabs 20 cm to 80 cm in length and 2 cm to 10 cm in thickness. There are no signs that the cavities were ever lined with a finer inner layer of masonry. The upper portions of the outer walls of each structure taper inwards. This inward positioning of the slabs must have continued all the way up to the original height of the structures. Given the local geology, it is likely that the tops of the walls were capped with long slates. The structures must have been approximately 50 percent higher than the tallest extant specimens (1.2 m), in order to be spanned by the slates available at the site. The bases of the structures are often inset into the mantle of slates covering the summit. This must have given the roughly built structures more stability.

There are also wall remnants along the west rim of the formation and along the north flank of the site, dividing the upper and lower summits of the formation. These wall traces (none of which are free standing) were built in a similar fashion to the tombs, and are an integral part of the funerary complex. They may have had ritual functions. Yadra TrikG.ya’ sbra khrigs is one of the most northerly archaeological sites surveyed to date. It coincides with the northern margin of human settlement in the JangtangByang thang (much of which arose in the Communist period).

Oral tradition

In northern GertséSger rtse, drokpa’brog pa associate Yadra TrikG.ya’ sbra khrigs with the ancient MönMon. Some drokpa’brog pa believe the site to consist of ancient fortifications.

Site elements

Funerary structures FS1 to FS5 are spread out over more than half the summit in a transection 29 m long.

Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 (2.3 m across) has been leveled on its exterior sides. The walls around the central cavity are 20 cm to 35 cm in height. This structure is situated adjacent to a wall on the north side of the site, which is 8.3 m long and a maximum of 1.2 m high.

Funerary structures FS2 to FS5 form a row along the west rim of the summit.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 (2.5 m by 2.5 m), the most northerly specimen in the row, has a maximum exterior height of 1 m. The remains of the central cavity (1.4 m by 1.3 m) are visible. The inward tapering of the walls begins 50 cm above the base of the central cavity. FS2 was built on a plinth of slates. Nearby, on the west rim of the summit, there are two wall fragments (2.6 m long by 1 m high, 1.5 m long by 1.3 m high).

Funerary Structure FS3

Funerary structure FS3 (2.1 m by 2.1 m) is now almost level with the summit. The central cavity is set 65 cm below the mantle of slates covering the summit. FS3 was built on a slate plinth, 50 cm in height, that extends beyond the structure to the west rim of the formation.

Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 (2.4 m by 2.6 m) is 50 cm high on its exterior sides. It also appears to have been built on top of a plinth of slates. The central cavity (1.3 m by 1.5 m) is 1.1 m in depth. The slabs of the outer walls begin to taper inwards 70 cm above the base of the central cavity.

Funerary Structure FS5

Funerary structure FS5 (2.3 m by 2.8 m) is highly fragmentary. The remains of the central cavity are 40 cm in depth. The walls lining the west rim continue a little south of FS5.

Funerary Structure FS6

Funerary structure FS6 (2.2 m by 2.2 m) is situated on a shelf about 5 m below the west edge of the summit. This relatively well-preserved structure was built against two large boulders. Its exterior walls reach a maximum height of 1.1 m and the central cavity is 60 cm in depth. The overlapping courses of slates begin 50 cm from the base of the central cavity.

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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.