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

Selhé MönkhangGsas lhas mon khang

Basic site data

  • Site name: Selhé MönkhangGsas lhas mon khang
  • English equivalent: Corrals of the gsas MönMon Houses
  • Site number: E-32
  • Site typology: II.3
  • Elevation: 5190 m to 5220 m
  • Administrative location (township): Drak PukBrag phug
  • Administrative location (county) GertséSger rtse
  • Survey expedition: WYLE
  • Survey date: May 8, 2007
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS II
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

Selhé MönkhangGsas lhas mon khang is set on the summit of a ridgeline overlooking Aru TsoA ru mtsho. The Selhégsas lhas part of the name of the site may possibly be related to the Gsas, an archaic class of deities. There are at least three funerary structures found here, which are made of a bluish metamorphic slabs. These highly degraded structures appear to be architecturally modified cubic tombs. There is also a stone hut on the site.

Oral tradition

Local elders report that Selhé MönkhangGsas lhas mon khang represents the remains of ancient MönMon houses.

Site elements

Funerary sructures FS1 and FS2 appear to have been converted into primitive shelters. Any such modification must have been carried out under the impression that these structures were originally MönMon residences rather than MönMon tombs.

Funerary sructure FS1

Funerary sructure FS1 (3 m by 2.8 m by 1.8 m [height], 5200 m) is situated along the ridgeline 64 m uphill of a stone hut (see below). This structure is sub-rectangular in shape and has a maximum height of 1.8 m. FS1 is made of stone slabs up to 1 m in length laid in random-work courses. The base is topped by a beehive-shaped structure (1.3 m across, 1.1 m in height) with a hollow interior. The original structure was probably gutted to create this rudimentary shepherd’s shelter.

Funerary sructure FS2

Funerary sructure FS2 (1.8 m by 2 m by 1.8 m) is situated 6 m south of FS1 at a slightly higher elevation. It also appears to have been structurally modified to create a crude shelter. FS2 is sub-rectangular and contains a hollow interior (1 m by 1m by 90 cm), the probable vestiges of an improvised shelter that has now largely collapsed.

Funerary sructure FS3

Funerary sructure FS3 (2 m by 1.7 m by 1.4 m) is located southwest of FS1 and FS2. It is the highest and most southerly structure at Selhé MönkhangGsas lhas mon khang (5220 m). FS3, which is perched on the edge of an outcrop, enjoys the best view of Aru TsoA ru mtsho from the site. It is nearly cubic in shape. The interior (1 m by 65 cm by 70 cm) of FS3 is much more like the central chambers of mountaintop tombs in form and size. This specimen does not appear to have undergone any structural modification, but it is heavily degraded.

Stone hut

At the lower end of the site there is an all-stone hut with a crude corbelled roof and rounded walls (2.8 m across and 1.6 m high, 5190 m). Like a nearby corral, this hut, at least in part, appears to have been constructed from stones pilfered from the archaeological site. The design of the stone hut seems to have been inspired by the architecture of mountaintop cubic tombs. On the same outcrop as the hut there appears to be the remains of two masonry bases that belonged to cubic tombs, however, there is no integral stonework in place.

Affiliated sites

Deu Gyarukrde’u rgya rug

Deu GyarukRde’u rgya rug is the name of a hill, offset from the lofty ArugangA ru gangs meridian range (34° 11.6΄ N. lat. / 82° 14.9΄ E. long.). From the summit of this light-colored hill there are commanding views of Aru TsoA ru mtsho and MikmartsoMig dmar mtsho. This location, between the two lakes, enjoys a considerable degree of geographic and geomantic prominence. On the flanks and summit of Deu GyarukRde’u rgya rug there are undeveloped stone structures, which could not be positively identified as manmade. According to local drokpa’brog pa, these structures were built by the ancient MönMon. Perhaps the very rudimentary nature of the site reflects is location in the northern JangtangByang thang, a highly marginal environment (extremely high, cold and dry). Light-colored, grained stones, up to 60 cm in length, are found in these structures.

On the south flank of the hill there is a possible crude funerary structure (2.5 m by 2.3 m). In close proximity there are a couple more, even more ambiguous, structures. The most prominent structures at the site are meandering stone walls 50 cm to 1 m in thickness. These superficial structures are only one layer of stones in height. These walls are not continuous; there are many breaks in them. Perhaps these are natural lines of stones that were enhanced by early inhabitants of the region during the construction of the funerary site. In any event, the stones appear to be randomly distributed. The southwest wall extends 120 m from the summit, along the southwest slope. The southeast wall is less developed but, at 190 m, it is longer. The northwest wall has many gaps and in places it runs laterally along the northwest slope. In total, the northwest wall is 270 m long.

There are three possible funerary structures on the lower west flanks of Deu GyarukRde’u rgya rug (11.73΄ / 14.72΄ / 5060 m). These are sub-rectangular structures. There is some heaping of the stones, which is the only potential indication of human modification. The three structures measure: north (1.3 m by 1.3 m), central (2 m by 1.4 m) and south (highly fragmentary). These structures are situated in shallow depressions, which may possibly be evidence for excavations carried out during interments. There are other minor stone traces at Deu GyarukRde’u rgya rug that may be worth further investigation.

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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.