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

Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam

Basic site data

  • Site name: Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam
  • English equivalent: Human Path Dog Path
  • Site number: E-17
  • Site typology: II.3
  • Elevation: 4600 m to 4980 m
  • Administrative location (township): Oma’O ma
  • Administrative location (county): GertséSger rtse
  • Survey expedition: UTAE
  • Survey date: June 5, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
  • Maps: UTRS VI
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Sites Images

General site characteristics

The funerary structures of Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam are found near two passes known as Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam and Khyichong LaKhyi mchong la (Jumping Dog Pass) and near the summit of a higher ridgeline called Pema NakyölPad ma nag yol. This ridge system rises above the southern margin of the Tarap TsoRta rabs mtsho lake basin. From the long summit there are broad vistas in nearly all directions. The cubic tomb site of Tanu MöndurRta nu mon dur (E-8), located about 20 km to the north, is in direct view. To the southeast is the territorial deity (yüllhayul lha) of the region, the high mountain, Orok TaktsenO rog stag btsan.221 The remains of probably 22 cubic tombs of various sizes are situated on the slopes and summits of the Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam ridge system, beginning about 150 m above the Tarap TsoRta rabs mtsho basin. They form a network of funerary structures extending over a distance of about 3 km to a high point on the ridgeline. Although there are no signs of recent vandalism, as with virtually all the cubic tombs of western Tibet, Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam was desecrated in the past. The higher tombs tend to be better preserved, probably because there has been very little visitation or grazing of livestock in this area. All the tombs are built of light brown variable-length (primarily 30 cm to 70 cm long) stone slabs that, in some cases, have darkened to an almost magenta color. Some structures contain stone slabs up to 1.1 m in length.

Oral tradition

Local drokpa’brog pa widely believe that the cubic tombs of Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam are ancient MönMon burial structures.

Site elements

Lower reaches group
Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 appears to be the traces of the lowest elevation cubic tomb at the site (32° 27.146΄ / 83° 10.918΄ / 4600 m); however, not enough remains in place to positively identify these remains. This structure is set on the first rocky eminence rising above the Tarap TsoRta rabs mtsho lake basin.

Funerary Structures FS2 and FS3

Funerary structures FS2 and FS3 appear to be the remains of two cubic tombs but very little of these structures survives (26.863΄ / 10.699΄ / 4650 m). They are located higher up the ridgeback from FS1.

Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam and Khyichong LaKhyi mchong la group
Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 (2.8 m by 1.6 m by 70 cm [maximum height]) is situated on a subsidiary summit of the ridgeline, on ground lightly strewn with talus (26.802΄ / 10.603΄ / 4690 m). Although part of the cubic tomb has been leveled, a small portion of its central depository (reliquary) is intact. Due to the dissolution of the structure, it could not be determined whether it was aligned in the cardinal directions.

Funerary Structure FS5

Funerary structure FS5 (2.8 m 1.6 m by 1 m) is located in the vicinity of FS4 in an analogous setting (26.780΄ / 10.572΄ / 4700 m). The middle of the structure has been gutted, therefore the size of the central depository is no longer evident. In this large hollow in the structure there are traces of osteological materials. A small bone fragment, possibly belonging to a human, was collected from this cubic tomb and subjected to chronometric analysis.222 While the provenance of the assayed sample is unclear, it demonstrates that bones upwards of 1000 years old found their way into cubic tombs. The dated bone fragment may possibly have been part of an original interment or deposited as part of a subsequent adventitious burial. It is also possible that its deposition was a matter of happenstance.

Funerary Structure FS6

Funerary structure FS6 is situated 7.5 m west of FS5 on the ridge-top. It has been reduced to traces of the foundation.

Funerary Structure FS7

Funerary structure FS7 (2.8 m by 1.8 m by 60 cm) is situated just below the precipitous south side of the ridge-top on a slope lightly strewn with talus (26.776΄ / 10.621΄ / 4690 m). This location is in close proximity to the Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam and Khyichong LaKhyi mchong la passes. It overlooks the juncture of the Tarap TsoRta rabs mtsho and Oma Tso’O ma mtsho lake basins, a powerful geomantic configuration.223 FS7 appears to have been aligned in the cardinal directions. The top of the structure has been completed engulfed by rubble.

Funerary Structure FS8

Funerary structure FS8 (1.6 m by 1.6 m by 60 cm) is situated on the east side of Khyichong LaKhyi mchong la (26.808΄ / 10.422΄ / 4690 m). The walls of this tomb were probably aligned in the cardinal directions but too little remains in place to know for certain.

Funerary Structure FS9

Funerary structure FS9 (2.4 m by 4 m by 1 m to 1.3 m) is situated less than 2 m away from FS8. This unusually large specimen is not well aligned in the compass points. Its central depository measures 2.3 m by 90 cm, and is one of the only such internal spaces in any cubic tomb surveyed to date that could have potentially accommodated a whole, unflexed adult corpse. There is still one in situ stone (1.1 m long) capping the 70 cm deep central depository.

Funerary Structure FS10

Funerary structure FS10 (1.7 m by 2.5 m by 90 cm) is situated on the west side of Khyichong LaKhyi mchong la (26.823΄ / 10.319΄ / 4700 m). The top of this structure is completely filled with rubble.

Pema NakyölPad ma nag yol group
Funerary Structure FS11

Funerary structure FS11 (2 m by 2.3 m by 1m) is located northwest of FS10, on a higher ridge called Pema NakyölPad ma nag yol (26.957 / 10.009 / 4780 m). FS11 is situated on a southern aspect talus-covered shelf, just below the ridgeline. Much of this structure has been leveled.

Funerary Structure FS12

Funerary structure FS12 is located near FS11 on the very eastern end of the talus-blanketed Pema NakyölPad ma nag yol summit. In this extremely large structure (3.6 m by 4 m by 40 cm to 60 cm) there appear to be the traces of a central depository, identifying it as sepulchral in function.

Funerary Structure FS13

Funerary structure FS13 is situated on the summit, 6 m west of FS12. It is a similarly sized and constructed structure but in a much more degraded condition.

Funerary structure FS14

Funerary structure FS14 is situated in close proximity to FS13 (27.014΄ / 10.033΄ / 4780 m). This smaller structure has been leveled. FS14 appears to be the remains of a cubic tomb.

Funerary Structure FS15

Funerary structure FS15 (2 m by 2 m by 50 cm) is situated higher up the Pema NakyölPad ma nag yol summit ridge (27.012΄ / 09 995΄ / 4800 m). The integral lower walls of this structure envelop the base of the central depository, which is filled with debris.

Funerary Structure FS16

Funerary structure FS16 (2.5 m by 1.9 m by 1 m) is situated much higher up the ridge-top (27.023 / 09.766 / 4880m). Its central depository is largely intact and well aligned in the cardinal directions: it measures 75 cm (east-west) by 40 cm (north-south) by 60 cm deep.

Funerary Structure FS17

Funerary structure FS17 (2.6 m by 2.4 m by 1.1 m) is located on the summit at a slightly higher elevation than FS16. The remains of its central depository are filled with earth and stones.

Funerary Structure FS18

Funerary structure FS18 (1.8 m by 1.8 m by 1 m) is located higher up the summit ridge and overlooks the sheer south side of the mountain (27.009΄ / 09.601΄ / 4930 m). The mostly intact central depository is not well aligned in the cardinal directions and measures 40 cm by 50 cm by 70 deep. This is one of the best preserved cubic tombs at the Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam site.

Funerary Structure FS19

Funerary structure FS19 (2.3 m by 1.9 m by 1 m) is also one of the best preserved cubic tombs at the site (27.014 / 09 585 / 4930 m). The large central depository is well aligned in the cardinal directions and measures 1 m (east-west) by 60 cm (north-south) by 60 cm (depth).

Funerary Structure FS20

Funerary structure FS20 (1.4 m by 1.8 m by 70 cm) is located just below the south side of the summit, higher up the ridgeline (26.978΄ / 09.371΄ / 4980 m). FS20, a largely collapsed cubic tomb, is surrounded by rock ledges on three sides.

Funerary Structure FS21

Funerary structure FS21 is located on the summit, a few meters from FS20. This almost entirely destroyed specimen is not fully identifiable.

Funerary Structure FS22

Funerary structure FS22 (2 m by 2.2 m by 70 cm to 1.3 m), a well preserved cubic tomb, is situated farther west on the summit ridge (27.005΄ / 09.315΄ / 4980 m). FS22 overlooks the south side of Pema NakyölPad ma nag yol. The walls of the central depository (80 cm by 1.2 m by 60 cm [deep]) are not very regular. Some capstones are still in place along the east side of the central depository. This is the most westerly funerary structure at Milam KhyilamMi lam khyi lam, although the ridgeline continues west for some distance. The lack of tombs on the west end of the summit seems to suggest that this direction was not as important to the builders as the eastern vista.


Notes

[221] oroko rog is the word for crow (porokpo rog) in the local dialect.
[222] FS5: AMS analysis, sample no. Beta-200757; conventional radiocarbon age: 940 +/-50 BP; 2 Sigma calibrated result: Cal 950 to 740 BP; intercept of radiocarbon age with calibration curve: Cal 910 BP; 1 Sigma calibrated result: Cal 930 to 780 BP.
[223] Oma Tso’O ma mtsho is so named because its opaque waters resemble milk.
/bellezza2/b2-3-8/

Note Citation for Page

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

Bibliographic Citation

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