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.

1. Supplemental Data on Archaeological Sites First Surveyed before 2001

DzongserRdzong ser

Basic site data

  • Site name: DzongserRdzong ser
  • English equivalent: Yellow Fortress
  • Site number: A-1
  • Site typology: I.1a
  • Elevation: 4720 m
  • Administrative location (township): ZhagoZha sgo
  • Administrative location (county): ShentsaShan rtsa
  • Survey expedition: CCE and THE
  • Survey date: June 10, 1999 and June 3, 2006
  • Contemporary usage: Rudimentary religious activities.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: manima ṇi walls, chötenmchod rten, and other shrines.
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General site characteristics

DzongserRdzong ser is located on an eponymous hill in the Belro TsangpoSbal ro gtsang po valley, approximately 10 km upstream of where the river debouches into Kering TsoSke ring mtsho.232 This conspicuous rocky hilltop is quite defensible and keeps watch over a wide area, as do many archaic cultural summit installations of Upper Tibet. The narrow, flat hilltop has a north-south oriented axis, and rises 50 m above the surrounding basin. The site is dominated by an all-stone corbelled edifice known as Kyi PukSkyid phug (Happiness Retreat), which is situated on the north end of the DzongserRdzong ser summit. This important monument was desecrated during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Some attempt has been made to rehabilitate the site, but these efforts have been of limited effectiveness. Sadly, Kyi PukSkyid phug, one of Upper Tibet’s only continuously inhabited archaic cultural edifices now languishes in a state of disrepair. To the north and east of the site there are very extensive marshy pastures, which are likely to have played an important economic role in the founding and maintenance of DzongserRdzong ser. Kyi PukSkyid phug was probably originally founded as an elite residence and stronghold, only to assume a Buddhist identity at a later date. This analysis of its architectural history is in keeping with the local oral tradition.

Oral tradition

According to local sources, DzongserRdzong ser was originally an ancient fortress. In interviews conducted in 1999, it was reported that Kyi PukSkyid phug functioned as a retreat center for solitary monks from Gelukpadge lugs pa monasteries connected to Trashi LhunpoBkra shis lhun po. However, according to Namchak WanggyelGnam lcags dbang rgyal (born Sheep Year, 1919), a local resident, Kyi PukSkyid phug was primarily used by monks from Kyi PukSkyid phug, a Drukpa Kagyü’brug pa bka’ brgyud monastery (located in either PanamPa snam or GyeltséRgyal rtse in TsangGtsang), as a refuge for three-year retreats. Kyi PukSkyid phug was in regular use until 1959. In more recent years the site has been the object of very minimal pilgrimage. The rudimentary shrine that was still maintained inside Kyi PukSkyid phug in 1999 now lies neglected.

Site elements

Kyi PukSkyid phug

Kyi PukSkyid phug is constructed in the typical fashion of all-stone edifices in Upper Tibet. The roof appurtenances (corbels, bridging stones and sheathing) are 1 m to 1.5 m in length. The stone sheathing of the roof appears to have been covered in a layer of gravel and clay. There is now a sandy deposit covering the roof. There are two small, rebuilt ritual turrets (choklcog) on the west edge of the roofline, which may be an indication that this type of architectural element was known during the archaic cultural horizon, as the BönBon tradition maintains. The outer walls of Kyi PukSkyid phug have a sinuous plan, circumscribing rooms with irregular plans and rounded corners. The walls (around 70 cm thick) are robust and skillfully built. These walls have a random-rubble fabric, and are composed of blocks and slabs, 10 cm to 1 m in length. A blue-gray stone that has oxidized to a reddish brown color was used in construction. The seams in the walls contain traces of a mud-based mortar. There is much orange climax lichen growing on the north side of Kyi PukSkyid phug. The exterior of Kyi PukSkyid phug is around 4 m in height, including its prominent revetment. Some in situ boulders were incorporated in the revetment. There is an exterior wall buttress on the east side of Kyi PukSkyid phug.

On the rim of the summit, in the vicinity of Kyi PukSkyid phug, are the remains of a circumvallation, an architectural feature often associated with strongholds. Between this encircling wall and the edifice there is a circumambulatory passage. Kyi PukSkyid phug can be divided into three sections: southern courtyard, the south/forward wing and the north/rear wing of the edifice. In total, this building is approximately 10 m in length. Access to Kyi PukSkyid phug is via a south-facing entrance in the courtyard that appends the south side of the structure. At one time a couple of stone steps must have led up to this outer entrance. The freestanding walls of the courtyard are up to 2.5 m in height. On the west side of the courtyard there is a sheltered depression under the wall, which appears to be the remains of a latrine pit. A walled landing with a couple steps in the rear of the courtyard leads up to the entrance (approximately 1.8 m high) in the building itself.

The rooms of Kyi PukSkyid phug have a floor-to-ceiling height of 1.5 m to 2 m. There are still traces of the clay plaster that once covered the interior walls. The larger of the two rooms in the forward wing of Kyi PukSkyid phug has lost its stone roof. An attempt was made to rebuild the roof with wooden beams, bamboo, plastic sheeting and mud, but this has proven quite ineffective. The two anterior rooms comprised the living quarters of the meditators who used to reside at Kyi PukSkyid phug. The larger forward room contains a stone sleeping platform, two niches (Wangkhungbang khung) and a low stone shelf. The smaller forward room still has the benefit of its all-stone roof. More recently, this smaller room has been used for fuel storage. A short, buttressed interclose links the main forward room with the main rear room of Kyi PukSkyid phug. The entranceway between these two rooms is approximately 1.8 m in height, a relatively large portal in dokhangrdo khang architecture. There are two rooms inside the rear wing, both of which possess an integral all-stone roof. The ceilings in these two rooms are fire-blackened and covered in heavy white and black organic deposits, indications that Kyi PukSkyid phug has stood for a very long time. The main room of the rear wing functioned as the chapel (lhakanglha khang) of Kyi PukSkyid phug. Inside, there is a stone altar, stone shelves and a niche. Adjoining the chapel is a smaller rear room, the protector chapel (gönkhangmgon khang). The main protective god of Kyi PukSkyid phug is the tsenBtsan, Jakpa MelenJag pa me len. Other protector deities of the site include the tsenBtsan, Atsé GönpoA btse mgon po, and TarkarBrtar dkar, the yüllhayul lha or deity presiding over the locale.

Other structures

On the hilltop just south of Kyi PukSkyid phug there are walls with old plaques inscribed with prayers and mantras, which has been largely restored. Many of these plaques are of red sandstone, highly worn and carved with the manima ṇi mantra. There is also a chötenmchod rten on the summit, built in the 1990s by a visiting lay Buddhist practitioner (ngakpasngags pa). These Buddhists structures obscure foundations, which appear to have belonged to the earlier fortress complex. Stones extracted from these older structures must have been used to construct the Buddhist monuments of the summit. On the east side of DzongserRdzong ser, on a level slope situated halfway between the summit and base of the hill, there are three ruins that have been reduced to their footings. These structures were built in a row, the largest of which is the middle specimen (7 m by 7 m). On the broad, lower north summit of DzongserRdzong ser there are the ruined bases of two chötenmchod rten or tenkharrten mkhar (shrines for indigenous and other types of protective deities) and a tumulus measuring 5 m across. It should be noted that, other than Kyi PukSkyid phug, the various structures of DzongserRdzong ser were not resurveyed in 2006.

Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong

Basic site data

  • Site name: Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong
  • English equivalent: Ocean Horned Eagle Fortress
  • Site number: A-5
  • Site typology: I.1x
  • Elevation: 4790 m and 4880
  • Administrative location (township): Ombu’Om bu
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: DDE1, CCE and HTCE
  • Survey date: September 1, 1994; June 30 and July 1, 1999; and October 4, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Minimal BönBon religious devotions.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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General site characteristics

Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong/Dangra Khyungchen DzongDwang ra khyung chen rdzong is located on the east shore of Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho, the BönBon great sacred lake. The ancient fortress occupies two salient limestone outcrops at Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong, while a network of defensive walls is found nearby on KhyunglaKhyung la. The existence of a stone irrigation channel (G-3) bringing water to this locale helps to underscore the site’s significance to ancient settlement at Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho. On a number of earlier visits, the present author underestimated the scope of ruins located at Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong. In the BönBon literary tradition, Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong was the capital of the last king of Zhang ZhungZhang zhung, Likmi(k) GyaLig mi(g) rgya/Likmi(k)Lig mi(g) rhya.233 According to BönBon sources, King Likmi GyaLig mi rgya was ambushed and killed not far east of Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong by a military detachment of Tri SongdetsenKhri srong lde btsan, the king of Tibet. According to popular BönBon conceptions, Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong was one of the four great Zhang ZhungZhang zhung fortresses of the cardinal directions. It occupied the northern direction, while Rutok Senggé DzongRu thog seng ge rdzong was in the west, Serip Drukmo DzongSe rib ’brug mo rdzong in the south, and Mangyül Takmo DzongMang yul stag mo rdzong in the east.

Oral tradition

According to a well-established tradition among the Bönpobon po of Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho, the fortress of King Likmi GyaLig mi rgya was located on the limestone formation of Dangra KhyungriDang ra khyung ri, the site of the main aggregation of ruins at Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong.

Site elements

KhyungriKhyung ri

KhyungriKhyung ri, the main nucleus of Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong, consists of the three levels of ruined residential structures built along the steep south summit of the limestone formation (31° 13.78΄ N. lat. / 86° 47.33΄ E. long. / 4790 m). These three levels, each made up of one or more buildings, embraced a total area of no less than 200 m². They are clearly the remains of a substantial installation. These ruins probably betoken the former existence of a significant fortress or palace, particularly in the archaic cultural context. The main access to the site is via a ledge that runs along the east side of the KhyungriKhyung ri. At one time, this ledge must have accommodated a buttressed stone walkway, as is found higher up the formation. All walls (65 cm to 75 cm thick) at KhyungriKhyung ri are of a random-rubble fabric and contain variable-length pieces of limestone (15 cm to 50 cm long). These walls must have been mortared, although no traces of the adhesive material are still visible. As virtually only footings have survived (and most of the rubble associated with the superstructures has fallen off the narrow formation), it is impossible to ascertain the design and height of the KhyungriKhyung ri edifices. Likewise, there are no clear indications as to what kind of roofs they possessed. In any case, many archaic cultural residential facilities on the east side of Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho were constructed with all-stone corbelled roofs (see A-6, A-7, A-8, A-9, A-10, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-4, B-5, B-6, B-7).

Upper level

The walls of the upper level are probably aligned in the compass points. The upper level measures 10 m (east-west) by 5.5 m (north-south). Most of it has been reduced to its dissolving footings. The most developed wall fragment remaining at KhyungriKhyung ri is found on the west side of the upper level. The exterior face of this wall fragment is 1.5 m high and its interior face is 30 cm in height, the difference in elevation being accounted for by a revetment. In other areas, along the base of the upper level, the revetment attains a maximum height of 1.8 m. Other tiny coherent segments of the overlying wall footings have survived. On the narrow summit of KhyungriKhyung ri, above the upper level, there is a small prayer flag mast. A couple bits of revetments also cling to the summit. Accordingly, some type of structure associated with the archaic installation must have stood here.

Middle level

In between the upper level and middle level of KhyungriKhyung ri there is a steep slope, 7 m long (with a vertical height of approximately 4 m). There are wall traces along the base of this slope to a height of 1 m. This slope must have supported a stairway and perhaps small, tiered residential structures as well. The walls of the middle level facility are aligned in the cardinal directions. It measures 5.6 m (north-south) by 15.5 m (east-west). The most coherent wall fragment (70 cm high) is on the west side of the formation. On the east side of the middle level there are the remains of a structural extension reduced to its foundation (3 m by 5 m). It is situated 2 m higher than the main portion of the middle level.

Lower level

There are roughly 7 m vertical separating the middle level from the lower level. Along the natural limestone wall, dividing the two levels, there is masonry buttressing, the traces of a substantial stairway. The lower level structures are also aligned in the cardinal directions, and measure 6 m (north-south) by 10 m (east-west). The lower level has been reduced to fragmentary revetments and wall footings.

Götsang DrakRgod tshang brag

On the summit of a higher limestone formation called Götsang DrakRgod tshang brag there are what appear to be the poorly preserved footings of two small buildings (31°13.94΄ N. lat. / 86° 47.413΄ E. long. / 4880 m). These footings are composed of variable-length chunks of limestone, but they no longer exhibit any structural coherence. The upper structure consists of fragmentary footings, covering an area of 8.5 m by 7 m. Immediately below these footings are the faint vestiges of a smaller structure. Given its commanding views over the area, the ruins of Götsang DrakRgod tshang brag may represent the remains of a sentinel post that kept watch over the Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong environs. Alternatively, or in tandem, a religious edifice may have been established here.

KhyunglaKhyung la

KhyunglaKhyung la is the small flat-topped pass north of Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong. Intervening between KhyungriKhyung ri and Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong is another small pass, ShamalaSha ma la. KhyunglaKhyung la was fortified with a network of blue-gray, dry-mortar ramparts. These crumbling walls were probably erected as a frontline defense for Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong, protecting its more vulnerable northern flank. The ramparts were designed and built to completely seal off the approach to KhyunglaKhyung la. The two main or twin ramparts begin 20 m west of the Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho circumambulatory trail (tsokormtsho skor) and extend west for 55 m. They are separated from one another by a distance of 10 m to 14 m. The north rampart is the best preserved (up to 1 m high and 80 cm thick). Perhaps one or more small residential structures stood amid its protective embrace. Ruined defensive walls are also found against outcrops, north and west of the twin ramparts. West of the twin ramparts there is an interconnected defensive wall that meanders along the southern rim of the pass for 50 m. Most of this wall has been leveled, but a few sections still attain 1 m in height and 1 m in thickness.

Lhalung DruppukLha lung sgrub phug

Basic site data

  • Site name: Lhalung DruppukLha lung sgrub phug
  • English equivalent: Divine Valley Religious Attainment Cave
  • Site number: B-94
  • Site typology: I.1a, I.2c
  • Elevation: 4740 m
  • Administrative location (township): GyagokRgya sgog
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: CCE and HTWE
  • Survey date: July 1, 1999 and June 7, 2004
  • Contemporary usage: Meditation and light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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General site characteristics

Lhalung DruppukLha lung sgrub phug is located near the agricultural settlement of LhalungLha lung, on the east shore of the Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho. The site has spectacular views of this stunning BönBon holy lake. Lhalung DruppukLha lung sgrub phug, a cave of two chambers with a substantial masonry façade, is closely associated with the BönBon saint Shakgom Tsültrim GyeltsenBshag sgom tshul khrims rgyal mtshan. This figure belonged to the Zhang Zhung NyengyüZhang zhung snyan rgyud lineage and lived sometime before 1300 CE. The BönBon text Dzokpa Chenpo Yangtsé LongchenRdzogs pa chen po yang rtse klong chen records that Shakgom TsültrimBshag sgom tshul khrims meditated at a secret place in LhalungLha lung.234

Oral tradition

According to various elders who hail from the east shore of Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho, Lhalung DruppukLha lung sgrub phug was used by the BönBon adept Shakgom Tsültrim GyeltsenBshag sgom tshul khrims rgyal mtshan. Prehistoric and early historic Zhang ZhungZhang zhung saints such as Hripa GyerméHri pa gyer med and Mutsa GyerméDmu tsha gyer med are also supposed to have made use of Lhalung DruppukLha lung sgrub phug. Lhalung DruppukLha lung sgrub phug is said to have been in regular service until 1959. In recent years monks, from YubünG.yu bun Monastery have come to the cave for religious practice.

Site elements

The cave

The heavy soot and thick white mold covering much of the interior of the cave indicates that it has been occupied for a significant period of time. The east chamber was devoted to religious practice and is where the meditators slept. The sleeping platform was hewn out of the rock wall of the cave. There is also a stone and adobe bay in the east chamber that was used to enshrine sacrificial cakes (Tormagtor ma). The west chamber was used for cooking and storage. It contains a rectangular stone and adobe hearth with openings for two pots, as well as a couple of entablatures that functioned as storage spaces. A prayer flag mast stands inside the walled courtyard in front of the cave façade. The small wooden door in the facade predates the modern period. Just to the east of Lhalung DruppukLha lung sgrub phug there is another cave house, which is also thought to be of ancient origins. It is now used by a local family for storage. In two fissures in the limestone cliff behind the caves there are a couple of counterclockwise swastikas painted in red ochre. These pictographs are of considerable age and seem to mark the ancient tenure of the site.

All-stone corbelled edifices

The antiquity of the Lhalung DruppukLha lung sgrub phug site is confirmed by the existence of two all-stone corbelled edifices, situated on a rock shelf just north of the caves. The larger south dokhangrdo khang is divided by the remains of a partition wall into a south room and a north room. The outer wall (side facing Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho) of this ruined building is 2 m to 2.5 m in height. It contains the vestiges of two or three small windows. The opposite or rear wall was built as much as 2 m into the ground against the light-colored limestone formation. The long, narrow north room seems to possess the ambience of a sanctuary or chapel. There are a few in situ corbels resting on the walls of the north room, as well as two large niches in its walls. The south room is less well preserved. In front of the south dokhangrdo khang a small terrace provides an external extension of the domestic environs. A few meters farther north along the same limestone shelf is the north dokhangrdo khang, a ruined single room habitation with a semi-subterranean aspect. There are two large in situ corbels resting on the lakeside-facing wall of this building.

LhalungLha lung Village

Only one family permanently resides in LhalungLha lung, a satellite community of KyisumSkyid gsum village, located 2 km to the south.235 Agriculture is now limited to fields that straddle the tiny Lhalung ChuLha lung chu, but, as evidenced by the remains of terraces and walls, agriculture at one time extended far to the south along a series of naturally occurring terraces. These terraces have formed since the early Holocene as Dangra YutsoDang ra g.yu mtsho shrunk in size. According to a local oral tradition, extensive agriculture took place in LhalungLha lung during the prehistoric Zhang ZhungZhang zhung period, but was subsequently curtailed due to a lack of water. Also at LhalungLha lung there is a boulder more than 1 m in height called PhabongkharngaPha bong ’khar rnga (Bell-Metal Drum Boulder). When this thin, rounded boulder is struck it emits a metallic sound. It is said to be a relic of ancient Zhang ZhungZhang zhung.

TrizhungKhri gzhung

Basic site data

  • Site name: TrizhungKhri gzhung
  • English equivalent: Seat of the Pasture (?)
  • Site number: B-74
  • Site typology: I.2x
  • Elevation: 4750 m to 4790 m
  • Administrative location (township): A ZurA zur
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTCE and UTAE
  • Survey date: July 18, 2000 and June 10, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: manima ṇi mantras carved into the formation.
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General site characteristics

TrizhungKhri gzhung is situated near the base of a towering limestone escarpment that rises above an uninhabited stretch of the Chu ChammarChu lcam dmar valley.236 With its high volume springs and sheltering limestone hill, TrizhungKhri gzhung was an ideal location for ancient settlement. Much of the surrounding area is comprised of vast plains, enhancing the habitational and defensive value of the site. Despite these natural endowments, TrizhungKhri gzhung has laid abandoned for a very long period of time. The residuum of the site is concentrated in a south-facing amphitheater and consists of a fairly dense agglomeration of poorly preserved ramparts and building foundations. All parts of the site are accessible along trails that were cut into the limestone formation, which obviated the need to descend to the valley below in order to access the various installations. A random-rubble (lightly mud-mortared?) texture of uncut variable-length pieces of limestone constitutes the basic wall type. The manima ṇi mantra has been carved in large letters at various places in the soft limestone formation, probably in an apparent attempt to place TrizhungKhri gzhung under the auspices of Buddhism.

Oral tradition

According to local sources, TrizhungKhri gzhung was an ancient MönMon settlement. One better educated official in A ZurA zur township expressly connected the site to the prehistoric BönBon of Zhang ZhungZhang zhung, and one octogenarian associated the site with the epoch of Ling GesarGling ge sar. Despite its ancient identity, TrizhungKhri gzhung is considered an auspicious locale.

Site elements

Amphitheatre and west rim

The heart of the site consists of an amphitheatre embraced by rocky limestone arms. Various rampart fragments crisscross the amphitheatre, covering about 900 m² in total. On the west rim of the amphitheater there are the remains of a substantial two-tiered building foundation aligned in the cardinal directions. It measures 6.5 m by 6 m with revetments up to 1.8 m in height. There is a long narrow cave below the west rim.

Outer west slopes

Coming within 2 m of the base of the steep rocky outer west slopes are the remains of a 190 m long curtain-wall, extending from the west rim to the outer west arm of the site. This wall gradually gains 20 m in elevation from east to west. Although much of this curtain-wall is leveled, certain segments still attain 1 m in height and 1 m in thickness. The curtain-wall is divided by a rocky spur into east (130 m long) and west (60 m) sections. This wall almost certainly functioned as a forward defensive bulwark for the site. Encompassing the entire breadth of the outer west arm are the remains of another foundation (6 m by 9 m). Its walls (70 cm to 90 cm thick) reach a maximum exterior height of 1.2 m, all of which is made up by a revetment. On the east side of this structure there is a freestanding wall fragment, 60 cm in height. At the base of the formation, west of the outer west arm, there is what appears to be a minor archaeological dispersion.

East rim

The west rim and east rim of TrizhungKhri gzhung are connected by a trail that traverses along the limestone formation. The foundation of a ruined habitational structure on the edge of the east rim (8 m by 8 m) overlooks the amphitheater. The forward revetment of this structure is 1.7 m height. On a more easterly point of the formation there are the remains of another structure (7.5 m by 3.5 m).

Shakgang Topo DoringShag gang mtho po rdo ring

Basic site data

  • Site name: Shakgang Topo DoringShag gang mtho po rdo ring
  • English equivalent: Gravel-covered Prominence Long-stones
  • Site number: C-59
  • Site typology: I.1b, I.2d
  • Elevation: 4570 m (est.)
  • Administrative location (township): LungkarLung dkar
  • Administrative location (county): Drongpa’Brong pa
  • Survey expedition: CCE and TUE
  • Survey date: October 1, 1999 and September 5, 2005
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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Site elements

Outlying funerary structure

A funerary mound is situated 24 m north of the walled pillars of Shakgang Topo DoringShag gang mtho po rdo ring.237 This structure is aligned in the cardinal directions and measures 10.2 m (east-west) by 9.4 m (east-west). It is elevated about 70 cm above the surrounding well-drained rock-strewn terrain. This mound has double-course perimeter walls (70 cm to 90 cm thick). The tumulus is also divided into four parts by walls (50 cm to 70 cm thick) that form a cruciform pattern on top of the structure. These walls are composed of uncut sedimentary and metamorphic rocks of many different colors (10 cm to 30 cm long). These stones are flush with the ground surface or slightly project above it. The mound is covered in much rubble, obscuring its design characteristics.

Mertum Chukmo DoringMer btum phyug mo rdo ring

Basic site data

  • Site name: Mertum Chukmo DoringMer btum phyug mo rdo ring
  • Site number: C-65
  • Site typology: II.1b
  • Elevation: 4740 m
  • Administrative location (county): TsochenMtsho chen
  • Administrative location (county): KyanghrangRkyang hrang
  • Survey expedition: CPE1 and HTCE
  • Survey date: November 24, 1997 and June 18, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: manima ṇi stones.
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General site characteristics

Mertum Chukmo DoringMer btum phyug mo rdo ring is located on the outskirts of the pastoral village of Mertum ChukmoMer btum phyug mo.238 The terrain slopes gently down in an easterly direction. The ground is sandy with some turf and rock cover. The site consists of five pillars erected inside an enclosure. The presence of funerary structures (enclosures, bangsobang so) in the proximate type II.1b sites of Omatsé Doring’O ma tshe rdo ring (C-117) and Mertum Pima DoringMer btum pis ma rdo ring (C-64), suggests that Mertum Chukmo DoringMer btum phyug mo rdo ring had such facilities as well. If so, all traces have disappeared with the development of Mertum ChukmoMer btum phyug mo village over the last two decades. The concentration of three sites of the same typology within a 10 km radius indicates that this was an important ancient funerary region in KyanghrangRkyang hrang.

Oral tradition

According to villagers of Mertum ChukmoMer btum phyug mo, Mertum Chukmo DoringMer btum phyug mo rdo ring spontaneously appeared with the emergence of existence. These sources state that the pillars are considered highly auspicious and help protect the village.

Site elements

Enclosure

The enclosure is highly fragmentary, obscured by rubble and slightly elevated above the surrounding terrain. Aligned in the cardinal directions, the enclosure measures 6.2 m (north-south) by 12.7 m (east-west). The perimeter walls are around 60 cm thick and contain stones primarily 15 cm to 40 cm in length. These stones of various colors are even with the ground surface or project as much as 15 cm above it.

Pillars

The five pillars of Mertum ChukmoMer btum phyug mo are made of a gray stone that has weathered to a reddish color. From south to north, these pillars have the following dimensions and characteristics:

  1. Long-stone DR1: tabular, broken (35 cm [height] by 85 cm [basal girth]).
  2. Long-stone DR2: four-sided (1.75 m by 1.45 m). Its central placement in the enclosure and large size indicate that this was the main pillar of the site.
  3. Long-stone DR3: four-sided (1 m by 1 m).
  4. Long-stone DR4: tabular (1 m by 1.1 m).
  5. Long-stone DR5: irregularly shaped (85 cm by 1 m).

Pelmo DoringDpal mo rdo phur

Basic site data

  • Site name: Pelmo DoringDpal mo rdo phur
  • English equivalent: [A TakA stag] PelmoDpal mo’s Stone Daggers
  • Alternative site name: Pelmo TakpurDpal mo ’thag phur
  • English equivalent: [A TakA stag] PelmoDpal mo’s Weaving Stakes
  • Site number: C-67
  • Site typology: II.1b, II.2a, II.2b, II.2d
  • Elevation: 4570 m to 4590 m
  • Administrative location (township): Urmé’Ur smad
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTCE and TUE
  • Survey date: July 3, 2000 and October 7 and 8, 2005
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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General site characteristics

Pelmo DoringDpal mo rdo phur is located on the southwest side of the Uru Tso’U ru mtsho basin, about 2 km south of Luma KarmoLu ma dkar mo, a drokpa’brog pa settlement and high volume springs.239 The site is bound in the south by a light-colored limestone range. The highest and nearest peak in this range is called ChakhrangLcags hrang (sp.?). This peak also appears to be known as DoringRdo ring. To the north of the site there is a huge marshy area fed by the springs of Luma KarmoLu ma dkar mo (White Springs). The broadest views from the site are in the east and north (where Uru Tso’U ru mtsho is visible). Pelmo DoringDpal mo rdo phur was founded on well-drained moderately sloping gravelly and grassy terrain. This important necropolis can be divided into three sectors: upper/south (four complexes of funerary enclosures), central (two pillar complexes and two large enclosures) and lower/north (two tumuli and two enclosures). The structures of Pelmo DoringDpal mo rdo phur (except for the pillars) are primarily constructed of uncut pieces of blue limestone of variable length (up to 80 cm long). Red limestone and white limestone are also represented in the various constructions. Many of the major elements of Pelmo DoringDpal mo rdo phur are aligned in the cardinal directions.

Oral tradition

According to one local myth, the pillars of Pelmo DoringDpal mo rdo phur were the stakes used to secure the backstrap loom of the epic heroine A Tak PelmoA stag dpal mo/A Tak LumoA stag klu mo/A Tak LhamoA stag lha mo.

Site elements

Central sector

South pillar complex enclosure

The south pillar complex enclosure is aligned in the cardinal directions and measures 22.5 m (east-west) by 12 m (north-south). The north wall of the enclosure is shorter than the south wall, creating a gap of 2 m in the east wall. The double-course perimeter walls (around 60 cm thick) contain a single layer of flat stones, which are flush with the ground surface or which project above it to a maximum height of 20 cm.

South pillar complex pillars

Near the southwest corner of the enclosure, 60 cm from the inner edge of the south wall, there is a broken dark gray grained tabular pillar (1.3 m [height] by 1.4 m [basal girth]). The broken top of this pillar (Long-stone DR1) lies in close proximity to the rooted portion. It added another 60 cm to the overall height of the pillar. Local residents report that this break occurred before living memory. The broad sides of DR1 are oriented to the north and south. DR1 has weathered to a reddish color in many places. Roughly centered between the north and south walls of the enclosure there is a less massive light gray tabular pillar (1.5 m by 1 m). This pillar (Long-stone DR2) stands 30 cm from the inner edge of the west wall. The broad sides of DR2 are oriented to the east and west, an uncommon alignment. Given its orientation and relative placement in the enclosure perhaps it was re-erected in the past. DR2 is moderately inclined and sports orange climax lichen on its north and east sides. Some stones are piled around the base of this pillar. There are also four small, broken dark gray pillars that form a row along the west half of north wall of the enclosure. There is also a partly submerged dislodged pillar (1.3 m long) in close proximity to DR1. The eccentric positions of the two tall in situ pillars and the very large size of the enclosure may suggest that originally there were more standing stones than at present.

North pillar complex enclosure

The north pillar complex is situated 47 m south of the south pillar complex at about 5 m lower elevation (35.838΄ / 49΄ 981΄). The fragmentary enclosure is aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 22 m (east-west) by 32 m (north-south). The enclosure walls are of the same construction as those of the north pillar complex, only narrower (around 45 cm thick).

North pillar complex pillars

There is a single standing pillar of four uneven faces inside the enclosure (1.6 m by 1.3 m). This dark gray grained pillar stands 2 m from the inner edge of the west wall and is in fairly close proximity to the northwest corner of the enclosure. This highly eroded pillar has weathered to a reddish color. In close proximity to the standing specimen there is a partly submerged uprooted pillar (1.5 m long) made of the same type of rock. The very large size of the enclosure suggests that it may have contained more than just two menhirs.

Large rectangular enclosure East

A large rectangular funerary enclosure is situated 50 m west of the north pillar complex (35.842΄ / 49.932΄). This enclosure is aligned in the compass points, and measures 35 m (east-west) by 19 m (east-west). This highly degraded structure possesses double-course walls of similar but perhaps cruder construction than the two enclosures housing the pillars. The interior of this enclosure is free of structural traces.

Large rectangular enclosure West

Another large rectangular structure of analogous design and construction is situated 11 m to the west of its counterpart (35.840΄ 49.916΄). This better-preserved enclosure is also aligned in the cardinal directions and measures 36 m (north-south) by 20 m (east-west). In the middle of the interior there are two or three highly fragmentary structures (around 3 m across), which form an east-west row. The interior structures seem to have double-course perimeter walls and were probably aligned in the cardinal direction. These structures may possibly be grave markers.

North sector

South tumulus

The south tumulus (bangsobang so) is situated 30 m north of the north pillar complex (35.863΄ / 49.959΄). The south tumulus is aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 12 m (east-west) by 10 m (north-south). This quadrate mound is around 1 m or less in height. Around its rim are traces of double-course walls. These walls appear to be of the same design and construction as the various enclosures of the site. There are also wall traces of the same type near the middle of the top tumulus. Between the south tumulus and north pillar complex there may be the remains of a minor superficial structure.

North tumulus

The north tumulus is situated 7 m north of the south tumulus (35.878΄ / 49.961΄). This enormous structure is roughly aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 47 m (north-south) by 27 m (east-west). It is 2 m to 4 m in height. The north tumulus is the largest manmade or anthropenically modified mound surveyed to date in Upper Tibet. It could not be determined if the north tumulus is fully an artificial mound or a natural feature that was modified through human agency. There are tiny double-course wall fragments near the south rim of the structure. These wall fragments run parallel and perpendicular to one another and are not aligned in the cardinal directions. Beginning on the north flank of the tumulus and continuing in a northerly direction for 6 m there is a double-course wall segment (40 cm thick).

Enclosures

There is an enclosure of the type found throughout the Pelmo DoringDpal mo rdo ring, situated 15.5 m west of the north tumulus (35.877΄ / 49.933΄). This square enclosure (14 m by 13 m) is roughly aligned in the cardinal directions. Its double-course perimeter walls are 60 cm to 70 cm in thickness. Another enclosure, which is bereft of its east wall, is situated 20 m west of the south tumulus (35.931΄ / 49.672΄). This square enclosure (10 m by 10.7 m) is generally aligned in the cardinal directions. It is of the style of enclosure construction familiar at the site. The stones of the perimeter walls project as much as 35 cm above ground level. Between these two well delineated square structures there are the remains of a smaller, more obscured enclosure. A small rectangular enclosure is also found east of Pelmo DoringDpal mo rdo phur before reaching Luma KarmoLu ma dkar mo.

South sector

Most of the funerary enclosures of the south sector have superficial perimeter walls (45 cm to 1 m thick) containing one layer of two or more stones laid abreast of one another. The stones of the walls are level with the ground surface or project above it to a maximum height of 30 cm. These enclosures have open interiors and are all situated at the same general elevation. There are also smaller enclosures with single-course perimeter walls, a few of which may have had interior structural features.

West complex

The west complex consists of seven small ovoid or sub-rectangular enclosures (2 m to 2.7 m across) arrayed in an arc around a main enclosure (26 m by 17 m) (35.782΄ / 49.883΄ / 4590 m). There may also have been an eighth satellite enclosure situated between the two most northerly specimens. The most northerly satellite enclosure appears to have been excavated: a heap of stones lie in a depression in the middle of the structure. The main enclosure is subdivided by walls into four or five quadrate cells of various sizes. The forward wall of the main enclosure is elevated about 1 m above the downhill slope. A gully bounds the west side of the west complex.

West central complex

The west central complex is located 43 m east of the west complex (35.764΄ / 49.911΄). It is dominated by a highly degraded enclosure that is generally aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 22 m (east-west) by 7.5 m (north-south). The south wall of this enclosure is slightly depressed above the uphill slope in order to maintain a level interior This enclosure is subdivided into four cells of roughly equal size. The easternmost cell has been heavily damaged by a rivulet that flows over it in times of heavy precipitation.

East central complex

The east central complex is situated 50 m east of the west central complex and 52 m south of the south pillar complex (35.766΄ / 49.968΄). It is also dominated by a large enclosure that is generally aligned in the cardinal directions. This enclosure measures 38 m (east-west) by 15 m (north-south), and is subdivided into six cells of varying sizes. These six cells are not arrayed symmetrically. On the west side of the main enclosure there are two more enclosures situated at a slightly lower elevation. There is also a small enclosure on the northwest side of the main enclosure. A sub-rectangular single-course enclosure (2.3 m across) is situated 3 m west of the main enclosure.

East complex

The east complex is situated 23 m east of the east central complex (35.770΄ / 50.001΄). The dominant enclosure of the east sector measures 30 m (east-west) by 15 m (north-south). It is subdivided into two larger south cells and one smaller north cell. The southeast cell is set about 1 m below the uphill slope. An isolated enclosure fragment (2.5 m across) is located 8 m west of the main enclosure. A large boulder reposes in isolation just south of the main enclosure. It may have been transported to its present location as an integral feature of the east sector.

Doring MarmoRdo ring dmar mo

Basic site data

  • Site name: Doring MarmoRdo ring dmar mo
  • English equivalent: Red Long-stones
  • Site number: C-73
  • Site typology: II.1x
  • Elevation: 4700 m
  • Administrative location (township): A ZurA zur240
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTCE and UTAE
  • Survey date: July 18, 2000 and June 10, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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General site characteristics

Doring MarmoRdo ring dmar mo sits on a gently sloping gravelly bench that overlooks the Bok Tsangpo’Bog gtsang po.241 The site is closely bound in the north by a limestone formation. Views in other directions are quite open. In addition to the five standing stones of Doring MarmoRdo ring dmar mo, there are at least one dozen large contiguous, double-course quadrate funerary superstructures spread out over an area of approximately 2400 m².

Oral tradition

According to the not well articulated local lore, Doring MarmoRdo ring dmar mo was constructed by the ancient MönMon.

Site elements

Pillars

There are five pillars at the site that form a line, 8.7 m in length. Although there are no signs of the enclosing walls, the aspect of the pillars encourages the hypothesis that there once were. The pillars are dominated by an irregularly shaped tabular specimen, 1.5 meters in height and with a basal girth of 1.7 meters. This standing stone has two broad sides oriented north and south. The north side of the pillar has weathered to a reddish color while the south face is beige in color. The four lesser doringrdo ring, to the north, range in height from 30 cm to 75 cm.

Enclosures

In close proximity to the pillars there is a well built double-course enclosure that measures 5.5 m (north-south) by 9 m (east-west). In close proximity are the vestiges of other small structures, including one with a 1 m high rocky mound in the middle of it. The main zone of enclosures begins 90 m west of the large pillar. The walls of these enclosures are made of variable length (15 cm to 50 cm long) chunks of limestone that are flush with the surface or raised above to a maximum height of 30 cm. Most of the walls are aligned in the cardinal directions. Among these remains, a typical enclosure measures 9 m (north-south) by 14 meters (east-west). At another river valley site, located several hundred meters to the west, there is a small group of quadrate enclosures.

Doring ChakraRdo ring lcags ra

Basic site data

  • Site name: Doring ChakraRdo ring lcags ra
  • English equivalent: Walled long-stones
  • Site number: C-74
  • Site typology: I.2a, II.1b
  • Elevation: 4890 m
  • Administrative location (township): A ZurA zur
  • Administrative location (county): NyimaNyi ma
  • Survey expedition: UTCE242
  • Survey date: July 19, 2000
  • Contemporary usage: Heavy grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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Towo MarhrangTho bo dmar hrang

Basic site data

  • Site name: Towo MarhrangTho bo dmar hrang
  • English equivalent: Red Bare Stone Registers
  • Site number: C-146
  • Site typology: II.1c
  • Elevation: 4500 m (est.)
  • Administrative location (township): MöntserMon ’tsher
  • Administrative location (county): GarSgar
  • Survey expedition: CCE and THE
  • Survey date: October 23, 1999 and May 23, 2006
  • Contemporary usage: Limited religious activities.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Prayer flag mast.
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General site characteristics

Towo MarhrangTho bo dmar hrang is located approximately 3 km upstream of the famous far western Tibetan pilgrimage center of PretapuriPre ta pu ri. The PretapuriPre ta pu ri Buddhist monastery is clearly visible from the site, as part of sweeping views to the north. There are also long views to the south. Towo MarhrangTho bo dmar hrang is on a broad shelf situated above the right bank of the Langchen TsangpoGlang chen gtsang po (Sutlej river). The terrain is level, sandy and gravelly, and studded with dramagra ma brush. Towo MarhrangTho bo dmar hrang, a large array of pillars appended to an edifice (temple-tomb), is one of the most important archaic cultural sites in the Zhang ZhungZhang zhung region, known in BönBon sources as Jari TsukdenBya ri gtsug ldan.

Oral tradition

According to some local sources, Towo MarhrangTho bo dmar hrang was constructed by the ancient MönMon. The name of the region, MöntserMon ’tsher, translates as “Abandoned by the MönMon.” This appellation is derived from a local belief that in the distant past there were many MönMon residing here, but, at some point in time, they completely disappeared from the region. The monks of PretapuriPre ta pu ri note that the pillars found on the site may demarcate the extent and influence of a local earth dwelling spirit (sadaksa bdag). This belief is inspired by earth piercing instruments (like the Purpaphur pa) used in rituals to control the sadaksa bdag, which have as their parallel, the earth penetrating pillars. There is also a folktale, in circulation in the region, regarding Towo MarhrangTho bo dmar hrang: a long time ago a beer (changchang) making operation in PretapuriPre ta pu ri ran out of yeast. Yeast was sent for from PurangSpu rang. En route from PurangSpu rang the horse transporting the yeast dropped dead at Towo MarhrangTho bo dmar hrang and was buried there. It is said that a saddle and the corpse of a horse, once unearthed from the site, were the subjects of this folktale. This reported discovery suggests that funerary ritual sacrifices of horses were carried out at this necropolis.

Site elements

Appended edifice

The edifice (temple-tomb) appended to the array of pillars is generally aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 17 m (north-south) by 10.5 m (east-west). This formidable structure is still 5 m to 6 m in height. Originally, this building may have even been taller. The coursed-rubble outer walls were made to a very high order of proficiency, and are around 70 cm in thickness. Some of the courses of stones are positioned diagonally to create a herringbone pattern. The walls of the edifice are primarily composed of chunks of a reddish calcareous rock, with thick seams between each course. These seams must have been filled with a mud- or clay-based mortar. The interior face of the outer walls and certain internal partition walls appear to have been mostly composed of brown sandstone slabs. Some of the sandstone rubble of the ruin may also have comprised the all-stone corbelled roof assembly. The stonework of the west and north walls (the two most intact sides) are interspersed with three courses of thin sandstone bond-stones (50 cm to 90 cm long).

Unfortunately, the temple-tomb edifice is far too fragmentary for an accurate assessment of its ground plan. It has disintegrated into a huge masonry mass in which few design details have survived. Most of the structure appears to have been subdivided by a longitudinal partition wall (around 70 cm thick) into west and east halves, each portion of which is further subdivided by walls into several compartments. These compartments appear to have been of various sizes. They probably functioned as burial chambers and perhaps for the conduct of funerary rituals as well. This is the only clear example of an edifice belonging to this monument typology that was subdivided by a wall longitudinally. Also, most appended edifices seem to house far fewer internal compartments than the structure at Towo MarhrangTho bo dmar hrang. There is a small prayer flag mast (darchokdar lcog) and a fragment of an inscribed plaque on the high point of the edifice.

Pillar Array

The array of pillars is oriented in the cardinal directions, and measures 18.5 m (north-west) by 49 m (east-west). The array contains around 250 standing stones, a significant portion of which are broken. These in situ pillars represent less than 20 percent of the original number that stood in the concourse. These pillars currently come within 2 m to 4 m of the appended edifice. The pillars are between 10 cm and 80 cm in height, and are made of sandstone, white granite and other kinds of rocks. All the taller pillars are inclined due to the effect of gravity. There are also quite a few dislodged menhirs scattered around the array, the longest of which is 1.5 m. As is normal in this monument typology, the two broad faces of the tabular pillars face north and south.

There are fragments of double-course slab walls and perhaps single-course slab walls bordering the array. The individual slabs of these walls are up to 1.2 m in length, and were inserted into the ground edgewise. To the east of the array there are two fragmentary double-course slabs walls, which extend 8 m and 10 m east of the most easterly pillar. One of these slab walls is located east of the south side of the array, while the other one is situated 4.5 m north of its counterpart. An L-shaped slab-wall fragment (3 m and 5 m long) is also found 23 m east of the northeast corner of the pillar array. This structure may mark the easternmost extent of the slab-wall network of the site.

Funerary enclosures

Roughly 15 m west of the edifice there is an ovoid heaped-stone wall funerary enclosure (about 10 m across). Its walls are around 30 cm in height. There is also a smaller funerary structure situated halfway between this enclosure and the edifice. It consists of a dense dispersion of stones with no evidence of ordered walls.

Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur

Basic site data

  • Site name: Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur
  • English equivalent: Water Daggers Stone Daggers
  • Site number: C-149
  • Site typology: II.1c
  • Elevation: 4700 m
  • Administrative location (township): RimarRi dmar
  • Administrative location (county): GertséSger rtse
  • Survey expedition: UTCE and UTAE
  • Survey date: July 26, 2000 and June 8, 2001
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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General site characteristics

The four complexes of pillars appended to edifices of Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur are situated on benches below an eponymous mountain.243 The site is located west of the TongtsoStong mtsho basin, but both the lake and the territorial deity (yüllhayul lha) mountain of GertséSger rtse, A Mar Rolpa KyadünA dmar rol pa rkya bdun (found west of TongtsoStong mtsho), are out of view. The terrain consists of thin, bare undulating earth with a light covering of gravel. As with a good number of the pillar complexes of Upper Tibet, there are no permanent habitations in the vicinity of the site. The preservation of the monument is probably due to its remote location and to the fairly high esteem and wonder it is held in by residents of GertséSger rtse. There are no prayer flags, manima ṇi stones or any other pre-modern or contemporary signs of religious activity at Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur. The pillars are mostly tabular in shape and are often inclined in a downhill or northerly direction. The unbroken stelae range in height from 30 cm to 75 cm (average height about 40 cm). Uprooted specimens, up to 1 m in length, are found scattered around the site. The stelae are uncut and are available in appropriate sizes and shapes on the flanks of nearby Mount Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur. As in many other sites with multiple pillars, the broad sides of the stelae face north to south and the thin edges are oriented east to west. Originally gray in color, many pillars have weathered to a dark reddish brown color. There are also some sandstone pillars at Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur.

The west complex is the largest of the four arrays of standing stones and appended edifices (temple-tombs) at Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur. It is situated on the west side of the site, squeezed between two gullies. The other three complexes (lower east, central east and upper east) are located approximately 90 meters northeast of the west complex on the far side of the east gully. The three east complexes form a line that runs transverse to the angle of the slope. The three east complex edifices, accompanying the concourses of stelae, form a row 35 m in length at the edge of the gully. These structures are not well aligned in the compass points, and they have been reduced to stony mounds with only traces of coherent wall segments still visible. The three arrays of standing stones of the east complexes have been heavily impacted by erosion and movement of the slope upon which they were erected.

Oral tradition

In the GertséSger rtse region there are four common oral traditions connected to the Doringrdo ring of Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur:

  1. They represent a monument that appeared with the emergence of existence.
  2. They are where the GertséSger rtse territorial deity (yüllhayul lha) A Mar Rolpa KyadünA dmar rol pa rkya bdun/A Mar Rolpa KyadünA dmar rol pa skya bdun tied his dogs and wolves.244
  3. They are a magical earth subduing and rain attracting instrument.
  4. They are burial monuments built by the ancient MönMon/mönpaMon pa.

According to a well-respected former leader of GertséSger rtse, Könchok GyeltsenDkon mchog rgyal mtshan of the GertséSger rtse clan (born in the early 1920s), human bones have washed out from the gullies below the site. He is under the impression that Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phuris a MönMon funerary site and that under each of the standing stones there are the remains of a single individual. When he was a youth, Könchok GyeltsenDkon mchog rgyal mtshan’s contemporaries were prevented by local Tibetan authorities from digging in the vicinity of Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur, lest they disturb the integrity of the site. According to Ozang Drodong’O bzang gro gdong (born year of the Pig, circa 1923), in ancient times the local sacred mountain, A Mar Rolpa KyadünA dmar rol pa rkya bdun, belonged to the MönMon, who lived in the Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur vicinity. They erected the standing stones and other structures as their burial monuments. These MönMon practiced an unvirtuous (nakchoknag phyogs) religion. When the epic hero GesarGe sar, came to the area he wrested the site from A Mar Rolpa KyadünA dmar rol pa rkya bdun by destroying his headstone (wudodbu rdo) on the summit of Chupur DopurChu phur rdo phur with a lightning strike. From that time, this mountain god became a virtuous Buddhist deity. According to a male HarshuHar shu clan informant (born year of the Tiger, circa 1927) (and other elders of the region), the religion of the ancient MönMon of GertséSger rtse was “black” BönBon.

Site elements

West complex

Appended edifice

The west complex appended edifice is situated 5 m west of the field of Doringrdo ring and shares the same alignment. Due to extreme degradation of the structure, its external dimensions are difficult to appraise. Nevertheless, the bottom part of its central chamber is still intact, and measures 5.3 m (north-south) by 1.85 m (east-west). The walls composing the central chamber (up to 80 cm high) are made of alternating horizontal and herringbone coursed-rubble. There is some structural evidence to suggest that the walls of the west complex edifice were about 1.4 m in thickness. Variable-length (15 cm to 40 cm) stones were used in its construction.

Pillar array

The west complex array of standing stones is aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 22 m (east-west) by 13 m (north-south). Although at least 50 percent of the pillars are missing; it would seem that there were originally approximately 35 rows of stones, each with about 35 pillars. These rows are spaced 25 cm to 55 cm apart. Individual stelae in each row are arrayed 20 cm to 40 cm from one another.

Lower east complex

Appended edifice

The dimensions of this highly degraded lower east complex appended edifice are no longer evident. The remains, a rocky tumulus, reach 1.8 m in height.

Pillar array

Upwards of 70 percent of the pillars in this most northerly of the three east complexes are no longer in situ. This array roughly measured 17 m (east-west) by 13 m (north-south). The stelae in each row are spaced 50 cm to 70 cm apart, and reach a maximum height of 65 cm. The south side of the concourse of standing stones is bounded by a 12 m long fragment of a double-course slab wall (20 cm to 35 cm thick). This wall is constructed of variable length slabs (10 cm to 65 cm long) set into the ground edgewise. These slabs are either flush with the surface or slightly project above it. About 4 m north of the lower east complex pillar array there is a small isolated group of standing stones.

Central east complex

Appended edifice

The central east complex edifice is situated 4 m south of the lower east complex edifice. It approximately measures 5.5 m (east to west) by 8 m (north-south). Coherent traces of the east and south walls are extant.

Pillar array

The original extent of the central east complex array of standing stones is unclear as only about 175 specimens are in situ. These pillars tend to be shorter than those of the lower east complex. Some of the standing stones reach right up to the appended edifice. The slope that they sit upon is uneven probably due to water-borne geomorphologic changes. The rows of standing stones are spaced 25 cm to 40 cm apart. Individual pillars in each row stand 20 cm to 40 cm from one another. A 5.5 m long single-course slab-wall fragment bounds the north side of the array.

Upper east complex

Appended edifice

The upper east complex edifice is situated 8 m north of the central east edifice. This structure measures 6 m (east-west) by 7.5 m (north-south), and has been reduced to a mound with only tiny sections of integral walls left.

Pillar array

The upper east complex pillar array is also heavily disturbed. Near the appended edifice, about three dozen stones are left standing, and on the east side of the concourse there are approximately 125 Doringrdo ring in situ. The rows of pillars are spaced 40 cm to 60 cm apart. Individual standing stones in each row are arrayed 30 cm to 75 cm from one another. A slab-wall remnant bounds the east side of the array. There is also a slab-wall fragment (3.5 m long) that runs east-west through the middle of the concourse of standing stones.

KyelungSkye lung and LungsumLung gsum

Basic site data

  • Site name: KyelungSkye lung and LungsumLung gsum
  • English equivalent: Growth Valley and Three Valleys
  • Site number: D-4
  • Site typology: I.1x, II.2d
  • Elevation: 4370 m to 4400 m
  • Administrative location (township): Damzhung’Dam gzhung
  • Administrative location (county): Damzhung’Dam gzhung
  • Survey expedition: CCE and HTWE
  • Survey date: May 23, 1999 and May 7, 2004
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: Three manima ṇi plaques.
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General site characteristics

KyelungSkye lung and LungsumLung gsum are located on shelves that form in front of the mouths of eponymous valleys.245 The site is situated on the foot of the Nyenchen TanglhaGnyan chen thang lha range and overlooks the Dam’Dam basin. This geographic situation is paralleled in a number of ceremonial and residential archaeological sites located in Damzhung’Dam gzhung. The shelves of KyelungSkye lung and LungsumLung gsum were carefully terraced as would befit an important site. The roots of long stone retaining walls demarcating each of these terraces are still visible. In addition to this terracing, the upper sector of the site hosts a diverse collection of structures. While there is at least one funerary mound among them (Funerary structure FS3), the identity of most of these structures could not be determined. The morphological complexity of the upper sector seems to indicate that it developed over a long period of time in both the archaic and lamaist eras. There are three crudely carved red sandstone manima ṇi plaques in the upper sector. The lower sector of KyelungSkye lung and LungsumLung gsum is comprised of a compact unit of what appears to be the remains of substantial residential structures. If indeed the lower sector was a residential site destroyed by the Jungarjun gar, Buddhist monuments would almost certainly have been founded in the vicinity prior to this event.

Oral tradition

According to local residents, the lower sector of KyelungSkye lung and LungsumLung gsum was a settlement, which was destroyed by the Jungarjun gar (early 18th century CE).

Site elements

Lower sector

The lower sector (70 m by 30 m) is an undulating zone of small mounds and depressions. The lower sector appears to consist of the footings of large buildings. Just two small, coherent double-course wall fragments could be discerned among the ruins. They measure 2 m by 60 cm and 1.5 m by 60 cm. The remains of the foundations are ostensibly rectilinear in form, as would be expected in edifices built with wooden roofs (a variety of small tree species grow in the sheltered valleys of Damzhung’Dam gzhung).

Upper sector

Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1, twin mounds, are situated on the southern extremity of the site (31.941΄ / 06.303΄ / 4390 m). These twin mounds are separated from one another by a gap of about 1.5 m, and together cover an area of 17 m by 7 m. The two longer sides of the structures are oriented perpendicular to the angle of the slope. On their uphill flank they are around 1.5 m in height and on their downhill flank they are perhaps 3 m in height. Three vertical courses of masonry are found along the rim of the structure. This fragmentary stone structure demonstrates that the mounds were aligned in the cardinal directions. The morphological traits and extreme degradation of FS1 make it difficult to determine what type of ceremonial structure it represents. In keeping with the general character of large mounds in the Damzhung’Dam gzhung region, they are most likely burial tumuli.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 is an extremely eroded stone and earthen mound (31.947΄ / 06.281΄ / 4400 m). It has an uphill height of 1 m and a downhill height of at least 2 m. The identity of this highly dissolute structure is not clear.

Funerary Structure FS3

Funerary structure FS3 is a bare earth, turf-covered and brush-studded quadrate funerary mound (31.974΄ / 06.279΄ / 4400 m). This large tumulus is generally aligned in the cardinal directions and measures 15 m (north-south) by 17 m (east-west). It has an uphill height of 1.5 m and a downhill height of approximately 3.5 m. The top of FS3 is concave and is pockmarked by a small excavation less than 1 m deep.

Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 (19 m by 4 m) is a long and narrow structure of unknown function (31.987΄ / 06.322΄ / 4400 m). FS4 has an uphill height of around 1 m and a downhill height of around 2 m. In close proximity there is a small square masonry base. FS4 has morphological characteristics in keeping with that of a long manima ṇi wall, but its identity could not be ascertained.

Funerary Structure FS5

Funerary structure FS5 (6 m by 6.4 m) is a superficial masonry structure, which may represent the footings of a small building (31.992΄ / 06.343΄ / 4400 m). Its forward/south wall is 1 m in height. These walls are double-course and around 60 cm in thickness. Near the northern extremity of the upper sector are small footings which may have possibly supported a chötenmchod rten.

Milhé KhordoMi lhas ’khor mdo

Basic site data

  • Site name: Milhé KhordoMi lhas ’khor mdo
  • English equivalent: Human Enclosures Juncture (?)
  • Site number: D-19
  • Site typology: II.2b, II.2d
  • Elevation: 4400 m
  • Administrative location (township): RawangRa bang
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: CCE and HTCE
  • Survey date: August 10, 1999 and June 3, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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General site characteristics

Milhé KhordoMi lhas ’khor mdo is located in the midst of a level sandy plain.246 The site consists of seven quadrate funerary enclosures that appear to be of the double-course wall type and one funerary mound (bangsobang so). These funerary structures are aggregated in three groups. Due to the wholesale extraction of stones from the monuments in the 1990s, all superstructures are in an advanced state of degradation. Although there are reported to have been many examples of coherent walls, not one fragment is still in situ at Milhé KhordoMi lhas ’khor mdo. The dismantling of the funerary structures occurred here in order that local drokpa’brog pa could build corrals and other pastoral structures.

Oral tradition

According to local sources, Milhé KhordoMi lhas ’khor mdo was built by the ancient MönMon. Just north of the archaeological site there is a small mountain also called Milhé KhordoMi lhas ’khor mdo. It is said that in ancient times a woman slaughtered a sheep at this mountain. Perhaps this tale alludes to sacrificial funerary rites associated with the site.

Site elements

West sector

Funerary structure FS1 (14 m by 8 m). This funerary mound is elevated 1 m to 2 m above the surrounding plain.

Funerary structure FS8 (6 m by 11 m) is situated 11 m south of FS1.

East sector

Funerary structure FS2 (9 m by 6.5 m) is situated 270 m east of FS1. The main road runs within a few meters of FS2.

Funerary structure FS3 (12 m by 11 m) is situated approximately 50 m east of FS2.

Funerary structure FS4 (7 m by 8 m) is situated 8 m north of FS3. FS4 sits right at the edge of the main road.

North sector

Funerary structure FS5 (6.4 m by 8 m) is situated 100 m north of FS4.

Funerary structure FS6 (6 m by 4.6 m) is situated 4 m north of FS5.

Funerary structure FS7 (12 m by 10 m) is situated 23 m north of FS6.

Affiliated sites

What appears to be a funerary structure is situated in a side valley called Chötenbuk NakhaMchod rten sbug sna kha, a tributary of the KyéSkyes valley, which in turn, joins the RawangRa bang valley. This structure (4.5 m by 4.5 m) is situated about 20 m above the valley floor, on a northeast facing slope (33° 03.139΄ N. lat. / 80° 19.251΄ / 4420 m). It is highly degraded and no coherent wall segments remain. In the middle there is a depression, which may be a sign that it was excavated at one time. In the valley floor below this structure there are the faint traces of what may be another small funerary structure. Higher up on valley bottom there may yet be another small specimen (03.384΄ / 19.509΄).

Tsamé Gösa MöndurRtswa med god sa mon dur

Basic site data

  • Site name: Tsamé Gösa MöndurRtswa med god sa mon dur
  • English equivalent: No Grass Place of Loss MönMon Tombs
  • Alternative site name: Gyaplung MöndurRgyab lung mon dur
  • English equivalent: Back Valley MönMon Tombs
  • Site number: E-3
  • Site typology: II.3
  • Elevation: 4520 m
  • Administrative location (township): RawangRa bang
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: CCE and HTCE
  • Survey date: August 10, 1999 and June 3, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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General site characteristics

The seven cubic tombs of Tsamé Gösa MöndurRtswa med god sa mon dur are situated on the summit of a talus-cloaked ridge, which rises about 150 m above the Randrok TsoRwa ’brog mtsho basin.247 The tombs form a single east-west line along the narrow ridgeback and most of them sit atop small rock outcrops. The site directly overlooks the Randrok TsoRwa ’brog mtsho basin and has open views in all directions. The longest view is in the east. The ridgeline with the tombs separates the Randrok TsoRwa ’brog mtsho basin from the small tributary valley of GyaplungRgyab lung to the north. The cubic tombs of Tsamé Gösa MöndurRtswa med god sa mon dur are in relatively good condition, in that their integral form is discernable. The tombs are made of variable-length, thin slabs of rock found at the site. It takes about 20 of these slabs, laid on top of one another to reach a height of 1 m.

Oral tradition

According to local sources, Tsamé Gösa MöndurRtswa med god sa mon dur is a MönMon burial site.

Site elements

From east to west, the cubic tombs of Tsamé Gösa MöndurRtswa med god sa mon dur have the following dimensions and characteristics.

  1. Funerary structure FS1: (1.8 m by 2.2 m by 50 cm [height]).
  2. Funerary structure FS2: (3 m by 2.3 m by 1.2 m). The base of the central depository (reliquary) is intact (1 m by 50 cm by 50 cm [deep]). The central depository is partially filled with earth and stones.
  3. Funerary structure FS3: (2.4 m by 2.8 m by 70 cm).
  4. Funerary structure FS4: (3 m by 2.4 m by 1 m). Its central depository has been gutted.
  5. Funerary structure FS5: 2.3 m by 2.4 m by 1. 2m). A small portion of its central depository is intact.
  6. Funerary structure FS6: (2 m by 2 m by 60 cm). FS6 is situated roughly 100 m east of FS5.
  7. Funerary structure FS7 (1.9 m by 2 m by 40 cm).
  8. On the steep, south flanks of the ridge, below the funerary site, a lone animal petroglyph was documented. Dating to the prehistoric epoch, this animal composition resembling a butting yak was carved on a piece of talus.

Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do

Basic site data

  • Site name: Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do
  • English equivalent: Orange Excellent Horse Headland248
  • Site number: A-26
  • Site typology: I.1x
  • Elevation: 4780 m
  • Administrative location (township): ChinglungPhying lung
  • Administrative location (county): PelgönDpal mgon
  • Survey expeditions: DDE1 and TIB2008
  • Survey date: June 7, 1994 and November 7, 2008
  • Contemporary usage: None.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.
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General site characteristics

The freestanding ancient residential site of Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do is situated atop a rock formation on the west side of the eponymous headland.249 These ruins constitute the most important ancient residential complex on the headland. They are found on one of two reddish pyramidal or conical limestone formations, which are likened to a horse’s ears. The headland of Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do is located in the middle of the north shore of NamtsoGnam mtsho. Its central location and the manner in which the headland juts prominently into the lake invests the site with a powerful geomantic status. Such highly exposed lakeside settings were prized by ancient builders all across Upper Tibet. Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do occupies a dramatic setting with NamtsoGnam mtsho surrounding it on three sides. The sacred mountain Nyenchen TanglhaGnyan chen thang lha stands on the opposite side of the lake. The freestanding residential complex is planted on the northwest horse’s ear (TachokRta chog), a mass of rock rising directly above the waters of NamtsoGnam mtsho to a height of about 50 m. This formation is offset from the backbone of the headland and receives good eastern and southern exposure. The northwest “horse’s ear” is separated from the southeast “horse’s ear” by a thin finger of NamtsoGnam mtsho. The steeply inclined (around 30º) summit of the northwest “horse’s ear” is covered in loose rocks and supports some scrub junipers (bamaba ma). Areas of the summit covered in juniper trees (trunks up to 25 cm in diameter) enjoy a more shaded and moister micro-environment. Underneath the trees is a layer of litter that strongly contrasts with the bare rock of adjoining areas. In addition to the summit site, there is a string of ancient cave shelters at Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do.

Oral tradition

According to drokpa’brog pa of the north shore of NamtsoGnam mtsho, the ruins on top of the pyramidal formation at Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do are that of an important ancient BönBon temple or monastery.250 The similarly pronounced toponyms TachokRta mchog (excellent horse) and TachokRta chog (horse ear) are inseparably linked in the sacred geography of the headland.251 The horse referred to is a mythic racehorse or wind horse (lungtalung rta) associated with the sacred geography of Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do. Other anatomical features of this horse are not well articulated in local conceptions about Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do.

Site elements

Northwest Horse’s Ear Residential Complex

The design, construction and geographic aspect of the Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa doBönBon” ruins on the horse’s ear are reminiscent of Shawa DrakSha ba brag (A-3), a site located approximately 100 km to the west. These two sites featured small limestone block buildings perched on rocky summits that overlook lakes. The structures of each site are arranged in tiers to form compact residential units. Only a small handful of individuals are likely to have resided at either of these two sites. Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do and Shawa DrakSha ba brag (associated with the eighth century CE saint Nangzher LöpoSnang bzher lod po in BönBon literature) are among an elite group of permanent lakeside dwellings in the eastern JangtangByang thang. They appear to have been constituent parts of the archaic cultural horizon religious and possibly political infrastructure of the region. This region was almost certainly part of the proto-tribal country known in Tibetan literature as SumpaSum pa. Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do and Shawa DrakSha ba brag, by virtue of their unassailable positions, appear to have been august residences well insulated from external threats. These socially exclusive sites may have functioned as ritual centers and as the residences of priests and chieftains. Their identity as temples, palaces, and/or hermitages also fits the pattern of cultural usage established in the lamaist architecture of later historic times.

Given the BönBon historical lore connected to Shawa DrakSha ba brag, we might expect that Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do likewise was occupied during the eighth century CE. A much earlier foundation date, nevertheless, cannot be ruled out. The general cultural history of NamtsoGnam mtsho and epigraphic and pictographic evidence obtained from Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do (J-21) and other headlands of NamtsoGnam mtsho indicate that the site may have remained in the hands of archaic religious practitioners until as late as the 13th century CE. This is not to say, however, that Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do did not come under Buddhist religious and moral influences prior to this period. While the local Guru RinpochéGu ru rin po che myth connected to the headland is not likely to have much historical credence, the presence of Buddhist saints at NamtsoGnam mtsho beginning in the tenpa chidarbstan pa phyi dar is well documented in Tibetan literature. They include prominent personalities such as Galo RinpochéGwa lo rin po che (11th to 12th century CE), Gyelwa LorepaRgyal ba lo ras pa (died 1251 CE), MilarepaMi la ras pa (1040-1143 CE), Dopa Darma SherapDo pa dar ma shes rab (born 1228 CE), and RechungpaRas chung pa (1083-1161 CE) (for further information, see SemodoSe mo do, B-126). We might, therefore, speak in terms of a transitional period between circa 1000 AD and 1250 AD when archaic religious traditions gradually gave way to Buddhist doctrinal and institutional domination at sites such as Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do.

Access to the summit of the formation is gained through a narrow fissure on its east side. Old stone steps embedded in this fissure climb 3.5 m to a level passageway, which is approximately 4 m in length. The opposite or west end of this passageway overlooks NamtsoGnam mtsho. The passageway and fissure are no more than 1 m in width. Above the passageway the remains of a small parapet wall barricade an opening in the east side of the formation. Another wall fragment stands above this point. These two walls appear to have had a defensive function, sealing of a breach in the “horse’s ear” that was potentially vulnerable to attack. Reportedly, steps once continued up from the level passageway to the bottom end of the formation summit, but they are now completely missing. By using a few scant handholds it is still possible to ascend the vertical face of the passageway to the summit.

The summit of the northwest “horse’s ear” slopes steeply up in a westerly direction. The ruined residential complex is situated near the northwest rim of the summit. These diminutive structures face in a northeast direction. The lower edifice consists of just one room and the adjacent the upper edifice contained two rooms. The walls of both buildings are comprised of random-rubble uncut bluish limestone blocks of variable length (10 cm to 60 cm in length). In the seams there are traces of a clay-based mortar that is now heavily impacted. The walls are 45 cm to 55 cm thick, with small pieces of stone filling the interstitial spaces between the outer courses of stonework. Orange climax lichen grows on some stones and they have been subjected to considerable in situ weathering. It does not appear that the ruins have been disturbed in a long time. Both carcasses have been reduced to 1.6 m or less in height, and there is no remaining structural evidence for the roofs. The relatively large rooms and long straight walls of the structures suggest that the roofs were made of wood. However, it seems unlikely that locally available scrub juniper trees could have yielded pieces of wood long enough to use as roof timbers.

The forward/lower and rear/upper walls of the lower edifice measure 5.5 m in length while the two side walls are 4.6 m long. Most of the lower edifice has been leveled to its footings and revetment. The forward wall has a current maximum exterior height of 1.6 m and a maximum interior height of 60 cm, the difference being accounted for by the revetment that underpins the front of the building. Other freestanding wall segments attain only 40 cm in height.

The rear/upper wall of the upper edifice is 9.3 m in length and the side walls approximately 4 m long. Much of the rear wall of the upper edifice stands 60 cm to 80 cm in height on its exterior face and 80 cm to 1.3 m in height along its interior. This difference in elevation is largely accounted for by the slope gradient. The L-shaped upper edifice is divided into sections: west (3.2 m by 2.8 m) and east (6.1 m by 3.5 m). The smaller west section of the upper edifice is situated directly behind the lower edifice at a distance of 1.2 m. The corner of the wider east section is situated just 70 cm from the lower edifice. The L-shaped space created between the two edifices appears to have been an open passageway. The west section of the upper edifice appears to have been a single room. This open space is now sloping and engorged with rubble. The side and forward walls of the west section stand a maximum of 50 cm in height. The footings of the wall that divided the west and east sections of the upper edifice are largely intact. The east section of the upper edifice also appears to have been an unpartitioned space consonant with that of a single room. This open area is largely clear of rubble. The forward wall of the east section has a maximum exterior height of 1.2 m and a maximum interior height of 30 cm, the difference in elevation being accounted for by a fairly prominent revetment. The side walls of the east section have freestanding fragments attaining a maximum height of 50 cm.

Approximately 8 m higher than the upper edifice, on the very apex of the “horse’s ear,” are the remains of another ancient structure (4.8 m by 6.7 m). This platform-like apex structure consists of a less well developed revetment with few or no signs of a superstructure. The tallest revetment fragments are located on its southwest side and reach 1 m in height. The apex structure appears to have been divided into two parts. It is not certain if it was residential or ceremonial in nature, but the latter function seems much more likely. Small cairns line the apex structure illustrating how its sacred status has been maintained to the modern period despite the site’s BönBon connotations. It may be conjectured that the apex structure was a ritual venue. The loftiness and encompassing views from this monument may have imbued it with significant celestial symbolism related to the uranic deities and phenomena of BönBon religious traditions.

Outlying cave shelters

On the north end or base of the Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do headland is a group of a half dozen Buddhist retreat caves belonging to Nyingmaparnying ma pa sect meditators. These caves, like all others detailed in this survey, are found in the rocky backbone of the headland. While the current Buddhist occupied caves are likely to have been exploited over a long period of time, there is little extant structural evidence that can be attributed to the archaic cultural horizon. South of the Buddhist retreat caves there are a number of caves with the remains of ancient masonry fronts. According to local sources interviewed in the 1990s, this string of caves has an ancient BönBon identity. This is corroborated by the presence of BönBon inscriptions and iconic motifs in some of the caves. The first old rock shelters encountered traveling in a counterclockwise direction along the west side of the headland are two small caves with the vestiges of masonry façades. A little south of these two caves there is a rock slide above which is an opening to what appears to have been another anthropogenically modified cave shelter.

Further south along the headland is an overhang with just the footings (70 cm thick) of a masonry façade. This cave is situated opposite the “horse’s ears.” There are the remains of another rock shelter opposite the two “horse’s ears”. The remnants of a wall heaped to a height of 3 m barricade a small cave. Integral fragments of this wall have survived despite much geomorphologic change to the site.

Continuing along the west side of the headland there is a cave with red ochre inscriptions,252 a high ceiling and a massively constructed masonry façade wall. The façade is 11 m in length, around 70 cm thick and has a maximum height of 1.7 m. Running perpendicular to the interior of the façade are the vestiges of two partition walls, 2 m and 1.7 m in length. The heavy construction of this masonry front is congruent with the traits of archaic cultural heritage cave shelters throughout the JangtangByang thang, but reoccupation by Buddhist masters in a later period cannot be ruled out.

Continuing in a counterclockwise direction around the Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do headland are twin caves separated by a distance of about 3 m (49.983΄ / 40.386΄). Both of these caves were enclosed by a massive barrier wall 10.4 m in length. This wall has been reduced to its footings. The west cave contains beige and red ochre pictographs. A long and narrow cave further along the headland also appears to have had a façade (50.006΄ / 40.421΄).

A large east-facing rock overhang on the headland hosts the remains of what is believed to have been a BönBon religious center (50.016΄ / 40.470΄). This seems to be corroborated by the presence of BönBon polychromic motifs (painted circa 900–1250 CE) on the cliff face. A network of freestanding walls stretches for 15 m under the shelter of the overhang. These fragmentary but well built walls were part of several different rooms. The walls are up to 1.9 m in height and bits of mud plaster still cling to them. This site was transformed into a pastoral camp sometime in the past. The construction of corral walls appears to have been at least partly responsible for the extreme degradation of original structural remains.


Notes

[232] For the 1999 survey of this site, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet, 88-89.
[233] For historical references taken from both primary and secondary sources and earlier survey information concerning Dangra Khyung DzongDang ra khyung rdzong, see John Vincent Bellezza. Divine Dyads: Ancient Civilization in Tibet (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1997), 385-387, 412-414; Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet, 92-93; Bellezza, “Territorial Characteristics of the Archaic Zhang-zhung.”
[234] Dzokpa Chenpo Yangtsé LongchenRdzogs pa chen po yang rtse klong chen, 107; Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet, 117.
[235] KyisumSkyid gsum is home to Kyisum LadrangSkyid gsum bla brang (established circa 1100 CE), a Zhang Zhung NyengyüZhang zhung snyan rgyud facility that managed to escape complete destruction during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
[236] For the 2000 survey of this site, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Upper Tibet, 76, 77.
[237] For the 1999 CCE survey of this site, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet, 169, 170.
[238] For details of the 1997 survey, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet, 227.
[239] For the 2000 survey of this site, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Upper Tibet, 107, 108.
[240] This region is traditionally known as Naktsang PöntöNag tshang dpon stod.
[241] For the 2000 survey of this site, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Upper Tibet, 110.
[242] For a description of Doring ChakraRdo ring lcags ra, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Upper Tibet, 110, 111.
[243] For details of the 2000 survey, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Upper Tibet, 119, 120.
[244] For more information on this mountain god see Bellezza, Calling Down the Gods, 18, 101, 145, 287, 295–298.
[245] For the 1999 survey of this site, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet, 131, 132.
[246] For details of the 1999 survey, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet, 189.
[247] For details of the 1999 survey, see Bellezza, Antiquities of Northern Tibet, 156-157.
[248] The word ngang pangang pa (goose) refers to the color orange in horses.
[249] The initial survey of this site is recorded in Bellezza, Divine Dyads, 262-263.
[250] I have suggested that the fantastic pyramids or cones of dried earth that the so-called pundit Kishen Singh discovered at Jador (JadoBya do) (also on the north shore of NamtsoGnam mtsho) actually refer to the pyramidal rock formations of Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do. In the account of Kishen Singh’s 1872 journey to the region, compiled by Lt. Colonel T. G. Montgomery, it notes that one of the supposed pyramids had an opening in the center, which was used by an ancient saint upon his death to ascend to heaven. The central passageway so described and the conical or pyramidal form of the structure certainly recalls the “horse’s ears” of Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do. See Bellezza, Divine Dyads, 251-252,262. What is clear from the present author’s acquaintance with the NamtsoGnam mtsho region (spanning more than two decades) is that there are no giant manmade pyramids to be found there.
[251] This phonetic and semantic convergence is discussed in Bellezza, Divine Dyads, 284 (n. 32).
[252] The inscriptions and pictographs of Tamchok Ngangpa DoRta mchog ngang pa do (J-21) will be treated in a forthcoming inventory of Upper Tibetan rock art sites.
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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.