Tsokgi Möndur Introduction

Antiquities of Zhang Zhung

by John Vincent Bellezza Edited by Geoffrey Barstow and Mickey Stockwell

II.2. Superficial structures: Primarily funerary superstructure

Tsok Gi MöndurBtsog gi mon dur

Basic site data

  • Site name: Tsok Gi MöndurBtsog gi mon dur 72
  • English equivalent: MönMon Tombs of Filth
  • Site number: D-91
  • Site typology: II.2b
  • Geographic coordinate (N. lat.): 33º 29΄
  • Geographic coordinate (E. long.): 79º 03΄
  • Elevation: 4340 m to 4400 m
  • Administrative location (township): RecoRe co
  • Administrative location (county): RutokRu thog
  • Survey expedition: HTAE
  • Survey date: October 3, 2003
  • Contemporary usage: Light grazing.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: None.

General site characteristics

Tsok Gi MöndurBtsog gi mon dur is located in the NyanlungGnyan lung valley. The site is divided into three zones: lower sector, central sector and upper sector. All three sectors are located near the western edge of the valley and have an eastern aspect. The funerary structures of Tsok Gi MöndurBtsog gi mon dur are made of uncut pieces of variable-length brown sandstone (up to 70 cm long). They consist of superficial enclosures of various types and structures with well developed, high elevation double-course walls. Mostly slabs of brown sandstone were used in construction. The size and complexity of the Tsok Gi MöndurBtsog gi mon dur structures indicate that this was an important funerary complex.

Like other funerary sites in RecoRe co (D-92, D-93, D-94, D-95, D-96, E-28), in addition to possibly housing deceased members of the local population, Tsok Gi MöndurBtsog gi mon dur may have catered to the needs of dignitaries connected to the archaic residential sites in and around the central RutokRu thog location of Dzong RiRdzong ri (A-16, A-17, A-90, A-91, A-92, A-93, A-108), located further east. No concentrations of funerary structures have been surveyed in the vicinity of these residential sites (although two were spied near the side of the road, one near RutokRu thog and one in ChulungChu lung). NyanlungGnyan lung contains large swathes of defunct agricultural lands, as do nearby valleys. This suggests that RecoRe co is likely to have had a greater population in the past, as compared to that of its contemporary pastoral one. Reportedly, the current (2003) population of RecoRe co is 220 souls. The extreme desiccation of the region must have been a prime factor in the transition from agriculture to pastoralism in RecoRe co. Another interesting feature of RecoRe co is that no summit strongholds of any kind were detected in the region. In nearby DerokSde rog, KhülpaKhul pa and RawangRa bang most agricultural valleys were guarded over by an ancient hilltop installation. The absence of castles in RecoRe co occurs despite the fact that the local branch valleys of NyanlungGnyan lung, DzauDza’u, Omlung’Om lung, and RamaRa ma 73 once supported agriculture. Perhaps this region was specially singled out for elite burial activities (although two non-summit residential sites were also detected in RecoRe co: B-43, B-44). Another puzzling matter is that not one ancient pillar site was detected in RecoRe co, a region rich in funerary structures.

Oral tradition

According to residents of RecoRe co, Tsok Gi MöndurBtsog gi mon dur was an ancient MönMon burial center.

Site elements

Lower sector

The south sector is situated on a fairly steep rocky slope bounding the edge of the enclosing west ridge. It is located just up from the mouth of the valley. The terrain is marked by a series of natural stone furrows and berms, which act to camouflage the presence of the funerary structures. One wonders if this was part of a deliberate effort on the part of the builders to conceal the site. The high degree of integration of the structures with the parent topography may have involved religious considerations as well. Given the nature of the terrain, it is quite possible that funerary structures of the lower sector may have been overlooked during the survey. The walls of the lower sector structures are aligned to the slope (axial and transverse directions), not in the compass points.

Funerary Structure FS4

Funerary structure FS4 (5 m x 7 m) is the largest and highest structure of the lower sector. It was built on a rocky prominence adding to its overall elevation. FS4 is a substantially built quadrate masonry structure that was of significant height. The partly intact forward wall of FS4 has a maximum height of 90 cm and has as many as 6 vertical courses of masonry still in situ. Stones up to 1 m in length went into the construction of the forward wall. Parts of the west/rear and north walls are also extant. These walls are 50 cm to 90 cm in height. In the middle of the top of FS4 there is an excavation around 2 m across, which is now partly filled with stone rubble. This eroded excavation appears to be evidence for grave robbing carried out in the distance past.

Funerary Structure FS10

Funerary structure FS10 (3 m x 3 m) is situated 6 m downhill of FS4. This is a minor superficial structure. By virtue of their proximity to one another and their unequal size and height, FS10 may have been subsidiary to FS4. These two structures could have been ritually linked through integral funerary rites and/or burials (such as a husband and wife).

Funerary Structure FS5

Funerary structure FS5 is situated 55 m west/uphill of FS4. It is now just a mound of stones 5 m across and 1.5 m in height.

Funerary Structure FS6

Funerary structure FS6 (6 m x 3.8 m) is situated 110 m northwest of FS5. FS6 was also a well-built quadrate structure that was elevated above the slope on all sides. The forward wall of this structure is up to 50 cm in height, and is made up of five vertical slabs. The exposed grave chamber or reliquary (approximately 2 m x 2 m) is visible in the middle of the structure. This chamber is now only 30 cm deep. Although its original depth is unclear, FS6 does not appear to have extended too much below ground level. Three vertical courses of slabs lining the sides of the chamber are visible.

Funerary Structure FS7

Funerary structure FS7 (2 m x 2.3 m) is situated 4.3 m downhill of FS6. This small quadrate structure ranges from level with the adjoining ground to 70 cm in height.

Funerary Structure FS8

Funerary structure FS8 (3 m x 3.5 m) is situated 70 m northeast of and about 15 m lower than FS7. This stone structure now has a heaped appearance and is about 1.5 m in height. Whatever coherent wall fragments are still extant are obscured by rubble. FS8 appears to have been gutted, which is consistent with looting.

Funerary Structure FS9

Funerary structure FS9 is situated 10 m downhill of FS8. This minor superficial structure appears to have been a subsidiary element of FS8.

Funerary Structure FS11

Funerary structure FS11 (2.4 m x 2.5 m) is situated 80 m north of FS4. Small coherent wall segments up to 40 cm have endured in FS11.

Central sector

The central sector is found on a moderately sloping sandy terrain at the base of the enclosing ridge. It is about 1 km up the NyanlungGnyan lung valley from the lower sector.

Funerary Structure FS1

Funerary structure FS1 (8.5 m x 5.5 m) is the most northerly tomb in the central sector (33° 28.734΄ N. lat. / 79° 02.688΄ / 4370 m). No coherent wall segments have survived in this highly dissolute structure, just a scattering of stones. FS1 appears to have been a low elevation enclosure.

Funerary Structure FS2

Funerary structure FS2 (4 m x 3.5 m) is situated 5 m southwest of FS1 at the same elevation. It is also in very poor condition and there are no integral walls remaining on the surface. FS2 also appears to have been an enclosure with a minimal superstructure and little height.

Funerary Structure FS3

Funerary structure FS3 is situated 118 m southwest of FS2 (28.680΄ / 02.623΄ / 4400 m). This large, fairly intact enclosure is aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures 21 m (north-south) x 12 m (east-west). The remaining structural evidence indicates that perimeter walls of FS3 were of the double-course type and not just a jumble of stones. In order to create a level interior, the rear wall is set around 1.5 m below the uphill slope and the forward wall is elevated about 1 m above the downhill slope. The interior of FS3 is now gently sloping, presumably because of the forces of erosion and geomorphologic changes. The perimeter walls of the enclosure range from flush with the ground surface to portions that are elevated above it as much as 60 cm. In the middle part of the interior, beginning 3.7 m from the north wall of the enclosure, there is a stone structure 3.3 m across. Due to much deterioration, the design of this structure is no longer discernable. It probably marks the location of a subsurface grave. Also in the middle portion of FS3, beginning 6 m from the south wall, there is what appears to be a quadrate structure (3 m x 2.6 m). This structure also probably marks the location of a subterranean tomb. On the southwest corner of the FS3 enclosure, stones are heaped up to a height of about 1 m.

Upper sector

The upper sector is found farther up the NyanlungGnyan lung valley. This site is located in the valley bottom near the base of the west ridge. It is also situated just above a bifurcation in the NyanlungGnyan lung valley. The terrain is level and sandy.

Funerary Structure FS12

Funerary structure FS12 appears to be aligned in the cardinal directions, and measures an estimated 25 m x 11 m (29.241΄ / 03.066΄ / 4340 m). This large, but poorly preserved, enclosure has lost almost all structural coherence. It is built of a gray stone and the entire structure is somewhat elevated above the surrounding plain. A single line of slabs that extends for 9 m along the western portion of the south wall is the only intact structure. These slabs are 50 cm to 70 cm in length and lie flat (perhaps originally they were erected upright). Stones up to 1 m in length lie about other portions of the enclosure perimeter. Inside the enclosure there are upright stones here and there that protrude 10 cm to 30 cm above the ground surface.

A double-course wall of small cobbles (5 cm to 10 cm long) is situated 14 m southeast of the FS12 enclosure. This wall forms an arc, 2 m in length, and appears to be the vestige of a more elaborate structure. A little closer to the south side of FS12 there are three tiny structures made up of slabs. Two of these structures consist of three upright slabs that form three sides of a rectangle. The fourth side of the structures is open. The two side wall slabs (40 cm to 55 cm) are somewhat shorter and flush with the sandy surface. The other side contains a longer slab (50 cm and 65 cm) that protrudes 15 cm or 20 cm above the surface. The third analogous structure has been reduced to just one slab, 60 cm long with a protrusion of 15 cm above ground level. These three trilithic structures form a row and are spaced about 3.5 m from one another. They must have been used in funerary rites, the character of which is not apparent.


[72] This site may also be called Tsukgi MöndurGtsug gi mon dur (Mon Tombs of the [Rocky] Crown).

[73] Some of the arable land of Omlong’Om long (named for its tamarisk trees) was brought back into cultivation in the Chinese Cultural Revolution and is still farmed. The most extensive farmlands still tilled in RecoRe co are found in the RamaRa ma valley. The viable barley fields of RamaRa ma are but a small fraction of the area once under cultivation. The other branch valleys of RecoRe co, DzakarRdza dkar, NyadrakNya brag, LungkarLung dkar, GokraSgog ra, PangSpang, NgakkhangNgag khang (sp.?) and an unnamed valley, are reported not to have defunct arable lands.


Note Citation for Page

John Vincent Bellezza, Antiquities of Zhang Zhung: A Comprehensive Inventory of Pre-Buddhist Archaeological Monuments on the Tibetan Upland (Charlottesville, VA 22904:Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010), .

Bibliographic Citation

John Vincent Bellezza. Antiquities of Zhang Zhung: A Comprehensive Inventory of Pre-Buddhist Archaeological Monuments on the Tibetan Upland, . Charlottesville, VA 22904:Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010.