The Burial Mounds of Central Tibet

The beginning of the construction of burial mounds in Tibet can be dated at least to the 4th C. AD and it ends in the early 10th C. when after the collapse of the Tibetan Empire (ca. 600-850) the royal graves were plundered. The starting point for the present research programme is the data from recent ethnographic fieldworks in Central Tibet; on the one hand this relates to the results of visits to dozens of cemeteries by the project leader in the past few years, on the other hand to the planned surveys of 40 to 50 more grave fields, whose existence has already been established by means of modern satellite imagery. This unique new evidence of the pre-Buddhist history of the Tibetan Highlands is largely unknown to the research, and it is therefore a prime target first to document it in the form of a detailed description as well as a photographic, graphic and cartographic illustration. The investigation will also include a first (Western) archaeological survey of the tumuli of Central Tibet, related to the area of landscape archaeology. Together with the relevant textual sources and the archaeological data available today, these empirical recordings ultimately form the basis for a historical and anthropological study of these monuments and their context of ritual, clan and empire. The studies also take into account the perspectives of other disciplines (architecture, art history, geography) as well as modern techniques of documentary processing of the data. Beyond its contribution to the history of early Tibet, the research will be relevant for regional comparison within the cultural space of Central Eurasia, and will inter alia provide significant new comparative data on “barbarian religion” and the anthropology of mortuary rituals.

burial mounds in central tibet