introduction and legend

About this list:

The following pages list the number of burial mound sites registered so far by the TTT project for the central Tibetan Dbus-Gtsang region, largely the Bod of the imperial period. This list of more than 580 sites (as of 7/2018) contains the data from earlier as well as more recent (mostly Chinese) surveys (as far as accessible), and the recordings by the TTT team and the project’s principal investigator (G. Hazod) respectively. Currently, most of this list is based on the latter’s inquiries; these date back to the first (often unexpected) discoveries of burial mound sites during his ethnographic fieldwork in the early 2000s, usually in cooperation with Tibetan colleagues, which was then followed by a number of targeted in situ surveys, where later high-resolution satellite imagery provided a significant help in identifying new fields. In fact, the identification of about two-thirds of the present list is based on such aerial archaeological information, although most of these places have still not been visited on site. At the same time, in continuation of earlier surveys (from the 1980s, and 1990s) the Lhasa-based Cultural Relics Bureau (CRB) of the Tibet Autonomous Region has started a new survey of data collection on grave mounds in Central Tibet, the results of which were included in a recent publication (Xizang Wenwu Dituji (XWD) 2010). The listing in this atlas differs to some degree from our collection as it is considerably smaller with regard to Central Tibet; several of the major fields are missing and the information on the sites is more or less restricted to the geographical position, which unfortunately is only roughly given, without GPS data. On the other hand, some fields that were new to us are indicated, and if specifiable with GPS values they have been included in our list.
    Needless to say, after years of research the work on this list is still a work in progress, with on-site visits, the exchange of data with colleagues in Lhasa or the revisiting of areas on satellite photographs regularly leading to concretisations of individual sites and also to the recording of new grave fields. It should be noted in this context that on satellite imagery the search for burial mounds and other ruined sites is considerably restricted in areas with dense tree cover, such as in eastern Lhokha, a situation that just underlines the still fragmentary state of the present list.
    The different ways in which the individual burial mound sites were discovered have been roughly noted in the list. Burial mound sites means “grave fields” that may vary from just a handful of tombs up to several hundred mounds. Sites with single mounds are rather rare and marked separately in the list, as are fields with an unusually large number of mound graves. In addition some basic features of the individual grave fields and the types of mounds are indicated. Clicking the individual sites (i.e. the site ID number or the GPS value) reveals information in varying details in the form of a preliminary photographic and cartographic documentation. The listing, with its consecutive numbering of sites, is ultimately intended to form a basic reference tool not only within the present TTT website and its internal links to further information but also when discussing the Tibetan tumulus sites in publications.


The site details in the list are given in the order of: ID number of the site – serial number of the site within the particular county – name of the site – modern district (xiang) – geographical position / altitude – “field type” (FT) – “mound type” (MT) – survey details. The modern administrative division of prefecture and county form the outer geographical reference for this listing.

FT = The principal types of the grave fields’ topographical settings

  • FT-A: The cemeteries are situated in the non-arable zones, usually in the upper or lower part of the fan-shaped niches of the valley and settlement area. This is by far the most common type.
  • FT-B: The tombs are situated on hillocks (at the edge of the valley or the alluvial zones), or somewhere higher up in the mountain regions.
  • FT-C: The position of the grave field or of individual tombs is within the arable zone. The burial mounds are surrounded by fields and situated next to a hamlet or village, although it remains uncertain whether the land around was already cultivated at the time of the tomb’s construction.

With the exception of the FT-C types, all fields are usually above the valley floor overlooking the arable land and the houses of the living.

MT = Principal mound types

  • MT-A: The round tomb, with a round or oval ground plan. This is usually smaller (2 to 10m). The burial chamber is covered with layers of earth or a series of concentric earth walls abutting each other and tapering towards the top. Often the mound above the chamber is of a mixture of stone and earth, and in some cases apparently mainly stones and pebbles were used (= MT-B).

    There is a variant of this mound type that has a flattened top and is also much larger. Mounds of this type evidently have an inner construction similar to MT-C.
  • MT-C: The coffer-shaped, walled tomb; the tamped earth above the chamber(s) is enclosed by one or more thick walls made of a mixture of stone (or stone slabs) and earth, often reinforced by timber. The space between the walls is filled with stones (or pebbles) and earth. The whole wall construction seems to have been originally covered in earth to accent the hill or mountain-like shape, but in most cases due to erosion the outer earth has partly disappeared so that the parts of the walls are exposed. This is the most common type of the larger burial mounds. One sub-category of this mound type is the tomb where the coffer construction was not apparently covered in earth (for construction details, see Feiglstorfer, forthcoming).

    Tombs of the MT-C types are rectangular, mostly trapezoidal. They are to be found in the size range of small (5-20m), medium (20-30m) and large (up to ca. 130m). (The latter two categories should be classified as elite mounds of the civil and military aristocracy of the imperial period, and include the grave monuments of the royal necropolis.) Usually the height of a larger tomb is not more than 5 to 10m.
  • MT-D: The stūpa-shaped tomb and the mound type with a maṇḍala-shaped ground plan – both most likely from the Buddhist period of the empire (late 8th and 9th century).

Additional information

  • s = single tomb
  • n = field with an unusually large number of tombs (more than 100)
  • plus = additional mounds in the nearer vicinity of the main field
  • ? = information uncertain (e.g. MT-C (?) = identification of the structure as tomb uncertain; MT-C [30m] (?) = the tomb’s actual dimension remains uncertain; question marks after “plus”, “n” or “s” indicate uncertainty with respect to the information expressed by these symbols.)
  • v (2013) = site visited (in 2013) by the project leader and author of the site list or by the project team
  • nv (sat) = site not visited by the project-team; identification based on high-resolution satellite imagery
  • ref. = site referred to explicitly in publications, incl. publications by members of the TTT team
  • nv (sat/ref.) = site not visited by the project team; the identification of the site is based on satellite photograph after the information given in Chinese / Tibetan publications or reports (such as XWD) or in personal communication with colleagues (mostly Tibetan colleagues in Lhasa)
  • [20m] = the largest tomb of the respective field. (Note that the size specifications (mostly based on satellite imagery) relate to the front of the (trapezoid) mounds at ground level (diameter in the case of round tombs), where not the actual walls but the earth sloping at the side of the mounds was taken as the reference point. Apart from the extent of destruction of the individual tombs – all mounds represent historically opened structures – here the factor of natural erosion allows only approximate conclusions.)
  • 01* = numbers marked with an asterisk refer to sites of particular significance – in terms of size of tomb (30m upwards), the numbers of mounds or other peculiarities of the field in question