Previously unknown Himalayan cave culture discovered

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

KATHMANDU - A previously unknown Himalayan cave culture has been uncovered through gruelling archaeological research in upper Mustang, Nepal.

According to the Department of Archaeology (DOA), highly skilled archaeologists and other experts came up with the remains of an ancient cave people, their arts and manuscripts, after an extensive 5-year search.OA said researchers discovered the remains of 27 individuals buried in caves at 13,800 feet, which were of adult men, women, adolescents, even children, and cattle.

They had been deposited in a wooden structure and hidden inside a cliff-top communal grave for some 1,500 years.

“The researchers believe the culture they have uncovered carried with it the origins of the sky burial practice of the Tibetan plateau,” Republica quoted DAO as saying in its report.

The caves, explored by archaeologists and experts led by American archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Dr. Mark Aldenderfer, are believed to date back some 3,000 years.

Analysis of the 5th century skeletal remains found last summer shows cut marks-some 67 percent of the bodies were de-fleshed.

Stripped of the flesh, the bones were deposited inside the cave tombs, a practice distinctly different from the more complete offering of chopped bones and flesh in the ethnically Tibetan practice known as sky burial.

DOA said detailed analysis of the crumbling caves and their contents through different methods including DNA analysis has painted a more comprehensive picture of the important role of the Kali Gandaki River corridor in human migration and the exchange of art and religion between the regions of Central Asia, the Tibetan plateau and Southeast Asia.

Based on lab results from DNA of the cave populations, the research suggests that like in modern times, people from the highlands moved well into the lowlands in prehistoric times.

DAO Director General Bishnu Raj Karki said the research would prove that the Kali Gandaki River corridor was an important historical artery for the Silk Route.

The research was carried out in cooperation with Skydoor Foundation Nepal.

“The research has illuminated the historical significance of the archaeologically rich region that has previously been overlooked,” Karki said.

“The team fully expects to find more human remains in the caves in the upcoming years, each culture providing a window into the constantly changing human tapestry of Mustang’s deep history,” he added. (ANI)

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