Monday, May 7, 2007

Mustang caves excite archaeologists

After posting news on discovery of 'learning caves' and the ancient Buddha paintings by a team of researchers from Italy, US and Nepal (see the posts) a number of landscape images captured on Google Earth, a tool to view and browse planet earth, are posted here. There is a high resolution image on the GE for Mustang and Lo-manthang valley, the forbidden land, in the central north Nepal near Tibet border at the GoogleEarth.

The first image shows the desert like lo_manthang landscape. The upper Kali Gandaki river channels on vast sands with few oasis like green human settlements are seen here.

The second image shows the location of Muktinath Temple, and looking on west. On the north (on the right) is the lo-manthang valley.

The caves were used by the Lamas for learning and contemplating Buddha's teachings.

Here is a link of a photograph from Mustang area

The last photo is of the newly found Drakmar caves in Mustang. Photo by AFP.

The Kantipur News article on the caves of Mustang:



KATHMANDU, May 7 - Following the discovery of human-excavated caves in Mustang with spectacular Buddhist murals unseen for centuries, government officials and archaeologists are excited at the prospect of exploration and further study of medieval religion, culture and civilization, as well as their preservation.
Talking to The Kathmandu Post, Kosh Prasad Acharya, Director General at the Department of Archeology (DoA) said, "The newly discovered murals may help in further exploration of Buddhism, art and artifacts, and medieval civilization."

Wall paintings dating back to as early as the 13th century, Tibetan manuscripts executed in ink, silver and gold, and pre-Christian era pottery shards have been discovered in Mustang. These have a great significance from the archaeological point of view, he added.

With the help of a local shepherd, an eight-member team of international researchers -- four Americans, an Italian and three Nepalis -- had explored at least 12 caves located at an altitude of 14,000 feet near Lo Manthang area of Mustang from March 9 to April 4 and discovered the murals never before photographed, nor viewed in modern times. The team was partly funded by The North Face and by Sky Door Productions.

The team believes that one high elevation cave containing footprints only of snow leopards was reserved for Buddhist teachings. This partly-collapsed enclave contains a mural of 55 panels depicting stories of the life of the Buddha, executed in a masterful, Indian-influenced style that is unique in Mustang. This delicate, intact mural is evocative of parts of the 13th Century Luri cave paintings.

"These findings underscore the richness of the Tibetan Buddhist religious tradition of this area stretching back nearly a millennium as well as the artistic beauty and wide geographical reach of Newari artists," Reuters quoted an American explorer Broughton Coburn as saying.

"Who lived in those caves? When were they there, when were the caves first excavated and how did the residents access them, perched as they are on vertical cliffs?" he questioned and further said, "It's a compelling, marvelous mystery."
A Nepali team member Prakash Darnal, who is an archaeologist at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, said, "These distinct and old paintings in difficult landscape reflect the mediaeval art (Neolithic art), culture, religion and civilization influenced by Indian lifestyle."

He added that each and every cave site in Mustang should be explored and the art and archaeological features of these national treasures should be documented by the DoA.

"This is a preliminary survey so we need to look for further details," said Acharya, adding, "But we don't have sufficient resources and specialized soft rock-climbers who can take archaeologists along with them to carry out further study."

Jiban Ghimire of Sherpa-Shangri-La Trekking Agency informed that National Geographic and the Discovery Channels have shown keen interest to further explore Mustang. "But we have been making a plan to start the next-phase of exploration in the upcoming Spring Season, with the inclusion of a high altitude archeologist Dr Johan Reinhard, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence," he said.

Posted on: 2007-05-06 21:42:47 (Server Time)

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