Saturday, August 13, 2016


Fig. 28.11, Sunburst with nine points,
Sinmo Khadang, Tibet. Photograph
from John Vincent Bellezza. 

In our quest to locate the rock art at the highest elevation, Peter Jessen has again come through with another candidate, this time from Tibet. Pictographs at the site of Sinmo Khadang were found at 4,720 to 4,740 meters which is about 15,576 to 15,642 feet above sea level (that is high altitude in anybody's book).

Fig. 28.2. Interior of Sinmo
Khadang, Tibet. Photograph
from John Vincent Bellezza.

Jessen forwarded to me an article by John Vincent Bellezza from 2015 (please see references below) detailing a number of rock art sites in Tibet, and conveniently each site listed has its elevation above sea level given. The highest elevation listed for a site in this article is that of Sinmo Khadang (4,720 to 4,740 meters/15,576 to 15,624 feet above sea level).

Fig. 28.1. View from the south mouth
of Sinmo Khadang overlooking the
Spiti River valley, Tibet. Photograph
from John Vincent Bellezza. 

The rock art sites of Spiti.
Map by Brian Sebastian and
John Vincent Bellezza.

Sinmo Khadang is an 80 meter long large cave, situated just below a summit dividing the main Spiti river valley from the tributary valley of Kibbar. The name Sinmo Khadang translates as "Gaping Mouth of the Cannibalistic Fiend." Spiti is located in the Western fringe of the Tibetan Plateau (see the map above).(Bellezza 2015)

Fig. 28.8. Swastika, crescent moon,
and bell-shaped form. The swastika
and moon are one composition, the
bell-shaped form was painted
separately. Photograph from
                     John Vincent Bellezza.

Fig. 28.12. Swastika and anthropomorphs.
Sinmo Khadang, Tibet. Photograph from
John Vincent Bellezza.

"The repertoire of rock art at Sinmo Khadang is comparable with the other pictographic sites of Spiti. In addition to trees, suns, moons, swastikas and anthropomorphs, there are two paintings of ibexes and a raptor pictograph in the cave. The pictographs of Sinmo Khadang were made by many different people. They primarily date to the Protohistoric period but some may possibly have been made subsequently in the Early Historic period. There is also a more recent red ochre pictograph consisting of a clockwise swastika with four dots painted inside its arms, as well as an obscured inscription in the Uchen script." (Bellezza 2015)

Fig. 28.14. Tree and swastika on
east wall of Sinmo Khadang, Tibet.
Photograph from John Vincent Bellezza.

Uchen is an upright, block style of the Tibetan alphabet. The name means "with a head" and it is the style of writing used for printing and formal manuscripts. Uchen is used to write both the Tibetan language and Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan. (Wikipedia)

Fig. 28.10. West wall of Sinmo Khadang,
Tibet. A large sunburst in middle, above
it a pair of anthropomorphs flanked by
swastikas forming a single composition.
Photograph from John Vincent Bellezza.

It is hard to imagine any rock art at sites higher than this, but people certainly at higher elevations in Tibet, and it is likely that there may still be rock art sites that have not been recorded. It is going to be hard to beat 15,642 feet but let's all keep looking, and let me know of your candidate for Highest Elevation Rock Art.

NOTE: For further information about rock art of Tibet please refer to Tibet Archaeology and All Things Tibetan, (see below).


Bellezza, John Vincent
2015   Flight of the Khyung (Part 3), in Tibet Archaeology and All Things Tibetan,


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