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1. Introduction

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Two archaeological field campaigns have been carried out for the first time in the Kingdom of Bhutan. Although the total fieldwork time was short (three weeks in 1999 and fifteen weeks in 2000), it gave a unique opportunity to achieve scientific documentation of archaeological features of historical value in Bumthang, a centrally lying district of Bhutan.

Logistic Support

Among the institutions, which contributed to the organization of the archaeological operations between 1999 and 2000, we would like to mention and sincerely thank following Bhutanese institutions and persons:

the Ministry of Agriculture MoA, RGoB, Thimpu (Honorable Minister: Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji);

the National Commission for Cultural Affairs, RGoB [1], Thimpu (Secretary: Dascho Sangay Wangchuck);

the Department for Research and Development Services DRDS, MoA [2], RGoB, Thimpu (Director: Dasho Sherub Gyaltsen);

the Renewable Natural Resources Research Center RNR-RC in Jakar  (Program Director: Kinzang Wangdi; Advisor: Dr. Walter Roder);

the Coordination Office of the N.G.O. Helvetas, Thimpu (Coordinator: Dieter Zürcher, Thimpu);

In Switzerland, the following institutions supported the endeavor financially and logistically:

the Secretary General office of N.G.O. Helvetas, Zurich (Secretary General: Dr. Werner Külling, Zurich;

the Swiss–Liechtenstein Foundation for Archaeological Research Abroad SLFA, Zurich, Switzerland (Secretary General: Dr. Eberhard Fischer).

Financial Support

Main financial support was granted by the Swiss–Liechtenstein Foundation for Archaeological Research Abroad, Zürich, Switzerland. The N.G.O. Helvetas contributed to cover part of logistic costs during our stays in Bhutan. The RNR-RC staff in Jakar furnished additional logistic support on excavation site.

Preliminary Results of 1999

In 1998, a few buried stone structures were discovered incidentally at the building site of a new planned agronomic research center (RNR–RC) in Jakar, central Bhutan. The N.G.O. Helvetas, which is coordinating the building work, reported the findings to governmental agencies in Thimpu. The RGoB, through its Ministry of Agriculture, asked Helvetas to organize an archaeological investigation about the findings. This lead to a first excavation campaign, carried out in April 1999 by a team of the Swiss-Liechtenstein Foundation for Archaeological Research Abroad (SLFA). The results of this campaign were published in January 2000 in the Annual Report of the SLFA (Blumer and Vial 1999) under the title “Batpalathang, New Archaeological Site near Jakar, Bumthang District, Bhutan: Preliminary Report for the Investigations of April 1999”. Extensive reports were delivered to the concerned governmental agencies in Bhutan, as well as to N.G.O. Helvetas in Zurich and Thimpu. The complete report 1999 is also available online at the web-address:

Campaign 2000

Initially planed for duration of three months, the second and last field campaign started early April 2000. The multidisciplinary team from Switzerland included Reto Blumer (archaeologist and project head), Luc Braillard (geologist and sedimentologist), Colette Gremaud (biologist and field assistant), and Frédérique Vial (ethnology student and field assistant). We started proper fieldwork on April 6th. After six weeks, two Swiss participants had finished their program and returned to Switzerland. A third participant had to leave after eleven weeks. The archaeologist extended his fieldwork for one month and traveled back to Europe at the end of July.

The archaeological investigation concentrated mainly on both structures and complexes unearthed partly in 1999 (complex B1-B2 and monument B3), for which rapid intervention was necessitated by the threat of the ongoing construction work. Other archaeological features located in immediate vicinity of the building yard could also be briefly documented. An average number of eight local fieldworkers hired by the RNR-RC building yard were assisting us in the field. The working rhythm was set to six days a week only hampered by local weather conditions and paused during popular religious festivals, which are numerous in Central Bhutan.

A secondary goal of the campaign was to test the potential of oral accounts recordings to locate new archaeological features in the region, especially in the Choskhor valley around the district headquarter Jakar. One Swiss participant, assisted by a local translator, carried out numerous interviews of local people with particular concern about the local knowledge of elders. This investigation procedure enabled us to locate numerous sites with various archaeological potentials. Most locations were described summarily and some of them briefly investigated and documented. Among the main results of this survey procedure, we could locate a large and important historic fort ruin, which remained unknown by most local people, although its name had been mentioned in historical records and studies.

Report Diffusion

The first part of this final report is submitted to N.G.O. Helvetas, to the Ministry of Agriculture, to the Special Commission for Cultural Affairs, as well as to the Secretary General of the SLFA for approval. Some insight in the results 2000 is given at the following web-address:

The present report is available online at the web-address:

[current url]


[1] Royal Government of Bhutan
[2] Ministry for Agriculture


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Copyright 2001, Reto Blumer, Switzerland
Copyright 2001, SLFA Zürich, Switzerland

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Last updated: 29-05-2001.