4. Batpalathang Archaeological Site

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In this section, we first describe the discovery of the site and then describe each structure as they were discovered during building work. The archaeological structures are located ultimately next to the building complex of a new RNR research center that is in construction since end of 1998.

The conflicting situation between the construction of the new research center compound and the archaeological structures arose as soon as the historicity of the remains had been acknowledged during the campaign 1999. From this point, we could determine that the main conflict lay only between one of the new buildings and one of the archaeological structures. The planned construction could not be made without destroying this monument integrally.

The evolution of the conflicting situation and solutions to avoid destruction is reviewed in details in Appendix 2 at the end of this paper. In Appendix 3, we propose steps toward preservation of this monument.

First Discovery

The precise events of discoveries made at the site are detailed in our report for 1999 (Blumer and Vial 1999). They were based on the information gathered locally from the yard architect, consultants, engineers, and workers and are supplemented by the information related in a preliminary discovery report by the local consultant W. Roder and architect F. Baumgartner (RNR-RC / Helvetas 1999).

The first structure, Batpalathang-B1, was discovered in 1998 while digging the foundation trench of the first RNR-RC building (“Administration building”) (Fig. 9: B1). It first appeared as buried and partly hollow dome-shaped roof built of large flat stones (see also: Blumer and Vial1999: 218-219, fig. 9, tab. 4, fig. 19-22). The trench dig and further exploration by the yard team led to the dismantling of the upper part of the dome-shaped roof and to the removal of several square-meter of filling in the underground structure. Few artifacts and samples were collected while proceeding (pottery fragments, millstone fragments, grinding stone, and wooden remains). To avoid the full destruction of B1, the team in charge of the building work decided to shift the “Administration” and “Professional” building in southeastern direction.

Fig. 9

Discovery of Batpalathang B3

The second structure, Batpalathang B3, was partly uncovered during mechanical terracing work in the eastern part of the building yard, at the location of the future fourth building (“Laboratory building”) (Fig. 9: B3). The remains took the shape of a quadrangular and flat surface of stones. The mechanical shovel removed an undetermined number of the upper stones and the yard team proceeded to a manual cleaning of the stone surface. In the process, a bronze coin, apparently of Tibetan origin, has been retrieved from the sediment near the platform (see also Blumer and Vial 1999:218-219, figs. 10, 31, tab. 6, fig. 39). The remains of B3 were threatened directly by the construction of the “Laboratory” building, planed for 2000 (see also Appendix.2).

Other remains

Near the underground structure B1, the remains of a wall protruded through the grassy vegetation cover. Those remains, called Batpalathang-B2, were linear in shape, following a slight ridge, and showed a southeast-northwest orientation ( Fig. 9: B2). No work was carried out by the RNR-RC team, excepting the clearing of the southwestern side of the remains on a length of approximately 2 meters (see also Blumer and Vial 1999: 219 and 235). This structure could be threatened by the building of the parking lot and by landscaping work.

A fourth location with archaeological potential was discovered ca. 110 meters south of B3. Due to its location, this structure (Batpalathang-B4) is not directly threatened by the RNR construction site. It consists in a small rounded hill located on a small promontory, oriented east to west, of the 70m-terrace riser (Fig. 9: B4). Covered with fully-grown blue pines, the structure shows scattered building elements of stones on its surface and along the slopes of the promontory (see also: Blumer and Vial 1999: 219-220, fig. 11). Agricultural terrain is situated against the eastern edge of the structure B4. The RNR team has neither done excavation work in 1998-1999, nor by us in 1999.

With those four structures, this area of the 70m-terrace was considered a location with high archaeological potential. And for the first time in the history of the Kingdom of Bhutan, a site with archaeological potential was threatened by construction work, leading to the first archaeological fieldwork ever carried out in the kingdom.


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

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Last updated: 29-05-2001.