The high Himalayan valley of Upper Mustang today appears isolated and remote. But more than 1600 years ago, the settlements of Upper Mustang participated in an extensive trade network that ultimately connected them to the fabled Silk Road. Not only did exotic objects find their way in to the region, but new ideas and religious practices appeared in mortuary rites and rituals and which reflect a complex blend of pre-Buddhist and possibly Zoroastrian influences. The archaeological evidence supporting these claims is explored in this presentation.
Mark Aldenderfer is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Merced. His research focuses on the comparative analysis of high altitude cultural and biological adaptations from an archaeological perspective. He has worked on the three high elevation plateaus of the planet—Ethiopian, Andean, and Tibetan—over the course of his career and currently works in Upper Mustang, Nepal, where he studies long-term patterns of population movements, trade, and the transformation of religious traditions over the past 2000 years.