Hidden within the Himalayas, 155ft from the ground, the Mustang Caves or Sky Caves of Nepal are one of the World’s greatest archaeological mysteries. These caves are man-made caves dug into the sides of valleys in the Mustang District of Nepal. The caves lie on the steep valley walls near the Kali Gandaki River in Upper Mustang.
Mustang was formerly the Kingdom of Lo in northern Nepal, with its capital at Lomanthang. At the end of the 18th century, the kingdom was annexed by Nepal. Upper Mustang was a restricted demilitarized area until 1992, which makes it one of the most preserved regions in the world due to its relative isolation from the outside world, with a majority of the population still speaking traditional Tibetic languages. In this dusty, wind-savaged place, hidden within the Himalayas and cleaved by the Kali Gandaki River, are approximately 10,000 human-built caves.
Several groups of archaeologists and researchers have explored these stacked caves and found partially mummified human bodies and skeletons that are at least 2,000–3,000 years old. Explorations of these caves by conservators and archaeologists have also led to the discovery of valuable Buddhist paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and numerous artifacts belonging to the 12th to 14th century. Research groups have continued to investigate these caves, but no one has yet understood who built the caves and why they were built. The site is currently listed as a UNESCO tentative site since 1996.
In 2007, explorers from the United States, Italy and Nepal discovered ancient Buddhist decorative art and paintings, manuscripts and pottery in the Mustang caves near Lomanthang, dating back to the 13th century. A second expedition in 2008 discovered several 600-year-old human skeletons and recovered reams of precious manuscripts, some with small paintings known as illuminations, which contain a mix of writings from Buddhism and Bon.
- Caves are thousands of years old but who built them and why remains a mystery.
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