Warning Cookies are used on this site to provide the best user experience. If you continue, we assume that you agree to receive cookies from this site. OK

Drawn and Written in Stone

An inventory of stepped structures and inscriptions on rock surfaces in Upper Tibet (ca. 100 BCE to 1400 CE)

John Vincent Bellezza
Publication Year:
336 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 3 tables, 494 figures, 4 maps.
BAR number:


Drawn and Written in Stone explores the religious history of the highest part of the Tibetan Plateau through its rock art and inscriptions. It is focused on facsimiles of ritual and ceremonial monuments carved and painted on stone surfaces and rock inscriptions in the Tibetan language, vital archaeological and historical materials for appraising the development of religion in Tibet, ca. 100 BCE to 1400 CE. By probing the complexion of figures and letters in stone, this work considers how early cult traditions contributed to the establishment of Tibetan Buddhism and a rival faith known as Yungdrung Bon. Outside of the Indian cultural context, relatively little has been written about the historical antecedents of these popular Tibetan religions for a want of sources. This monograph helps remedy this large gap in Tibetan studies by drawing upon the author’s surveys of rock art and rock inscriptions conducted in upmost Tibet between 1995 and 2013.

John Vincent Bellezza PhD is an archaeologist and cultural historian specialising in the pre-Buddhist heritage of Tibet. Author of twelve books and numerous articles, Bellezza has over many years comprehensively charted archaic monuments and rock art in Upper Tibet and has worked extensively on Old Tibetan mytho-ritual texts.

‘The book is a joy for the eyes with its hundreds of photographs of stepped structures and inscriptions and enriched with numerous drawings as well as many illustrations of small copper-alloy objects or thog-lcags. (…) The current state of Tibetan epigraphy is highly increased by this work which furnishes a comprehensive survey of stepped structures, chorten and rock inscriptions carved or painted in Upper Tibet.’ Giorgio Dallorto, The Mirror (October 2021)

‘(John Bellezza) is one of the few scholars of the ancient past who have invested significant time and effort in this vast region. He has embedded his field research into a context of fluent written and spoken Tibetan and deep familiarity with Tibetan Buddhist (and non-Buddhist) myth, ritual, and history. This unique combination of skills allows him to provide nuanced descriptions, as well as rich interpretations of his findings.’ Mark Aldenderfer, Current World Archaeology (September 2021)

‘John Vincent Bellezza has carried out extensive surveys in the Tibetan plateau, and his knowledge of this vast territory and its sites is unsurpassed. Bellezza simply walked across mountain deserts and climbed mountain passes, and literally documented everything. Every scholar of Tibetology will be extremely interested in reading this.’ Professor Luca Maria Olivieri, Ca' Foscari University of Venice

Table of Contents (S2995_ToC.pdf, 229 Kb) [Download]

Introduction (S2995_Introduction.pdf, 262 Kb) [Download]