Most of the team arrived in Kathmandu earlier in the week and the last few days have been busy with meetings and site visits. After visiting colleagues at the Department of Archaeology, Government of Nepal and the Pashupati Area Development Trust we undertook some visits to potential excavation sites within the Kathmandu Valley. We also held a briefing workshop at Hanuman Dhoka Palace to provide information to local communities and stakeholders about last year’s results in Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square and also our plans for the upcoming field season.
One of the major focuses of this field season is continuing our investigations of the foundations and earlier cultural sequences of one of Kathmandu’s most iconic monuments – the Kasthamandap. Located within Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, this is the structure that gave Kathmandu its name and traditionally is dated to the twelfth century AD. After last year’s successful pilot excavations the team have returned for further investigations (here are some of the preliminary results from the 2015 archaeological investigations from the Kasthamandap and across the Kathmandu Valley).
Preliminary results from scientific dating of the monument suggest that the massive foundations were constructed in the eighth century AD, pushing the known date of the site back some four hundred years. Furthermore, the team began to uncover the layout of the foundations in the south-east corner of the monument. These foundations were undamaged by the 2015 earthquake and previous seismic events. From what was uncovered it was suggested that the foundation was formed by a large 12 x 12 metre wall, which was two metres deep and one metre wide, surrounding four central brick columns that supported saddlestones for large monumental timbers. These timbers formed the central superstructure of the monument and cross-walls running from the brick columns formed a grid-like mandala, which we think also acted as bracing for the foundation.
Last year, the location of saddlestones supporting three of the monument’s massive central timber pillars were identified, but a fourth to the north-east was missing. This indicated that the Kasthamandap’s superstructure rested on three locked joints and one mobile one, weakening the building and potentially causing its collapse. This season’s excavations will target investigation of the location of this missing saddlestone, as this element is a critical feature in understanding the collapse of the monument and also in plans for Kasthamandap’s reconstruction. The results of these excavation will further demonstrate the developmental phases of the monument and provide architectural plans to understand the foundations of this iconic monument and aid its rehabilitation.