Thirty years ago, French explorer, Michel Peissel who is known as the founder of the source of Mekong River, went deep in the inaccessible forests of Tibet and the neighboring province of Sichuan.
In the Himalayan valleys, close to the Chinese border, he found a number of mysterious stone, star-shaped towers. In his next expedition Peissel was accompanied by another French explorer, Frederique Darragon who arrived in the Himalayas to explore the populations of snow leopards, but when she saw the towers she quickly forgot about the initial purpose of her expedition.
Some of these star-shaped constructions are located in the nearby villages, while others are hidden in the mountain valleys. Locals know nothing about the enigmatic towers – neither who build them, nor when were they built.
In the past, the towers contained wooden stairways leading to the top, but the steps have been used as building material or firewood.
Gathering data about these strange towers isn’t an easy task since most of the locals speak different languages and communication with them is extremely difficult. Not only that, but most of the ethnicities do not have written language, so we can’t really rely on historical documentation.
Exploration of the area is also quite difficult. There are practically no roads and, and the summer rain season turns the area into a completely inaccessible swamp.
Frederique Darragon looked for help in the local Buddhist monasteries, but the monks didn’t find anything in their documentation concerning the towers. These constructions were mentioned only in Chinese scientific treatises from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and some diaries of English explorers who visited the region in the 19th century. But the towers remain largely unexplored to this day.
At least two more such towers were discovered in neighboring Afghanistan, but one of them is turned into a mosque a long time ago.
Darragon took samples of the wood from 32 towers. When radiocarbon dated, the samples showed to be 600-700 years old, but one of them was 1000-1200 years old. It turns out that one of the towers was built long before Mongolian tribes invaded Tibet.
According to the researcher, the purpose of the strange star shape is to provide sustain against earthquakes. But what was the purpose of the towers themselves? Some historians believe they were used as totems, or they could have symbolized “the string” which, according to Tibetan legends, connects the earth with the sky.
Others claim that the towers were defensive structures or watchtowers used to warn about impending dangers. There’s also the hypothesis that the towers may have served as a kind of an “optical telegraph”. Every tower is located in way that its apex is visible from the other towers. It is possible that fires, set on the top, were used as signaling devices.
According to a local legend, a tower was built every time when a ruler had a new child, and every year on the child’s birthday, a floor was added.