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The program Archaeological Exploration of Ladakh (AEL) aims at documenting all the types of monuments & remains (fortifications, rock art, Buddhist rock statuary, shrines, vernacular architecture, etc), from all periods (Prehistory to the 19th century), in all the regions, valleys and villages of Ladakh. The AEL comprises four components:

  1. The publication of a series of volumes on the heritage sites of Ladakh in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH, Delhi). This was initiated in 2015 with Kacho Mumtaz Khan and Vijaya Amujure. Four volumes are completed on the regions of Purig, Changthang, Nubra and Zanskar, which include over a thousand heritage sites. These represent over 3,300km of tracks covered on foot and 21,000km of driving. The last two volumes will cover the regions of Sham and Zhungkor (or Stod).
  2. The study of the funerary cave Gachu Lhabrog, in co-direction with Veena Mushrif-Tripathy (Deccan College Post-Graduate & Research Institute, Pune). It includes a genetic analysis in partnership with David Reich (Harvard Medical School). The anthropological analysis of the bones is the subject of Sonam Dolma’s PhD thesis at the Deccan College.
  3. The documentation and study of the rock art sites of Ladakh in collaboration with Tashi Ldawa (University of Ladakh), Viraf Mehta, Choldan Gasha, and Sonam Wangchuk (Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation). This has resulted in the creation of the Ladakh Rock Art Resource Centre (LRARC) in Leh in 2021, as well as the establishment of the Centre for Rock Art Studies & Heritage Conservation within the University of Ladakh in 2022.
  4. Alongside the fieldwork conducted to document all the categories of heritage, close collaborations are engaged to analyse the sites in order to understand Ladakh’s past more in depth. These collaborations include Nils Martin (CRCAO, Paris), Samara Broglia de Moura (CRCAO, Paris), Ai Nishida (Kyoto University), Richard Salomon (University of Washington), etc.
  5. The publication of an online archive ( in open access of over 160,000 images that cover 1900+ monuments/sites/heritage items spread all across Ladakh. These include 510+ petroglyph & pictograph sites, 330+ fortifications, 290+ temples, monasteries, nunneries (intact & in ruin), 270+ Buddhist carvings, 210+ stupa stones, 50+ painted chortens, 50+ cave sites, etc.



archaeology Ladakh heritage



Quentin Devers (French Institute of Pondicherry)

CRCAO members

Associated members
Quentin Devers (French Institute of Pondicherry)

Nils Martin (Independent)

Doctoral students
Samara Broglia de Moura (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

Outside Participants

Tashi Ldawa (Professor, Leh Degree College, India)
Viraf Mehta (Independent Researcher, Delhi, India)
Kacho Mumtaz Khan (co-convenor, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Leh chapter, India)
Veena Mushrif-Tripathy (Assistant Professor, Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Pune, India)
David Reich (Professor, Harvard University, United States)
Ai Nishida (Associate Professor, Kyoto University)