The unusual treasures have led Coburn and his team to suggest that the Mustang caves could be linked to "hidden valleys" thought to represent the Buddhist spiritual paradise known as Shambhala.
"Shambhala is also believed by many scholars to have a geographical parallel that may exist in several or many Himalayan valleys," Coburn said.
"These hidden valleys were created at times of strife and when Buddhist practice and principals were threatened," Coburn said. "The valleys contained so-called hidden treasure texts."
Elaine Brook, author of Search for Shambhala, said the hidden valleys of Mustang indeed "have some of the characteristics of the mythical land of Shambhala."
For his 1933 novel, Hilton used the concept of Shambhala as the basis for his "lost" valley of Shangri-La, an isolated mountain community that was a storehouse of cultural wisdom.
PBS will air two specials about the Mustang caves tonight. Link
(image credit: Kris Erickson)