70 FROM KASHGAR TO THE KHOTAN RIVER [Chap. III
it to inundate the surrounding land ; we saw evidence of this as we rode over the scrub-covered plain to the north edge of the cultivated zone of Kalta-yailak. This, wherever I saw it, presented a neglected and straggling appearance. But this could scarcely be due to inadequacy of water, for one of its main canals where we crossed it on our way to the village of Kuduk still carried at this late season a volume of over forty cubic feet per second.
Mound of On the following morning I proceeded from Kuduk to the ruined mound known as Tim,
Tin:. which rises above the scrub-covered salty plain about two and a half miles north-west of the village.
It proved to be a shapeless mound measuring roughly 67 by 84 feet on the ground level and about 26 feet across its top, which rises to a height of about 16 feet. It is composed of loose earth intermingled with layers of small brushwood, and it recalled to me the mounds of Tüge-dong near ChIra examined in 1901.12 Like these it may well mark an old burial-place, but the salty nature of the soil, due to occasional floods from the Mutul-aghzi defile, leaves little hope of antiquarian finds. Proceeding thence to the north-east we crossed the bare clay steppe formed by the alluvial fan of the barren valley leading to Uch-turfân ; the usual route to that place follows the valley past the watch-station of Sughun-karaul (Map 5. B. I). The formation of dunes, in the shape of isolated ` Barkhans ', over the eastern part of this ` Dasht ', showed the growing aridity of the ground. At the farm of Ak-maidân we reached the extreme point irrigated by the Artush drainage ; all the straggling area of cultivation, of which we continued to skirt the northern edge for another seventeen miles as we travelled eastward, was said to receive its water from canals fed by the Kashgar river. We did not approach the end of it until long after nightfall, when we camped at one of the last farms of BEsh-tam.
Start east- From Bésh-tam our desert journey in search of the ` old road ' to Marâl-bâshi commenced.
wards from I had verified on our preceding marches that some vague knowledge of its existence survived Bésh-tam.
in local tradition, and also that this pointed to its having followed the foot of the rugged outermost
hill chain, which in the clear atmosphere of the autumn could be seen stretching far away due east with a wall-like appearance. The ground to be traversed by us for a distance of over a hundred miles was wholly unsurveyed, and, in view of the probable difficulty in finding water and of the necessity of husbanding time, we were very fortunate in securing a capable guide in the person of Barat, a villager from Ördeklik on the high road. He had been for years in the habit of prospecting for minerals in the barren hills northward, and was for the time being employed by Tâshe Akhûn, an enterprising landowner of Astin-Artush and our host at Wakwak, in the exploitation of a small copper mine at Tonguz-aghzi, north of Bésh-tam. He had only once made his way to Marâl-bâshi by the route to be surveyed, but proved very intelligent and possessed of remarkable sense of locality.
From Bésh- For a mile or so beyond the limit of actual cultivation the ground at Bésh-tam continued
tam to fertile' and as the last summer flood had been ample there were patches of it newly broken up and
sown. But our farther march of October 13th along the foot of the range lay almost wholly over
an utterly barren clay steppe, showing only dead tamarisk scrub on cones or else salt-incrustation. At a point known as Kara-tâsh, Barat showed us a large slag-covered mound where at one time copper ore from a mine in the hills had been smelted. No work had been carried on here within living recollection, while the extent of the mound, some 5o yards across and 8—io feet high, pointed to prolonged occupation. The fragments of partly glazed pottery that were brought to light, together with rags of fabrics and similar objects, in a thick refuse deposit adjoining the mound on the south, looked to me decidedly old." But our search for coins or other datable remains
12 Cf. Ancient Khotan, i. pp. 465 sq. Kara-tash. 02. Fr. of yellow felt. Gr. M. 2f".
la Kara-tash. or. Four frs. of pottery, glazed ; two Kara-tash. 03. Fr. of buff cotton fabric ; plain
blue, one dark brown, one red-brown, and one small fr. of weave. Discoloured and perished. Gr. M. 3".
terra-cotta. Gr. M. fi".