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0297 Innermost Asia : vol.1
Innermost Asia : vol.1 / Page 297 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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The ground we entered after leaving the L.M. site showed at first clear signs of extreme wind-erosion : Yardang trenches were scooped out to a depth of 8 to 12 feet, and low dunes were frequent on the terraces between them. A line of dead Toghraks coming from the north-west and bending round towards the east was passed after about two miles' march. Finds of worked stones (see List below) had grown rare after leaving L.M., and, with the exception of a single flint picked up about five miles from the site, ceased altogether beyond the line of dead tree trunks just mentioned. Farther on the Yardang trenches became shallower, while the dunes now rising from 15 to 20 feet in height were wide apart and allowed easy progress. There were stretches of practically flat, abraded-looking ground, broken only by occasional sand-cones. The tamarisk growth that had helped to form them and still held them together was dead, except here and there, where the branches on the very top still showed life.

When fixing the plane-table on one of these isolated tamarisk-cones, at a direct distance of about 8 miles from Camp xcii (L.M.) we could clearly make out before us rows of dead Toghraks running from north-west to south-east and marking a broad river-course. Another branch similarly lined with a belt of dead forest was crossed about two miles farther on. Reference to the map on the I : 250,000 scale will show that these two dried-up channels have their obvious continuation to the south-east in two exactly corresponding belts of ancient tree growth that we crossed on our route of 1906 to the south of Camp 122. If we turn to the north-west, the direction from which the course of these old branches of the Kuruk-daryd must be traced, we find them duly represented by similar belts of dead riverine jungle shown both by my survey of 1907 and by Afraz-gul's of 1915 near the spot where our respective routes crossed each other, in the vicinity of Camps I 27 and ccxlviii a.2 From the fixing above mentioned we first caught a glimpse far away to the north of the dark outline of the Kuruk-tâgh foot-hills showing above the horizon line of the yellow expanse of bare sand and clay. The snowy rampart of the K`un-lun far off to the south, still visible in the morning from Camp xcii, was now hidden by the dust-haze that a fresh north-east breeze had since raised.

Beyond the strips of dead riverine forest our route led over ground where, as Fig. 140 shows, the soil was uniformly cut up by small Yä dangs, 4 to 6 feet deep, except where covered by low dunes. In its appearance this ground showed very close resemblance to that passed in 1906 near Camp 122.3 That our route now lay in the vicinity of the latter was brought home to me at the time by the recurrence of certain characteristics observed there in 1906. Fragments of pottery, very coarse in make and evidently of neolithic origin, of which L.M.—C. xciii. oz I-12 are specimens, together with a few stone remains, corresponded to similar finds made in 1906 within a short distance north of Camp 122.4 I observed moreover the frequent appearance, for the last few miles before Camp xciii was reached, of dead reed-beds, with thick but low stubble, on the top of Yârdangs. I have already discussed in Serindia the significance that these reed-beds, not of very ancient appearance, may have as indicating a temporary and later submersion of this ground.5 I have also pointed out that such a submersion at a comparatively recent period would be in full accord with certain observations made in this region by Dr. Hedin. His very interesting measurement of levels between L.A. and the Kara-koshun has shown that just about this latitude a depression extends for a distance of about two and a half miles to an average of about a metre (3' 3.4") below the flood level of the Kara-koshun in the spring of 1901.

The fact that our route from south-west to north-east led almost parallel to the regular direction

Marks of extreme wind-erosion.

Dry riverbeds marked by dead Toghraks.

Neolithic relics.

Dead reed-beds.

2 See Map No. 29. c. 4; also Serindia, Map No. 6o. B. 3.

3 Cf. Serindia, i. p. 360.

4 In Map No. 29. D. 4 the entry ` Pottery debris ' referring

to the route of 1906 should be shifted farther south to about r miles from Camp 122.

5 See Serindia, i. pp. 359 sq.