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0113 Innermost Asia : vol.1
Innermost Asia : vol.1 / Page 113 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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and across the Khora-bohrt pass (about 15,000 feet) to the Afghan Pamirs. Even then it is far from easy.

The geographical features just briefly indicated fully account for an interesting ethnographic observation made on my passage through the high valleys on either side of the Karambar saddle. They comprise extensive summer grazing grounds which on the west reach from below Barôghilyailak close up to the saddle and to the east of it descend to below Shuiyenj, a total distance of well over 3o miles. I found these occupied exclusively by Wakhis who annually come up with their flocks from Afghan territory on the Ab-i-Panja. Several considerable summer villages or ` Yailaks ' are inhabited for four or five months in the year by such Wakhis, who also cultivate land about Sarhad. These settlements are of old date, and clearly prove that notwithstanding the natural boundary formed by the Oxus—Indus watershed to the north and the political frontier between Indian and Afghan territory which follows the same line, the valleys at the head of the Yarkhun and Karambar rivers must ethnographically be considered as forming part of Wakhan. I may incidentally note that the attitude of the Wakhis we met seemed to reflect full consciousness of this fact. We have here another illustration of what has been rightly observed in the alpine regions of Europe and elsewhere, viz. that difficult river gorges are often of greater importance as ethnographic boundaries, and as military barriers also, than the crest-lines of adjoining high ranges.3

The long march that on August 3o took us from the foot of the Barôghil saddle to Murgach, close under the Karambar pass, led throughout over easy ground distinctly Pamir-like in character (Fig. 5o). Between Chikmar-robat and the point where we struck the route leading up from Showarshur to the Shawitakh I noticed abundant signs of former glacier action in the form of ancient moraines and cirques. It was interesting to note in the midst of them an old watch-tower built by Wakhis as a place of defence against Kirghiz raiders, who used to attack these grazing grounds from the side of the Little Pamir by crossing the Khora-bohrt and the Karambar passes. On ascending to the latter next morning (Fig. 49) I was able to examine more closely the interesting instance of bifurcation by which the glacier to the south of the pass, and almost astride of it, discharges its drainage partly towards the Yarkhun river, itself a feeder of the Kabul river, and partly into the Zhoesar lake forming the head of the Karambar river and thus draining into the Indus. The photographic panorama (Fig. 47) illustrates the configuration of the ground to the south and on either side of the pass. The latter is represented by an almost imperceptible watershed between old moraines of the glacier ; our barometrical observations indicated for it an elevation of approximately 14,42o feet (against 14,060 feet of the map). The eastern branch of the glacier was found much reduced and manifestly in actual course of retrogression. But a small stream issuing from its snout still helps to feed the lake from which the Karambâr river takes its rise (Fig. 56). It is significant

Wakhis grazing on Yarkhun and Karam-bar rivers.

Ascent to Karambâr pass.

Glacier bifurcation on Karam-bar pass.

3 Cf. my remarks concerning the separation in political and linguistic respects of the Zébak—Ishkàshm tract from the rest of the Upper Oxus (Ab-i-Panja) valley, in the introduction to Sir George Grierson's Ishhâsh,n , Zibahi, and Yüzghulânti, p. 4.

Somewhat similar conditions may be observed in the northern portion of Hunza territory, appropriately called ` Little Guhjàl ', i. e. ` Little Wakhan '. It is separated from Hunza proper by the extremely difficult river gorges below Ghulmit (cf. Ruins of Khotan, pp. 44 sqq.), and its population consists almost exclusively of Wakhi immigrants from beyond the high watershed range to the north.

IIere it may conveniently be noted that during recent

times this Wakhi immigration across the main Hindukush watershed has extended even farther down the Karambar valley. Small Wakhi settlements composed mainly of refugee followers of the `Ali Mardàn Shah, the former ruler of Wakhan, are now to be found from Bohrt to Imit, below the difficult gorges of the Karambar river to which reference has been made in the text above. These ethnographic changes of modern date are of interest as indications of a progressive infiltration of an Iranian-speaking element to the south of the Hindukush. The same is observable also in the Lutkhô tract of Chitral, south of the Dbrâh pass, where Yidghah, a Galcha dialect, is spoken by old immigrants from Munjan ; cf. Serindia, i. pp. 26 sq.