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0219 Innermost Asia : vol.1
Innermost Asia : vol.1 / Page 219 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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ample as was the ak-su of those summers, and after the failure of two crops Nûrullah's new settlers

all deserted him in the winter preceding my visit. His hope of restoring cultivation in his colony

depended upon damming up the new bed by a tugh at a point about half a mile below the position

of the former barrage, where the bed passed between two high tamarisk-cones and where it was

some twenty feet deep (Fig. 105). But to secure the labour needed for this task was beyond

Nûrullah's resources or those of the Mazâr Shaikhs to whom he owed a tithe on the land, and an

attempt made with a few local men failed. So although a little wheat had been harvested in 1913

and the fruit trees were still alive, there was danger of the complete abandonment of the colony.

These facts ascertained by me on the spot supply instructive evidence of the precarious Abandon-

character of cultivation in all terminal oases, whether large or small. They also strikingly illustrate ment of


—what I have discussed at length elsewhere—how varied the causes which may lead to their

abandonment, whether gradual or sudden, and how difficult it may be at a later date, in the absence

of direct contemporary record, to determine the true cause.2 We have here a clear instance of

cultivation at the very termination of a river brought to an end not from want of water, such as

would result from ` desiccation ', whether progressive or temporary, but on the contrary by its in-

creased volume and a change in the river course with which the available local resources were

unable to cope under the prevailing economic and administrative conditions. Nûrullah's colonists

would have been well able to maintain and extend their little oasis with the previous volume of

water. But when its increase during the last three years finally led to a diversion of the stream

into a new channel they were unable to meet the emergency, and abandonment of their holdings

followed rapidly.

These observations must convey to the critical student a lesson of obvious antiquarian interest ; Cause of

for assuming that this abandonment of Tülküch-köl were to be final and Nûrullah's large dwelling en don

came to be invaded and in time buried by the ever present drift-sand, there would be as little chance difficult to

of its explorer, centuries hence, arriving at a definite conclusion regarding the true cause of the determine


abandonment as we have now in respect of the ancient settlement in the desert beyond. Only contemporary record can definitely clear up the doubts and varied possibilities involved by an archaeological question of this nature, and unfortunately there is little hope of such a record being found among all the ancient Kharosthi documents that the Niya Site has preserved.

I may mention here that my timely return to the Niya Site incidentally offered a chance of Construc-

saving the Tülküch-târim. My resumed excavations had brought a comparatively large force tion of new


of able-bodied labourers near the spot. So when I had returned with them from the ruins and was leaving for Charchan I was glad to set them to work to raise a new tugh across the deep-cut flood-bed at the point where Nûrullah's previous effort had failed. The work was expected to take about five days, and as I deposited the sum needed for the men's wages with the Mazâr Shaikhs whose prayers duly preceded the start, they set to work with a will (Fig. 105). Skilled carpenters were among them for the construction of the needed pile-framework and abundant timber was close at hand, so that completion of the little canal head was assured. It was only just in time ; for owing to the protection afforded by the ice now rapidly forming on the lakelets near the Mazâr the winter supply of kaya-su from springs in the terminal bed of the Niya river was expected to descend in the Yâ.r towards Tülküch-köl very shortly, and its arrival would have impeded the work at the new barrage.

On the same occasion I ascertained that the total volume of kara-su available in the terminal

2 For the uncertainties besetting this question in respect of the old sites near Domoko and at Dandân-oilik, cf. Serindia, i. pp. 208 sq. ; for those connected with the abandonment

of the Niya Site, see Anc. Khotan, i. pp. 383 sqq. ; Serindia, i. pp. 243 sqq. [For general observations on this point, see now my remarks in Geogr. J., lxv. (r925), PP. 487 sqq.]