144 FROM KHOTAN TO LOP [Chap. IV
The main interest of the ruins so far mentioned lies in the proof they furnish that the area of the ancient settlement collectively named by me the Niya Site extended at least five miles farther south than N. XLI, the southernmost of its buildings previously explored and definitely attributable to the same early epoch.9 Thus the distance separating the southern extremity of the site from the present termination of the Niya river at Tülküch-1(61-tarim is reduced to only about six miles.
But a still more interesting result of my visit to this ground was the discovery of the upper continuation of that ancient river-bed which in 1906 I had found to be clearly marked by the remains of a bridge close to the west of N. XLI,10 but which want of time had then not allowed me to trace farther to the south. I first came upon that continuation quite close to the west of N. XLIII. The high tamarisk-cones between which this ruin lies form in fact part of a chain such as often flanks ancient river-beds in the desert. The remains to the south and south-west previously mentioned proved to be situated within a furlong or less of the left bank of this ancient bed. Its width averaged about 4o yards, and the banks on both sides were seen to be lined everywhere by rows of big Toghraks, almost all dead 11 To the west of it there stretches a belt of fairly open ground, covered with scrub and low drift-sand, up to the foot of a high ridge of dunes running parallel to the terminal bed and about two miles distant from it. The big summer floods of the last two or three years, which, as related above, had caused the diversion of the actual terminal bed from above Tülküch-köl-tarim, were reported to have taken that direction, and one of the men sent out from my camp at N. XLII had, searching westwards for ruins, actually come upon ground moist from recent inundation.
The connexion of the bed passing close to N. xLII and N. xLIII with the one first seen in 1906 where the ancient foot bridge west of N. xLI spanned it, was definitely established on December 15th, when I traced it right through to the southern end of the previously explored area. In following the winding course of the ancient bed, clearly marked by rows of dead Toghraks or by a line of low tamarisk-cones, I came at two points upon remains of habitations that had been almost completely eroded, close to which dead poplars (Terek), remnants of ancient arbours, still stood upright in lines.'2
After about 3 miles' going the ground assumed a more open appearance, resembling that found at the very extremity of the ancient delta of the Keriya river. A number of small channels seemed here to spread over level ground bounded on the west by the big ridge of dunes above mentioned. Numerous flat patches covered with slight salt efflorescence suggested dried-up pools, and Ibrahim, ` the hunter ', remembered that, three summers before, the terminal inundation of the river had extended to this ground. Here evidently was the meeting-point of the latest western flood channel, the dry deep-cut Yar coming from Darya-tilgan and the ancient river-bed now traced between the two. Proceeding thence to the north-east we passed through a belt of high tamarisk-covered cones, such as is seen in the photographic panorama reproduced in Serindia, Fig. 75, and guided by the ancient bed which meanders between them, struck the ` Tati ' area where it stretches in close proximity to N. xLI and the ancient bridge.
My return to this ground was prompted by the wish to examine it more closely than had been possible on October 3oth, 1906, the last day of my former stay at the-Niya Site.13 The remains of the ancient bridge were found wholly unchanged, and there was nothing to add to the description previously given of the old river-bed that it once spanned (Fig. 102). But on going over the open
9 See Serindia, i. p. 240 ; also the site plan, Pl. 7.
10 See Fig. 102 ; Serindia, i. pp. 240 sq., Fig. 75.
11 This ancient bed lying to the west of that which our route passed near Darya-tilgan, and which thence runs due north, has been shown correctly in the Map No. 19. B. But
the entry ` Deep Yar ' ought to have been placed along the eastern and later channel ; see the detailed map of the southern portion of the Niya Site in PI. 4.
12 See also Serindia, i. 213.
13 See Serindia, i. pp. 240 sq.