Sec. i] THE RUINED FORT OF L.K. 189
Immediately after my arrival at L.K. I had dispatched Afrâz-gul with a couple of camels and men to reconnoitre the smaller fort L. L. visible from the site and to search for more ruins northwestwards, where the direction of the ancient river-bed had led me to surmise their existence. The information he brought back on the morning of February 7th, on his return from his successful reconnaissance, was very encouraging, and caused me to start at once for the fresh site reported. Before, however, I describe the result of this further exploration, it will be convenient to record here briefly the conclusions that I was able to draw from the observations and finds at L.K. Though the latter did not include any written remains, yet their general character and the evidence of the coins left no doubt that the ruined fort dated back approximately to the same period as the Lou-lan station L.A., which we know to have been occupied in the third century A. D. and abandoned soon after. Whether the fort L.K. was built at the same time as L.A. or earlier it seems impossible to determine. But that its occupation could not have extended much beyond the first thirty years of the fourth century, at which period we know that traffic by the ancient Chinese route through the north of the Lop Desert and past the Lou-lan station ceased,18 becomes highly probable on consideration of certain topographical facts.
Inspection of map sheets Nos. 29, 3o shows that the ruined fort lies exactly on a straight line connecting the Lou-lan station L.A. with the site of Mirân. I believe that I have proved in Serindia that the latter corresponds to the town of Yii-ni, which the annals of the former Han dynasty know as the chief place of the Lop territory and which Li Tao-yüan's commentary on the Shui thing, composed at the beginning of the sixth century A. D. but based on earlier materials, speaks of as ` the old eastern town ' of the same territory." The latter text also shows that the terminal lake in which the Tarim then lost itself north of Yü-ni must have occupied approximately the same position as the present Kara-koshun marshes.20
Hence we may assume that the route between the Lou-lan station on the ancient Chinese ` road of the centre ' and Yü-ni, the capital of Lop in Han times, is likely to have followed closely the straight line which connects the site of L.A. with that of Mirân and actually passes the ruined fort of L.K. The waterless wind-eroded desert which now separates the sites of L.A. and L.K. is shown by our surveys to have then been a deltaic area reached by southern branches of the Kuruk-darya and therefore practicable throughout for traffic. It thus becomes very probable that the ruined fort L.K., the distance of which from L.A., about 3o miles, is but a little less than a third of the whole length of the straight line between this important station and Mirân, was intended to guard the direct route connecting the two places and to facilitate traffic along it. The choice of this particular point on the route as the site of the fort is fully accounted for by the vicinity of the agricultural settlement, the remains of which I was able to trace at the site L.M. and which will be described in the next section.
SECTION II.—LIST OF OBJECTS FOUND NEAR OR EXCAVATED AT
MISCELLANEOUS OBJECTS BROUGHT BY TOKHTA AKHL'N FROM SITE OF L.K.
Date indicated for ruined fort L.K.
Position of L.K. relative to L.A. and Mirân.
L.K. or. Bronze brooch setting, elliptical, with raised small bronze buckle ; width i". 07-08. Convex stud-
rim ; jewel missing. Four small holes drilled in back plate. heads, diam. 1" and g". 09. Tongue of small buckle with
Much corroded with rough patina. i i" x r". Pl. XXIII. hole through flattened end for hinge-pin ; length 8". 01.0.
L.K. 02-5. Four frs. of bronze plate. Rough patch Fr. of bronze plate, corroded. Gr. M. i". oil. Small convex
of silver fused on to o2 ; heavy patina on all. Gr. M. i" ; stud-head with stump of iron shank ; diam. i" (nearly).
smallest i". PI. XXIV. L.K. 012. Glass bead, blue green, translucent, flattened
L.K. o6-ii. Misc. bronze frs. oó. Part of loop of spheroid. Diam.
1s Cf. Serindia, i. pp. 426 sq. 19 See ibid., i. pp. 326 sq.; Chavannes, T`oung-pao, 190, p. 569.
29 Cf. Serindia, i. p. 328.