734 EXPLORATIONS IN THE KURUK-TAGH [Chap. XX
a true wind-eroded desert, with the hard clay of the ground cut up into low Yàrdangs and their uniformity broken only in places by high cones with dead tamarisks. Beyond this bend of the riverbed we crossed what looked like a bay in the ` coast-line ', with one or two flood-beds descending into it from the north, and then came upon Lal Singh's trail of the year before, still distinct, leading to what his plane-table marked as ` Cemetery No. i '. It was too late to start examination of it. So we followed Lai Singh's trail down to lower ground. There we struck a well-marked drainage bed coming from the south and pitched our Camp ccliii where some thorny scrub, known as kamghak,4 offered scanty but welcome food for the camels. The Yaxdangs around were from 8 to 12 feet in height and undercut in many places. The drainage bed widened a little farther on into a lagoon-like depression about a mile long and half a mile across. Two narrow channels winding through it showed cracked clay at their bottom, indicating that scanty moisture still reaches this ground through occasional floods, which accounts for the presence of that hardiest of scrub.
Next morning I took every available man of our small party to the burial-ground, L.S., that we had passed in the evening. It occupies a small projection near the southern edge of the gravel ` foreshore ', which here falls off steeply to the eroded riverine flat some 30 feet below it. Half a mile off to the north rises the much-broken line of Mesas, forming the ` coast-line ' or edge of the higher glacis previously referred to. The graves were marked by rows of small posts placed close together and sticking out above the gravel surface, as seen in Fig. 336. They were found in two small groups, at a distance of about 20 yards from each other. Along the southern edge of the little plateau, remains of a wall built of layers of brushwood and gravel were traceable for a distance of about 25 feet, and a few isolated Toghrak posts suggested that this enclosure might have had its continuation on the east. The corroding force of wind-driven sand and gravel was strikingly illustrated by the abraded appearance of the rough wooden posts marking the individual graves. Their tops emerging only a few inches above the surface of the soil had the side facing to the north and east invariably scooped and splintered, while that to the west and south still retained its rounded outline, each top thus presenting a curious semilunar appearance. How high the posts had originally risen above the surface it was impossible to say. But like the wooden enclosures of the graves found at the Lou-lan fort L.F., which they at once recalled by their arrangement, they were probably once much higher.
The southern group comprised half a dozen graves. Of these the central grave attracted special attention by its sevenfold stockade of wooden posts neatly fixed in the ground to form an oval, 14 feet long from east to west and io feet across. The outer posts measured about 3 to 4 inches in diameter and the inner posts gradually diminished to the size of small tent-pegs. Straight rows of similar posts converged towards the oval from outside on the south and east. The excavation of the interior of this enclosure, marked L.S. z, yielded a rather puzzling result. Within a foot or so from the surface we found loose sand mixed with calcined fragments of bones. The innermost row of pegs, from i to i feet long, had also been affected by heat, and the soil in which they were stuck was burnt red and mixed with bone fragments. In the centre, below a short but stout post, we came at a depth of 22 feet upon a narrow coffin-like enclosure. It was formed of stout. planks fixed close together vertically and about 3 inches thick, just as we had found them at some of the L.F. graves.5 The enclosure measured 5- feet from east to west and i foot 2 inches across. All the planks had their top ends burned and reduced to the condition of charcoal, what remained of them being about 2 feet long. Within the enclosure only a few calcined human bones were found and the fragment of a small bronze tube, L.S. r. 02. Outside it we found a surviving fragment of
4 The same we had found in the dead delta of the Keriya river ; cf. Desert Cathay, ii. pp. 404, 407. b See above, i. pp. 264 sq.