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0342 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 342 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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and the gorges below Ab-i-garm forms more than one defile by the river. When following myself the route above indicated in the opposite direction I certainly had the impression that ` the plain country ' was entered on reaching the downs above Faizàb5.d from Ab-i-garm. The statement reproduced in Marinus' own words, ` when the traveller has ascended the ravine he arrives at the Stone Tower (ÀIOevos rrvpyos) ', clearly takes us to the vicinity of Daraut-kurghàn, where the defiles of the Kizil-su are finally left behind and the wide Alai trough is entered. We have distinct confirmation of this in the mention immediately following of ` the mountains that trend to the east [and] unite with Imaos, the range that runs up to the north from Palimbothra ' (the present Patna). It has been recognized long ago that by Imaos is meant the great meridional range of Muz-tàgh-atà and its northern continuation, buttressing the Pamir region on the east. It thus becomes obvious that by ` the mountains that trend to the east and unite with I maos ' the Trans-Alai chain is quite correctly described.

There is a second point mentioned in Ptolemy's account of the trade route to the Seres as extracted from Marinus which concerns us here. It is ` the station (6pfinT4pcov) at Mount Imaos, whence traders start on their journey to Sera'. It is mentioned in Book VI. xiii. i, where the eastern limits of the territory of the nomadic Sakai, including also the mountain district of the Kômèdoi and the Stone Tower, are described. From the previously quoted statement of Marinus it is certain that this station for the traders to the Sères lay due east of the Stone Tower. This and the distinct statement as to the station being situated at Mount Imaos make it appear very probable that the 6iotor iipcov must, as rightly pointed out by Baron Richthofen,10 be looked for close to where the route coming from Kara-tegin, the valley of the Kômèdoi, crossed the watershed towards the Tarim basin. This consideration has already led me to express my concurrence in the belief that the vicinity of Irkesh-tam, the present Russian frontier and customs station, about 16 miles by road from the watershed at Taun-murun, would have been a likely position for the ancient traders' station.1' Such a location, as justly observed by Baron Richthofen, finds support in the fact that the route from the Alai valley is joined at Irkesh-tam by another, much frequented in modern times and probably in antiquity also, which leads from Farghàna over the Terek pass to Kàshgar. If at the period to which the information recorded by Maës refers (probably the last quarter of the first century A. D.) direct Chinese control over the ` western regions ' did not extend beyond the watershed between the Tarim basin and the Oxus, the vicinity of Irkesh-tam would have offered a very suitable position for one of those frontier control stations, such as Chinese administration has always been accustomed to maintain on the borders of the Empire proper ; for the elevation, about 8,55o feet, permits of some cultivation, and facilities for irrigation are assured.12

I was obliged to make a short halt at Daraut-kurghàn in order to arrange for a guide, for transport, and for supplies, and to do some necessary writing. I took advantage of it to make a start with the collection of anthropometrical materials from among the local Kirghiz and for an excursion down the right bank of the river. The track, artificially widened in places, which for about a mile leads along precipitous cliffs above the river, was said to be old• and to have always been practicable for camels. Where the Kök-su stream debouches about 3 miles down I found a large well-cultivated area with groves of trees belonging to the village of Chat. Outside it low mounds, forming an irregular oblong of about 30o yards by 250, mark an old circumvallation said to have been occupied down to the régime of the Kökand chiefs. Owing to its ample space and sheltered position, Chat seemed to be a place better suited for a large roadside station than

Traders' station on Aft. Imaos.

1° See Richthofen, China, i. p. Soo.

11 Cf. Ancient Khotan, i. pp. 54 sq.

12 The ôpp.nr4pcov discussed above has been placed by

others at Kâshgar, but, as far as I can see, without any convincing evidence for such a location.

and Chat.