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0365 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 365 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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Historical interest of Wakhan.

Homo Alpinus type among Wakhis.

Ruined fort of Hissâr.



IT was a great satisfaction for me to find myself once again on the Ab-i-Panja, the main branch of the Oxus. In 1906 I had been able to follow only the uppermost course of the river between Sarhad and its source at the glaciers of the Wakhjir, and access to the main portion of Wakhân was then barred to me on either side of the river. In Chapter III of Serindia I have already indicated the special historical and geographical interest that Wakhân, remote as it is and poor in climate, population, and resources, may claim as the most direct thoroughfare from the fertile regions of ancient Bactria to the line of oases along the southern rim of the Tarim basin.' I have fully discussed in the same chapter the comparatively abundant early notices of Wakhân which the records of Chinese Annalists and travellers as well as of Marco Polo have preserved for us. In modern times Wakhân has, since Captain John Wood's pioneer journey in 1838, been repeatedly visited and described by qualified European observers, and the graphic account contained in the classical narrative of that journey still holds good as regards the general character of the valley. its people, and their conditions of life.2 I may therefore restrict myself here mainly to a description of the ruined sites that I was able to examine on my passage along the northern bank of the river, and to a brief record of such local observations as have a direct bearing on the ethnic and historical past of the territory.

A day's halt at Langar-kisht, made pleasant by the sight once more, after so long an interval, of trees, ripening crops, and green meadows, was employed in collecting anthropometrical materials. In the course of this work, continued elsewhere in Wakhân, I was struck again by the prevalence of those characteristic features of the Homo Alpinus type which I had noticed among the Wakhis examined on my second expedition, and which had caused Mr. Joyce to recognize in them the nearest congeners of the Iranian Galchas or hill Tâjiks.3 Starting on September Ist we approached, at a distance of a mile and a half, the junction of the two branches of the Oxus coming from the Great Pamir and Sarhad (Fig. 393), near the little hamlet of Hiss-dr. Close to the east of it there rises an isolated rocky ridge to a height of about 90 feet above the level of the fields, bearing on its narrow top the massive walls of the ruined fort (Fig. 396) to which the hamlet owes its name.3a

As the sketch-plan, Pl. 45, shows, the approach to the fort leads up from the south-west, the cliffs elsewhere being very precipitous and in some places unscalable, which accounts for the northwestern face of the hill-top being left without walls. The protected area is about I40 yards long, with a maximum width of about 75 yards. At one point the approach passes through a large mass of rock split through in the middle, and over this natural gate I noticed remains of a horizontal

1 See Serindia, i. pp. 6o sqq.

2 To the accounts in English quoted in Serindia, i. p. 6r, note, should be added Olufsen, Through the Unknown Pamirs (London, 1904), with useful contents mainly ethnographical ; Schultz, Forschungen im Pamir, pp. 139 sqq.

3 Cf. Serindia, iii. p. 136o ; below, Mr. Joyce's App. C.

3a A somewhat highly coloured description of the Hissàr fort (called there Zengi-bar') is given in Olufsen, loc. cit., pp. 176 sqq. The measurements of the ground-plan cannot be reconciled with our survey.