HISTORY OF SURVEYS [Chap. 1
Excavations were carried on from the 18th to the 28th of December at the site of the
ruined station of Lou-lan (L.A.), once guarding the ancient Chinese route to the Tarim, and at other ruins to the north-west (marked L.B.) with important results. 81 Constant supervision on my part and the
surveyor's ailing condition precluded topographical reconnaissances beyond the immediate vicinity of the ruins, demanded by the interest of the ground both from geographical and archeological points of view. Thus the task of surveying the ancient delta of the Kurukdarya (`Dry River') which once had brought water to this now utterly desolate region, or of tracing the line of the ancient Chinese route where it passed across the great dried-up salt taea eastwards, remained for my third expedition.
On completion of such exploratory work as the condition of the hard-tried men and our limited store of ice permitted, I sent the main camp under the
Desert crossing to surveyor back to Abdal while I struck across the wholly unexplored
desert to the south-east. Seven trying marches, almost wholly over bare dunes, heaped up at intervals into high ridges or 'Dawans', brought me on January 3rd, 1907, to the line of lagoons formed by the Ilek branch of the Tarim. 32 By following them up to the small ruined site of Merdek-tim and subsequently proceeding down to Lop where the delta of the Charchan river joins the Tarim at the final eastward bend of its course, a useful addition was made to our surveys of the terminal depression in which the united drainage of the Tarim basin is lost. ss
From Charkhlik I returned to the ruins near Miran: Their exploration under very trying climatic conditions yielded abundant finds of interest and detained
Marco Polo's route me till February 1 Then after preparations at Abdal I set
through Lt.p desert. y er nee pre p
out with the surveyor for the desert journey of three weeks by the lonely track, once followed by Marco Polo but almost forgotten for centuries, and reached Tun-huang on the westernmost marches of China proper. This route, some 330 miles long, leads first by the southern shore of the great dried-up salt basin marking the pre-historic Lop sea, then up a wide desert valley by the foot of the southernmost Kuruk-tagh range, and finally through the terminal basin, and along the lowermost course, of the Su-lo-ho river. s* Its careful survey proved of very considerable geographical interest.
From this terminal basin onwards I traced important, and, owing to the extremely
arid climate, in many parts remarkably well-preserved, remains of an ancient fortified border, a true Limes, which the Chinese Emperor Wu-ti, towards the end of the 2nd century s.C., had constructed for
the protection of the earliest line of China's expansion into Central Asia. The exploration of this ancient Limes which was subsequently traced for a total distance of over 160 miles west of An-hsi, formed a fascinating and fruitful task for more than two months after my arrival at Tun-huang. The ground, almost all desert, over which the wall with its watchtowers and military posts had been built, was as interesting from a geographical paint of view as the ruins in their archeological and historical aspect. Hence all the more care was bestowed upon an exact topographical survey of it.
The work was started on the Limes portion extending to the north-east of the
Tun-huang oasis g' and subsequently after a visit to the outlying small oasis of Nan-bu, the ancient 'Yang barrier', continued along the whole length of the Limes westwards. This was found to run parallel to the
Su-lo-ho bed from its outlet at the western end of the Khara-nôr lake and to extend to the southern extremity of the great marsh basin where the river terminates, fully a degree of
Explorations at ancient Lou-lan.
Discovery of ancient Chinese Limes.
Exploration along ancient border line.
e1 See Desert Cathay, i. pp. 376.411; Serindia, Chap. xr. sec. i-xi.
a See Sheets Noe. 29. B, C. 4.; 30. A. 1; Desert Cathay, i. pp. 415 sqq.
' °7 See Sheet No. 80. A. 1, 2; Desert Cathay, t. pp. 424 sqq.
A' See Sheets Nos. 80. B-C.2,D. 1; 88. A-C. 1; 82.
D. 4 ; 35. A.D. 4; 38. A-B. 4. For a descriptive account of the route, cf. Desert Cathay, i, pp. 503 sqq.; ii. pp. 1 sqq. For an analysis of the geographical features met along it, see Serindia, Chap. xiv. sec. i, iv.
as See Sheet No. 38. C. 4; Serindia, Chap; xv. sec. ii-v.; Desert Cathay, H. pp. 44 sqq.