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104 THE ROUTE FROM KARGHALIK TO KHOTAN [Chap. V
disintegrated loess, had been brought under cultivation. To the south of the road the pottery-strewn ground soon disappeared under low ridges of fine sand. But to the north, where the surface was clear of these, the débris area could be seen extending along the bank for a considerable distance—according to the statements of my local informants, fully two or three miles. I t was evident also that much of the original ground westwards must have been washed away by the floods of the river-bed, which are here clearly working to the east and steadily cutting into the right bank. The extent of the area covered with broken pottery thus indicated the site of a large and thickly inhabited settlement.
In vain did I search the ground for any other remains but the patches of scattered potsherds. Wherever I examined these, I invariably found them resting on the bare loess with never a trace of walls or more substantial remains below. The fragments usually lay thickest on the top of small banks of relative hardness which rose here and there above the surrounding ground, the latter also composed of loess but showing a more disintegrated surface. The sides of these loess-banks, as also the eroded scarp of the river-bank, were steep in many places and hence easy of examination ; but neither pottery nor other remains could be traced anywhere in the strata exposed to view. This observation rendered the abundance of pottery débris on the surface all the more curious, and could not fail from the first to puzzle me greatly. The explanation did not, however, present itself until I had observed similar conditions elsewhere. I may therefore leave their discussion for the account I shall have to give presently of a larger and still more significant site.
Immediately to the South-east of the débris area just described the road crosses, near the hamlet of Chotla, the long belt of cultivated land forming the oasis of Mokuila. This belt is here only about a mile in breadth, but everything points to a great extension of cultivation being possible eastwards, if only additional water were made available for irrigation. The scrub-covered steppe over 'which the road leads for another two miles shows soft loess soil, turning into fine dust wherever broken up by traffic. Patches of this naturally fertile area had been recently taken under cultivation, especially around an isolated holding which bears the characteristic name of Yangi-arik, ` the New Canal.' It was at this point that I first sighted, at a distance of about I-1 miles to the north-east, the ancient mound of which my Guma informants had spoken as Tôj5a-Tim. The designation of ` Tim ' at once suggested a Stûpa, and I made haste to reach it. My first attempt proved a failure ; for the deep-cut flood-bed of the Sughaz-yâr, which, by the advice of my guide, I crossed a little beyond Yangi-arik and then followed northward, soon turned into a canon-like ravine and cut us off absolutely from the mound on the opposite bank when we at last got abreast of it.
As soon as I had crossed the ravine near the road and approached the mound along the left bank through the fields of Yangi-arik, it was easy to see that Topa-Tim (` the Earth Mound ') preserved all the features of an ancient Stûpa. The solid masonry of sun-dried bricks had undergone great decay on the surface, manifestly through atmospheric influences, and only on the north-western side could the outlines of the several stories of the base be traced clearly. Careful measurements taken here, as well as along the more dilapidated portions of the ruin, enabled me to reconstruct the plan as shown in Plate XX. It will be seen from this that the general arrangement and dimensions of the structure resembled in several respects those of the Mauri-Tim Stûpa. The base was formed by three receding stories, of which, however, the lowest was marked only by a mass of decomposed débris sloping up to a height of 5 feet from the present ground-level. On this portion of the base, the size and shape of which can only be conjecturally restored, rests a second story, 41 feet square and 5 feet high. Next