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0381 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 381 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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interment of many centuries beneath the sand. As it was, the sun of one year and its rain

and snow, however slight in quantity, had sufficed to bleach and partly efface the fully-exposed

writing of the topmost tablets.

After placing a guard over the room where Ibrahim's scattered finds lay, so as to prevent Clearing of

further injury or abstraction, I set the men to work to clear the room N. i. (see Plate VI), where room N. i.

he had first come upon them. This was an easy task, as the room measured only i6 by 14 ft.,

and the sand filling it was not deep. On the north-west side, near the edge of the eroded slope,

it lay only to a depth of about 2 ft., which increased to about 4 ft. further in, where the better

preserved south-east wall retained the drift-sand. While the clearing proceeded cautiously, I had

time to examine the system of construction followed in the ruined building. As the same was

subsequently found in almost all other structures of the site, it will be convenient to describe

it in this place. In its general features it showed close resemblance to that noticed in the

Dandan-Uiliq structures, being based on the use of timber ; but there were characteristic minor

differences. Massive squared beams of White Poplar or Terek wood, usually extending below Construe-

several rooms, and in some instances exceeding 4o ft. in length, formed a kind of foundation ; houses.

their thickness, which varied from 6 to to ins. according to the size and importance of the

walls they supported, and their perfect finish and fitting always caused my workmen to wonder

at the skill of those ancient carpenters. On this foundation were set wooden posts from

4 to 6 ins. square, which supported the roof and at the same time served as a frame for the

walls. These, and smaller but equally well-finished intermediary posts, fixed at regular intervals

usually of about one foot, were joined by heavy crossbeams on the top and light ones between.

In the ruin N. i. the upper portions of the walls had decayed too far to show the crossbeams

in position ; but they can be seen clearly, or else the dowels that once held them, in the photograph

(Fig. 41) of the better preserved large dwelling N. iii. The arrangement of the upright posts

is, however, fully visible in Plate VI, showing the room N. i. after excavation. To this

framework, and usually on the outside of the small intermediary posts, was fixed a strong kind

of matting of thin tamarisk branches woven diagonally. This again was covered on each side

with layers of hard, white plaster, giving a total wall-thickness varying from 6 to 8 ins. in

different structures. In the photograph (Plate VI), showing the north-east and south-east

walls of room i. in N. i. as seen from outside before excavation, the diagonal matting, which

had become denuded of its plaster covering owing to exposure above the sand, is distinctly

visible. This diagonal tamarisk matting undoubtedly supplied a stronger core to the walls than

the horizontal layers of reeds used for the same purpose at Dandân-Uiliq. But that the latter

system was known also at the earlier period to which the ruins of the Niya Site belong is

proved by its employment in several instances in the ruins N. irr., N. iv., and N. v., to be

noticed hereafter.

A third, far rougher, method of wall-construction, which closely resembles that still in vogue Walls of

in the Khotan region, was applied apparently only to cattle-sheds, stables, and similar outhouses. Plaster and

It consisted of vertically-placed and closely-packed rushes covered with layers of mud plaster.

Walls of this kind, in which rough wooden corner-posts supported the roof, while saplings or

roughly cut branches of trees were inserted at intervals to strengthen the rushes, were found

near N. i. and most of the ruined buildings of the site, and have been distinctively shown in

the plans. In N. i. also the more solidly built walls had completely decayed, where not actually

covered by sand, but many of the stronger posts originally holding them still rose high above

the surface, in some instances to feet and more. Their splintered and shrivelled appearance

showed the long periods for which they had been exposed to the destructive forces of the desert.