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0574 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 574 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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Original shelter for sculptures.


in most cases found intact. I may here note that, among all the sculptural decoration of the Vihara court as far as excavated, I failed to trace any evidence of wilful destruction by human agency, as distinguished from such casual damage as the spasmodic burrowings of ` treasure-seekers ' may have caused at some points of the more exposed portions of the enclosing wall 5. This observation lends support to the belief, justified, as we shall see, by other abundant evidence, that this great shrine had already been deserted for centuries and the ruins of the quadrangle completely covered up by the time when Islam annexed Khotan.

It appears to me very probable that originally a wooden gallery, or some similar shelter projecting from the roof of the enclosing wall, offered shelter to the sculptures on both of its faces. But this must have been systematically removed, even before the sand had completely invaded the Vihara court ; for only in one place, near the inner south-east face and not far from the gate (see plan), did my excavations bring to light some small pieces of much-perished timber, about 4 in. in thickness, that may have served for such a structure 6. Considering how comparatively expensive an article building timber is to this day in the immediate vicinity of a large Turkestan town, we can scarcely be surprised at the early removal of this, the most useful material the shrine could offer after its abandonment. It seems impossible to assume that the sculptures along the walls and the fresco decoration of the latter should have been originally exposed to all the influences of the weather. A single heavy downpour of rain, such as is by no means unknown even in this dry region—I experienced one on April 19 soon after I had left Rawak camp—would have sufficed to do great damage to the friable clay of the statuary and the equally soft wall plaster. The existence of some enclosing passage or gallery is indicated also by the foundations of a thin plaster wall, with stucco reliefs facing it, which were brought to light outside the south corner and which will be described at the end of the next section.


The excavations which incessant work from early morning till nightfall enabled me to get effected between the i 2th and 17th of April, cleared the greatest part of the south-east and a portion of the south-west walls of the Vihara court, both inside and outside, for an aggregate length of about 155 ft. Though this distance represents only about one-fourth of the perimeter of the Vihara court, yet the total number of individual reliefs, most of them over life-size, which were brought to light on the cleared wall faces amounted in the end to ninety-one. In addition to these the finds included numerous small reliefs forming parts of sculptured aureoles, &c., or deposited as ex-votos before the main images.

The position of all statues was carefully shown by me in the ground-plan, together with the greatest width of the wall space occupied by them, and a description recorded of every piece of sculpture, as detailed as the available time and the trying conditions prevailing would permit. In addition I used the rare hours, usually in the early morning, when there was less wind and no thick haze or driving dust, for obtaining a complete series of photographs of whatever sculptural work appeared on the excavated wall faces. It was no easy task to collect all these records with the needful accuracy while directing the successive stages of excavation

s Such damage would, no doubt, have been more extensive if the stucco reliefs to be obtained at Rawak had not been too heavy or too friable for ready removal to, and

disposal in, the antique market of Khotan.

6 Pl. XV. c shows them as subsequently placed on the top of the enclosing wall.

Number of sculptures excavated.

Record of sculptures cleared.

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