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0383 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 383 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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from N. i. (about 41, including several fragments) corresponding under-tablets belonging to

original pairs. A number of these detached tablets have since been re-united by Mr. Andrews

and Professor Rapson into complete ` double-wedge ' documents, e.g. N. i. 16 +104 already referred

to. This possibility had, indeed, from the first suggested itself, in view of the close approach

in number of the two classes of wedge-shaped tablets recovered. It is probable that the covering-

and under-tablets of many of these documents still lay close together, even though their original

fastening may have been missing when Ibrahim lighted upon them. But in view of the

thoroughness with which he had disturbed the original position of this collection of documents

no certain opinion can be expressed on the point. The fact of the tablets subsequently excavated

by me in other places of N. i. having proved to be mainly detached pieces suggests that the

deposit of documents may either have been disturbed by some earlier searchers, or originally

thrown down in confusion just as seems to have been the case in N. iv.

The exact details of the ingenious method of fastening adopted for these remarkable Description

documents on wood were fully ascertained by me only on the subsequent discovery of prac- hasped e

tically perfect specimens among the rich finds yielded by the ancient rubbish-heap N. xv. It tablets from

will, therefore, be more convenient to leave their discussion, as well as that of other techni- N. i.

calities of archaeological interest connected with the use of this ancient ` stationery ' on wood,

for a later section (iv.). Exact details as to the size, type, and condition of each tablet

found in N. i. are given in the inventory list at the end of this chapter. It will hence suffice

to describe here the general appearance of the wedge-shaped tablets recovered from this par-

ticular place, and to call attention to individual pieces. The length of the tablets, which in

each pair fitted each other exactly in size and shape, varies from 71;,- in. to 152 in. (N. i. 9. a),

and their width at the square end proportionately from 114- in. to in. The thickness of the

wood is from a quarter to three-quarters of an inch. The wood is generally of uniform thickness

throughout each tablet, except near the right hand or square end of the covering-tablets, where an

extra thickness has ordinarily been spared for the square seal-socket. The raised edges of the

latter are always neatly bevelled down sideways towards the square and pointed ends of the

tablets, while the upper and lower edges are left high for the formation of the string grooves

(three on each side). The seal-socket is rectangular, in most cases square, the sides varying

in proportion to the width of the tablet from r2 to i inch. Plates XCVIII and C show the

complete double-wedge documents N. i. 122 and N. i. 9 as seen from the Reverse of the under-

tablet, with their original fastening of hemp string. In Plate IC the Obverse of N. i. 103 is

reproduced ; here the string crossfolded through the grooves and seal-socket is visible, owing to

the clay sealing which had once been inserted in the latter having perished, as in the great majority

of tablets.

The text, invariably written in Kharosthi characters and running from right to left parallel Kharosthi

to the longer side, occupies the inner surfaces of the tablets, i.e. the Rev. of the covering- and text of

g   ~ occu p   ~   g'   wedge-

the Obv. of the under-tablet, which in the arrangement of pairs as originally fastened were turned shaped

towards each other. The text always commences on the top of the Obv. of the under-tablet, tablets.

and only its conclusion is written on the Rev. of the covering-tablet, which explains why the latter often shows only a single line of characters or is left altogether blank, as in N. i. 23, 24, 67, 43, 55. The reproduction given in Plates XCVIII, IC of the inside faces of complete wedge-shaped documents from N. xv. will serve to illustrate the corresponding arrangement in all wedge-shaped tablets of N. i s.

s The inside faces of two documents (N. i. 104 + 16 and N. i. 105) will be found reproduced among Prof. Rapson's Specimens.