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0408 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 408 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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almost obliterating the sense of time, that I found myself picking up frail leaves that had fallen when the Caesars still ruled in Rome and the knowledge of Greek writing had scarcely yet vanished on the Indus.

In the evening of February 5, when the clearing of N. iv had been completed, I visited the spot about 600 yards to the south where on my first arrival I had noticed the slope of a small loess-bank • strewn with bones, apparently human. On clearing away the sand, which lay only I to 2 ft. deep on the top of this bank, low foundations of mud walls were laid bare. Those of a room measuring about 17 ft. from east to west and i 5 ft. across could still be distinguished ; of the walls of a second room very little was left, owing to erosion of the ground. The walls showed a thickness of about 2 ft. and nowhere stood higher than 1'2-- ft. ; of brickwork there was no trace. Inside the area occupied by the second room, and chiefly in that part of it which had undergone some erosion, there lay in confusion human bones belonging apparently to not more than six skeletons. Most of them were broken or splintered, and of the skulls only one was fairly intact. The measurements I was able to ascertain were, maximum anteroposterior length, 185 mm. ; maximum transverse breadth, 142 mm. ; minimum frontal breadth, 118 mm. No timber-débris of any kind was found near this small ruin, about the true character of which I was unable to form any definite opinion. I noted, however, that the level of the ground occupied by the foundations was at least 15 ft. lower than that of N. III and N. iv, and I wondered whether this might be an indication of later—or earlier—origin.

Ruin with human remains.


Reconnaissance to northern groups of ruins.

First finds at N. xv.

The excavation of the ruins so far described had furnished conclusive evidence of the fact that the extant structures of this site were mainly private dwellings which had been cleared by their last inhabitants, or else soon after their departure, of any objects of intrinsic value or practical utility. It was clear that my hopes for further archaeological finds of importance mainly depended upon any rubbish remains which might have been left behind. These hopes were greatly encouraged by the results of a rapid reconnaissance which, on February 3, I had been able to make of ruins reported north of my camp. On that occasion I visited or sighted more than half a dozen small groups of ruined structures scattered over an area measuring about 3 Z miles from south to north, and about two miles broad.

In a much-decayed ruin (N. v) situated about half-way to the northern limit of the site, which neither by its size nor its state of preservation would then have attracted special attention, I had come upon about a dozen of once inscribed tablets lying exposed, and in consequence entirely bleached and splintered. A search in the sand of the eroded slope to the north of the room and a little digging at the exposed edge of it had, within half an hour, put me in possession of over thirty inscribed pieces. Among the important finds which attended this rapid ` prospecting ', there was a completely preserved double-wedge, N. xv. 24 (see Plate IC), in the clay seal impression of which I at once recognized a standing Pallas with shield and aegis, and two novelties which, though small in size, could not fail to excite my utmost interest. One consisted of some narrow and thin pieces of wood (now marked N. xv. 02, 08, 09, oio), all fragmentary, showing Chinese characters arranged in single columns ; the other was a fragmentary document on leather torn into two pieces (N. xv. 29), one of them bearing a short entry in Kharosthi, which I could read without difficulty as the date record mase 4 divase w ` on the tenth day in the fourth month '. Finds so varied and occurring in such rapid succession