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0453 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 453 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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Sec. vii]


21 ft. above the sand, attracted my attention. My labourers at once recognized in it a feature still regularly provided in modern village tanks. When these are being excavated a small bank of earth, known as dömbel7, is always left standing in the centre. As explained to me, it is used to mark the level down to which the water of the tank has first to be let out before fresh water is introduced from the feeding canal at the periodical renewals provided for. The latter are obviously necessary, since the tanks are the chief supply of drinking-water during the season when irrigation ceases.

Having previously ascertained, by personal inspection of the ground around Camp 95, and by dispatching Surveyor Ram Singh to a high ridge of dunes some three miles north whence a good view was to be obtained with field glasses, that . there were no structural remains in that direction left exposed among the lower dunes, I next proceeded to the excavation of those ruins southwards which, among those traced on my previous reconnaissances, still remained unexplored. The first of them was N. x, situated about z 2 miles to the south-south-east of N. vIII, Finds in


and a little over half a mile to the west of N. v. Here, owing to far-advanced erosion, only dwelling

two small rooms, measuring each 92 by 6 ft., were still traceable, out of what must have once N. x.

been an extensive building, judging from the débris of timber that strewed the eroded slopes to the east and west. The plaster walls of the two extant apartments were broken down to within a foot or so of the floor, and the sand covering the latter lay only 6-8 in. deep. Yet even under this slight protection eight fairly well-preserved Kharosthi tablets had survived close to the east wall of one of the rooms (N. xxi.). Most of them were pieces of rectangular documents. I was interested to note at the time that the years shown in the dating of the under-tablets (N. xxi. 3-5) extended from 7 to 44, thus covering a period of 37 years, on the assumption that years of the same reign are recorded. This discovery was another striking instance of the little guidance that the appearance of extant remains at this site could furnish as to the possibility of interesting finds of records.

About half a mile to the south lay the relatively better preserved ruins of a dwelling Excavation

(N. xi), covered by 2-4 ft. of sand. Among the five rooms of which the walls could still of ruin N. xr.

be traced, only the southernmost, measuring 25 by i 7 ft. and provided on three of its sides with a sitting platform of plaster, 3 ft. broad, yielded a find. It was the wooden cupboard shown by the photograph reproduced in Plate I X and already referred to in connexion with an exactly similar specimen from N. vIII. The cupboard found here was 2 ft. zo in. long and I-1- ft. broad, with a total height of 2 ft. 8 in. About 200 yards to the west of N. xi there rose above the low dunes a small eroded bank of loess strewn with splintered timber-débris. This and the small row of posts and rushes crowning its crest seen in the photograph (Fig. 46) were all that remained of the ancient dwelling—a typical illustration of the ultimate fate of all structures attacked by erosion. A completely bleached and abraded wedge covering-tablet (N. xxii. I), barely recognizable by its seal-cavity, was picked up on the slope.

My work on February i z concluded with the clearing of a small dwelling-house (N. ix), situated Find of

about three-quarters of a mile further to the south to which an interestin find had attracted m sealed '

q   ,   g   y envelope

attention on the day after my arrival at the site. Hasan Akhûn, the inquisitive young camel- in N. ix. man to whom I owed my acquisition of the first Kharosthi tablets at Niya8, had, while looking about for ' treasure', come upon this ruin and brought away from it a rectangular covering-tablet (N. xxiii. z) with two intact seal-impressions (see Plate LXXII), which as the first find

7 The word may have some connexion with döbe (debe)   S See above, p. 312.

applied to small natural mounds ; see above, p. 77.