THE RUINS OF BILËL-KONGHAN 271
in 1905, had vainly searched for such during a stay of several days,4 so that I decided to lose no time on this ground.
At the little oasis conditions had not changed perceptibly since my former visit. My old host, Conditions
Abdul Karim Akhûn, complained of bad harvests, caused chiefly by the vagaries of the river, and at r-
of the trouble and expense it cost to protect irrigation against these frequent diversions of the main Tarim.
water channel. Yet I found no difficulty whatever about obtaining several weeks' abundant supplies for my large party, reinforced as it was by a fresh contingent of labourers from Niya. That the water-supply would suffice for much more extended cultivation was acknowledged on all hands. According to my Niya informants such expansion had so far been prevented only by want of additional labour, old Abdul Karim, the owner of the whole settlement, lacking the energy to attract it. I heard no complaints of cultivation suffering through any special salinity of the water.5
When I started from Yar-tungaz Tarim on November 4 towards the Endere River my immediate Search for
goal was not the ruined area from which Sadak asserted he had brought away his Kharosthi tablet, ruins at
but another ` Kône-shahr' which his father, Samsak, alleged he had visited years before in the desert konghan.
to the west of the river's terminal course. On my former visit information about it had been kept from me. The assertion of complete ignorance would have probably been maintained by the Yartungaz people also on this occasion, had I not been able to quote in support of Samsak's statement the testimony of Prof. Huntington who, as I knew from a note communicated through Mr. (now Sir) George Macartney, had, during his survey of this tract a year earlier, visited ruins manifestly corresponding to the Mazar shepherd's description.° At last, after much questioning, an old herdsman of
Yar-tungaz, Kutluk by name, owned up to a knowledge of the ruins. He declared them to be
situated in that broad belt of low dunes and living desert vegetation for which the map attached to
Ancient Khotan records the name of Bilal-konghan.
The ground covered on the first day, with its high ridges of sand alternating with salty depres-
sions marking ancient beds of the Yar-tungaz River, has been already described.? We halted for
Arrival at Bilélkonghan Site.
4 Cf. Pulse of Asia, pp. 210 sq.
6 Prof. Huntington, Pulse of Asia, p. 2 I 2, considers the water of the Yar-tungaz River to be so highly charged with salts as to render permanent cultivation impossible. I did not notice this at the time, nor was the point mentioned to me when making my local inquiries. Only exact chemical analysis and comparison with the water of other rivers in this region could furnish a safe argument.
It will be convenient to record here that I was unable to visit the alleged ` ruins ' of which Prof. Huntington heard as situated upstream about fifty or sixty miles from the terminal settlement, and which he mentions as ` Haiyabeg, the large agricultural village of ancient times ' (p. 212). But I took care to enjoin a search for them on Naik Ram Singh, my ill-fated assistant, when, in March, 1908, I let him start on that visit to Miran from which he was doomed to return blind (cf. Desert Cathay, ii. pp. 432 sqq.). He duly visited the place on his way from Niya to Charchan and found it to be situated close to the river-bed, about six miles to the south of the caravan track. He described it to me as a small Tati' with patches of eroded ground showing fragments of broken pottery of rough make, without a trace of structural remains. The seven specimens brought back by him are all of coarse hand-made pottery of ill-levigated clay fired in an open hearth. The clay is generally red on the outside,
blackish-grey within. Coarse pottery of this kind appears to have been made for local use in the eastern parts of the Tarim Basin through widely distant periods down to modern times. In the present state of our knowledge such débris can furnish no reliable indication as to the age when that ` Tati' was occupied. The following is a list of the specimens : Yart. oor. Pottery loop handle from shoulder of pot.
Yart. 002. Pottery fr. orn. with band of double stick-drawn festoons. 2?g" x 1t".
Yart. oo3. Pottery fr. of jar with flat rim. FR' x ii".
Yart. 004. Pottery fr., black with grey-red exterior face. I g" X 11".
Yart. 005. Pottery fr. of cylindrical neck of vase made separately and ` luted ' on to body. Band of punched orn. on shoulder. 21." x 23'g".
Yart. ooh. Pottery fr., vertical-edged rim of jar. rg x
Yart. 007. Pottery fr. of open-mouthed vessel with out-turned rim. 1l" x 2".
6 A reference to this visit is found in his Pulse of Asia, p. 217.
Cf. Ancient Kholan, i. pp. 419 sq.