462 RETURN TO THE MIRAN SITE [Chap. XII
the sockets probably served to secure bits of cloth or other soft material, which may have been wrapped round the ends of the slips to protect the clay sealings in transit. I found no signs of any contrivances, such as wooden covering-tablets or envelopes, which might have been used to keep the contents safe from unauthorized inspection. In this as in other respects, too, the relics of the Miran fort show a distinct falling-off from the standards of technical skill exhibited by the remains at the Niya and Lou-lan Sites. On the other hand, the similarity to the stationery and other remains subsequently found at the fort of Mazar-tagh, and also dating from the time of Tibetan predominance, is striking.
The average length of most of the wooden slips, when complete, varies from six to eight inches, and their width never exceeds two inches. The specimens reproduced in Plate CLXXI will suffice to illustrate such variations as are to be found in the size, shape, and 'writing of such slips. M.1. xxxiii. 5 shows three small label-like tablets fastened together through string-holes. Of the slips found detached a considerable proportion also have string-holes, as if they had been intended to form part of a series or to be filed together. A string-hole invariably appears in the numerous short wooden labels containing only an address, of which M. 1. xxvii. 8 ; xxviii. oo6, in Plate CLXXI serve as specimens. The few wooden records of unusual shape and length, such as M. 1. ooi ; ix. i ; xiii. I I ; xvi. 3, measuring up to 22 inches and inscribed sometimes on three or four sides, are almost all of the nature of tally-sticks, as a reference to Dr. Francke's inventory shows. M. 1. xxviii. 6 in Plate CLXXI helps to illustrate their appearance. The wood of these sticks and also of many of the slips seems that of the tamarisk, which, as the abundance of chippings in the refuse-heaps showed, must have been the material most conveniently at hand in this tract. But the wood of the Toghrak and cultivated poplar seems also to be represented among the Miran documents.
The predominant use of ` wooden stationery ', which the finds in the Miran fort prove for the period of Tibetan occupation, is curious at so late a time. It points to the conclusion that paper must have been difficult to obtain, the supply not being local, and further evidence of this is given by the paper documents and texts found there. Their number amounts to little more than a fourth of that of the records on wood. . Most of the letters and documents are written on oblong sheets of paper, as seen from the specimens reproduced in Plate CLXX. In the case of a considerable number, seal impressions affixed in red ink attest the official character of the papers. The sizes of the sheets vary greatly, the largest, M.1. xxviii. 002, measuring fully 16 by I 1 inches, while another one, M.1. xliv. 6, contains no less than sixteen lines of closely-packed writing, over a length of about eleven inches. The paper of most of these documents is of a very flimsy and coarse texture, and in none is the leaf made fit for writing on both sides.
A striking contrast to this is presented by the rare leaves and fragments of strong, well-made paper, obviously of a different substance, which by the clear and regular writing on both sides, the ample space between the carefully ruled lines, and the string-holes could be recognized on the spot as having belonged to Pôthis of Buddhist texts. Dr. Francke's examination has since confirmed this assumption and proved that leaves and fragments of this kind, like M.1. ix. 9 ; xiii. 6, 13 ; xix. 7, 8, io, I I, 13 ; xxviii. 004 ; xliv. ooI4 (Plate CLXX), contain portions of Mahayana texts. The largest
of them, M.1. xiii. 6, is over two feet in length. Similar leaves, which I discovered, in 1901, in the temple of the Endere fort as relics of the Tibetan occupation, were proved by Professor J. von
Wiesner's microscopical examination to be made of paper for which the fibres of the Daphne plant, quite unknown to the Tarim Basin, had supplied the material.3 The close similarity in the
a See Ancient Kholan, i. p. 426, and Prof. von Wiesner's article in the .ïlzungsberichle of the Imperial Academy, Vienna, cxlviii (r9o4) pp. 14-21 (reprint).