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1312 FROM MAZAR-TAGH TO MARAL-BASHI [Chap. XXXII
in size. Layers of thin tamarisk branches were inserted between the courses, a clear indication of early date. The tower rested on a walled-up platform about 10 feet high on the north, and its present height above this seemed about 15 feet more. From where the crest of the ridge running down to the defile northward becomes less steep it is crowned by the remains of a solid brick wall, which could be traced for about 120 yards. In places where drift-sand had offered protection it still stood to a height of about 12 feet, with a thickness of 31 feet. Its material was the same as in the tower just described. Seen from the level ground of the gap, the wall appeared to turn first to the east and then to the south, ending below the tower. But owing to wind-erosion, which had carved out small Yardangs, the exact line of the wall was here difficult to trace. I estimated the irregular area thus enclosed at approximately 30o yards across. The level portion of the interior was mostly covered with small dunes ; but on one of the erosion terraces rising above these the foundations of a brick-built base, about 24 feet square, survived to a height of 5 to 6 feet. Potsherds of a coarse kind were found on eroded patches both within and outside this little circumvallation. On the opposite side of the defile which it was intended to guard a rugged foot-spur of the Bel-tagh bore the remains of another watch-tower. This was built of solid stamped clay with tamarisk twigs inserted in layers. The extant portion rose to a height of about 12 feet above the rock and measured about 3o by 27 feet on the top. This tower or watch-post stood about loo feet above the level ground of the defile, in a position particularly easy of defence owing to its isolation and the steepness of the rock ledges below it.
The very extensive view enjoyed from this point embraced all the detached rugged hill chains, from those first sighted at Chong-tim and Tumshuk to the big Mazar-tagh in the south and the long-stretched Lal-tagh ridge in the north (Map No. 14. c, D. 5). It was at the foot of the latter that my guides pointed out to me in the distance the position occupied by what from their description I took to be the ruins of a Buddhist shrine of some size. Between Bel-tagh and Lal-tagh there stretched a wide belt of bare steppe partly covered with low dunes, and as the plane table indicated a distance of some 7 miles I had to renounce all hope of reaching the site on this occasion. Stories of ' Koneshahrs' seemed to cling particularly to the Lal-tagh, and the Kelpin people, too, whose desert route to Maral-bâshi passes this hill chain on the north, had told me of ' Tati ' remains to be found there in places. The verification of all this had to be left for a chance in the future. Before my departure from Khotan I received, however, some assurance that the Lal-tagh site was not altogether a creation of the ' Kötek-shahr ' type ; for Ayib Mirab then sent me through a trader the small collection of stucco relievo fragments described in the List below which, as he declared, he had secured from the `
Bat-khana' of Lal-tagh. In October, 1913, I was able to make sure that the statement was correct—and also that his experimental burrowing had not been the first.
From Maral-bâshi five rapid marches, made trying by heat and violent sand-storms, carried me to Yarkand. For archaeological observations they offered no scope. But in the course of survey work I was able to acquaint myself with the physical conditions which affect irrigation along the Yarkand River, and which must at all times have caused considerable fluctuations in the cultivated area of these straggling oases. At Yarkand a few days' halt was necessitated by a variety of practical tasks preparatory to my return to India, including the disposal of my brave camels from Keriya, which had rendered such valiant service on my desert travels. Then I set out for my base at Khotan and reached it by eight marches done mainly at night and diversified by a succession of seasonal Burans'. The route was necessarily the same as I had first followed in 1900, and this enabled me to supplement the collection of small antiques from the old sites near Moji, already fully described in Ancient Khotan,3 by some additional specimens.
' Sec Ancient Kholan, i. pp. to sq. for Togujai; for the ' Tati' of Kakshal, ibid., i. pp. io6 sqq.