Sec. ii] BY THE LOWER HALM ROD 147
tance during the pre-Muhammadan period of local history. Its position near the head of an extensive stretch of cultivated ground, which must always have enjoyed exceptional facilities for irrigation from the Halil Rûd, may well have made it the chief place of Rûdbâr, anyhow in early Muhammadan times. The notices of Rûdbâr given by early Arab geographers ( Istakhri, Mugaddasi) apparently do not contain any mention of particular localities in this district.3 It only remains to be noted that though two small zidrats are to be found near the southern foot of the great mound, this itself is shunned by the people of the neighbourhood from superstitious fears.
On April 10th a hot and tiring march carried us from Tump-i-Kharg up to where the canals irrigating the Rûdbâr tract to the east of the Halil Rûd issue. After about 2i miles we passed the hamlet of Ab-i-Sardû and near it two small mounds. One of them rises to 30 feet from a base some 80 yards in diameter. What pottery could be picked up on the surface showed the same types as that of Tump-i-Kharg. This was the case also with specimens of ceramic ware brought from two more mounds of small size near the hamlets of Amirâbâd and Tumairi.4 They were sighted on the way to Tal-i-siâh, but the need of attending to the safety of our baggage would not allow me to visit them in person. All the way up to Tal-i-siâh, where the branch canals fed by the Jû-i-Shâhabad divide at the foot of a rocky hillock, much difficulty was experienced in getting our camels across a succession of water channels, all deep-cut and all requiring improvised bridging. Finally we reached the northernmost limit of Rûdbâr at a point known as Qâsimabâd, but uninhabited. There, at the foot of a steep ridge, the Jû-i-Shâhâbâd takes off from the river issuing from a narrow defile. Local tradition asserts the great antiquity of this canal, and no doubt with good reason; for without it the only portion of Rûdbâr which even now, after centuries of invasions and insecurity, contains a more or less continuous belt of cultivable land, some 25 miles in length, would be a barren scrub-covered waste.
Before leaving Rûdbâr I may briefly call attention to a general observation which presents an antiquarian and geographical interest. It is certainly curious that the only definitely chalcolithic sites we were able to trace along the Halil Rûd, from Takkul to Tump-i-Qalâtuk, are to be found on the lowest portion of the river course. Higher up, the numerous old sites represented by the mounds from Bijnâbâd to Hazâr-mardi all bear distinct evidence of having been formed by debris deposits due to prolonged occupation from `late prehistorical' times down to the pre-Muhammadan portion of the historical period. Then from
3 See Schwarz, Iran im Mittelalter, p. 255. son's reference in Appendix A, p. 246, to slip-painted
4 For specimens from the mound of Amirâbâd, ware of the tenth century. see Amir. 02-3, 09, 019; Pl. XXII, and Mr. Hob-