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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Kala Ardeshir on summit of mountain Kerman


Ardeshir on summit of mountain) Kerman.]

The outside wall of the fort was very high, and had strong battlements and towers. Inside the lower wall at the foot of the hill was a moat from twenty-five to thirty feet wide and fifteen feet deep. The upper wall went along the summit of two ridges and was parallel to the lower one, which had four large circular turrets, and extended down to and over the flat for some 120 yards. There was another extensive but much demolished fortress to the east of this on the lower part of the hill range, guarding the other side of the entrance of the pass, and this, too, had two large walled enclosures in the plain at its foot. A great many fragments of pottery with angular geometrical patterns and small circles upon them were to be found here and in the neighbourhood.

The fort of Kala-i-Dukhtar is attributed by the people to King Ardishir, and is one of the three mentioned by Mukaddasi in the tenth century, who, in describing the city of Bardasir, unmistakably identified with the present Kerman, speaks of the three famous impregnable castles--the _Hisn_ defended by a ditch, evidently the one above described, directly outside the city gate, and the old castle, the Kala-i-Kuh, on the crest of the hill. It has been assumed that the third castle mentioned by Mukaddasi, was where the _Ark_ or citadel is now, but personally I doubt whether this is correct. The citadel, the residence of

the present Governor, is to my mind of much more recent origin. There is every sign to make one doubt whether Kerman extended in those days as far west as the citadel, which to-day occupies the most western point outside the city; whereas in the accounts of Mukaddasi one would be led to understand that the third fortress was well within the city near a great mosque. In Persian chronicles, too, the Hill Castle, the old, and the new castles are often referred to, but personally I believe that these three castles were adjoining one another on the same chain of hills.

An ascent to the Kala Ardeshir well repays the trouble of getting there. It is not possible to reach the Castle from the south side, where the rocky hills are very precipitous, and even from the north it is not easy of access. On the north-west side, facing the British Consulate, there is a somewhat narrow and slippery track in the rock along a ravine, by which--in many places "on all fours"--one can get up to the top.

The gateway is very much blocked with sand, but squeezing through a small aperture one can get inside the wall, within which are several small courts, and a series of tumbled-down small buildings. In the walls can still be seen some of the receptacles in which grain and food were formerly stored.

[Illustration: Graveyard and Kala-i-Dukhtar or Virgin Fort, Kerman.]

Although the exterior of the castle, resting on the solid rock and built of sun-dried bricks so welded together by age as to form a solid mass, appears in fair preservation from a distance, when one examines the interior it is found to be in a dreadful state of decay. The courts and spaces between the walls are now filled up with sand. There is a well of immense depth, bored in the rock, the fort standing some five hundred feet above the plain; but although this is said by some writers to have been a way of escape from this fortress to as distant a place as Khabis, some forty-five miles as the crow flies to the east of Kerman, I never heard this theory expounded in Kerman itself, but in any case, it is rather strange that the well should have been made so small in diameter as hardly to allow the passage of a man, its shaft being bored absolutely perpendicular for hundreds and hundreds of feet and its sides perfectly smooth, so that an attempt to go down it would be not a way of escape from death, but positive suicide. The well was undoubtedly made to supply the fort with water whenever it became impracticable to use the larger wells and tanks constructed at the foot of the hills within the fortification walls.

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