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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The minars seldom rose from the ground


[Illustration:

The Citadel of Zaidan, the Great City.]

According to Major Sykes, who quotes from the Seljuk history: "Every three hundred paces a pillar twice the height of a man was built and two _minars_ between Gurz and Fahraj, one forty _gaz_ high, the other twenty-five, and _under_ each _minar_ a caravanserai and a tank." By the word "under" the historian evidently meant directly underneath the tower--which was the customary way of constructing such buildings. The _minars_ seldom rose from the ground, but were and are generally constructed on the roofs of buildings. A proof that this was the case in this particular instance was that when Goldsmid visited it in 1872, he stated that it "was built on a square foundation."

The caravanserai underneath this tower and the tank are evidently buried by the sand, as is the case with a great portion of the City of Zaidan. That there is underneath the sand a city connecting the southern portion of Zaidan--still partly above ground--with the northern portion of Zaidan, and that this _minar_ rises above buried habitations, there can be little doubt, for all along the several miles of intervening sandy stretch the earth is covered with debris, ruins and fragments of tiles, bricks, &c., &c., showing the remains of a great city.

As we went along, leaving the pillar to the north and steering south-east for the main ruins of Zaidan, we saw close by on

the north a very large structure forming the section of a cone--the lower portion buried in sand and the upper portion having collapsed,--which a Sistani who accompanied us said was an ancient ice-house. This theory may be correct, for it is probable that the climate of Sistan may have greatly changed; but it is also possible that the structure may have been a large flour-mill, for to this day mills are built in Persia on similar exterior lines to the ice-houses. Structures of the same kind are also to be observed as far south as Kala-i-Fath, the southern terminus of the great city.

No ice to speak of can be collected nowadays, either in Sistan or within a very large radius of country, and snow is seldom, almost never seen.

Near this mill or ice-house, whichever it was, another high building in ruins was to be observed, but I could not afford the time to deviate from my route and inspect it. It appeared like a watch-tower, and was not dissimilar to two other round towers we had seen before on the south,--very likely they were all outer fire-signalling stations, so common all over Asia.

[Illustration: The Zaidan West Towers and Modern Village.]

After a brisk ride of some four hours we arrived at the main portion of the ruins of Zaidan--an imposing fort on a clay hill, which must have formed the citadel. At the foot of the hill was the modern village of Zaidan--about fifty houses, some with flat, others with gabled, roofs, such as we had seen at the previous villages, and a few with domed roofs. There were a few cultivated fields in which wheat was raised.

CHAPTER XXII

An ancient city as big as London--The citadel--Towers--Small rooms--The walls--Immensity of the city--Sand drifts--Why some parts are buried and some are not--An extensive wall--Great length of the city--Evidence that the habitations were continuous--The so-called Rud-i-Nasru--Its position--A double outer wall--A protected road--Interesting structures--An immense graveyard--Tombs--Sand drifts explained--A former gate of the city--The _Chil-pir_ or tomb of forty saints--Interesting objects found--Beautiful inscriptions on marble and slate--Marble columns--Graceful lamps--Exciting digging--A tablet--Heptagonal tower--A ghastly figure.


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