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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Could not do better than take a trip to this part of Sistan


As

we went along due west another ruined city was pointed out, Zorap, a very ancient place, where Bahram is said to have impaled the body of Firamurz, Rustam's son.

We crossed two more dry canals of some magnitude, running parallel, which showed that in former days this now barren part of Sistan must have been under flourishing cultivation. In fact, further on we came upon traces of houses and of extensive irrigation, the soil having quite a different appearance to the usual _lut_ where left untouched by human tools.

[Illustration: Plan of Sher-i-Rustam.]

We then came across what at first seemed a confused commotion of sand and mud, but its formation was very curious, and looked as if it covered an underlying city of great size. The surface sand seemed to reproduce to a certain extent the form of the structures that were down below, such as quadrangular buildings, walls, domes, etc. It was not the natural formation of sand on a natural ground. In one particular place a whole city wall with towers could be traced, just showing above ground, so perfectly rectangular that although covered by sand it would seem certain that a fortress must be buried under this spot.

All around these particular suspected buried cities the sand is absolutely flat, and there would be no other plausible reason for this most extraordinary irregular accumulation of sand

reproducing forms of walls, domes and towers against all the general rules of local sand accumulations, unless such obstacles existed below to compel the sand to accumulate in resemblance to them. This theory is strengthened too by the fact that, here and there, some of the higher buildings actually may be seen to project above ground. The sand mixed with salt had, on getting wet, become solid mud, baked hard by the sun.

Anybody interested in sand and its movements, its ways and process of accumulation, could not do better than take a trip to this part of Sistan. Little as one may care about sand, one is bound to get interested in its ways, and one point in its favour is that with a certain amount of logic and observation one can always understand why it has assumed a certain formation rather than another--a pleasing feature not always existing in all geological formations of the scenery one goes through.

The great expanse of irregular surface soil, with its innumerable obstacles and undulations, was, of course, bound to give curious results in the sand accumulations south of it, where the sand could deposit itself in a more undisturbed fashion and was affected by purely natural causes. Of course, sand hills do not accumulate in the flat desert unless some obstacle--a mere pebble, a tamarisk shrub, a ridge, or a stone, is the primary cause of the accumulation. In the present case, I think the greater number of sand hills had been caused by tamarisk shrubs arresting the sand along its flight southwards.

To enumerate and analyse each sand hill--there were thousands and thousands--would take volumes. I will limit myself to the various most characteristic types of which I give diagrams. The absolutely conical type was here less noticeable, being too much exposed to the wind, which gradually corroded one side of each hill more than the other.

Whatever their shape, the highest point of the sand hills was in any case always to the north-east, the lower to the south-west. As can be seen by the diagram there were single hills and composite ones; there were well-rounded hills, semi-spherical hills, and then came the sand dunes, such as those on the right of our track, like long parallel walls of sand extending for great distances from east to west.


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