MAZAR-TAGH FORTRESS

 
Section I - Ruined Fort on Mazar-Tagh
Stein traveled for 2 days from Miran to reach the hill of Mazar-tagh on the west, left bank of the Khotan River. This was north of the confluence of the Yurung-kash and Kara-kash rivers . The river dried up 5 miles further, but sub-soil water and pools were available. This is the shortest route from Khotan north across the desert to the Tarim. On April 16 he sighted the ridge. It is 24 miles long and 300 feet above the desert. The ruin of the fortress is well preserved including its high walls. (see figure 335, site plan, plate 59 and map 26). Figure 329 shows detached watch tower on the plateau 30 yards wide. The south face of the ridge is a precipice. The north side is an easier slope. This is a strong position for a fort. It is inaccessible from South and East. The tower protected from the west. The fort defense on the north west is a wall across the crest and two 16 foot square bastions. The curtain wall is made of flat pieces of clay set in mortar and layers of Tamarisk branches. The bastions project at either end of the wall of 10 inch layers. The posts and beams are of toghruk wood inserted to strengthen the wall. The wall is 10 feet thick as are the fort walls on SE and NE. Later walls and inner buildings and court are built of coarse bricks 15x8x3.5 inches. The space inside the walls is a level area made out of the steep north slope. The inner court is 50 feet square covered with debris of other buildings. The charred timber shows the buildings likely were made of wood. Outside the wall on SW side they disappeared in fallen timbers down the slope. The wall fell due to its foundations that slid down the hill. The gate on this side was to the keep. (fig 330). The keep originally was of coarse bricks 4 feet thick and later strengthened to 8 feet thick on three sides. The main west wall of the fort was built of different material. It was originally more than one story but that is now gone. On the NE side an apartment between the keep and fort outer wall was 20 feet by 6 feet. The outer court was 20 feet lower down with stairs. The walls of the outer court were of sun-dried bricks same size but without layers of tamarisk and timber. It suffered from more damage. This court space was 90 feet by 29 feet. It was probably roofed as there are charred timbers all over. It was likely a stable. The gate through the 10 foot thick wall is on SE. The tower on the crest at 225 feet above the clay bank of the river bed was 60 yards from the west bastion of the fort. It was solid, like watch towers on the Han wall. It was built of flat hard clay brought from the river and layers of tamarisk at 10 inch intervals plus toghrak posts and beams in the masonry. The base was 25 feet on SW and NE sides and 22 feet on the other sides. The SE face was broken. The tower remained 20 feet tall with a view over a wide area along the river. Stein excavated this first. That required 3 days. He found Tibetan documents and tablets like at Miran and Tibetan paper records and other objects.
He found a storage pit 5.5 feet deep and 6 feet square, revetted with timber in a room. There were Tibetan records and moulds for statues. On his return visit in November 1913 he found the shrine. All this showed results of a great fire. He found coins dated from AD 758-760 and one from 766-80. Figure 334). The refuse outside the fort contained more artifacts. More Tibetan records and 1000 items including arrow shafts, some bronze and broken bows and wooden sheaths for swords and daggers, shoes, string sandals, wool clothing, wooden seal cases and keys and locks. The Tibetans held the area in AD 791 and the Uigurs in 860. There were Tibetan military reports and requisitions and statements about weapons and inventories. But the Khotanese language continued also and likewise Chinese documents on paper. An official certificate was dated 786. There were also Buddhist monastery documents from elsewhere.
Mazar was a key watch tower location controlling the river route, north - south across the desert. The Tibetans even captured Kucha and Pei-t'ing on the north side of the desert. Mazar was like the Miran fort.
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The southern half of map sheet # 25 - Mazar Tagh - This shows the Kara-Kash River flowing north from the southern border to become the Khotan River that flows off the northern edge toward map # 24. Mazar Tagh is a ruined Tibetan fortress on a bluff on the left (west) side of the river at 80 degrees 40 'E - 38 degrees 27' N. Stein visited and spent a lot of time excavating this ruin. The river valley is narrow with limited cultivation along the southern part but only intermitant growth along most of the banks.

 
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Detail of map sheet # 25 - Mazar Tagh - This shows the length of the Khotan River and the location of Mazar Tagh fortress on the west bank.

 
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Detail of map sheet# 25 - Mazar Tagh - This shows the Kotan river continuing north of the fortress and Stein's route along it.

 
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Plate 59 - Part of detailed plan for the ruined Mazar-Tagh fort on the eastern bluff of Mazar-tagh ridge next to the Khotan River.

 
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Plate 59 - Part of detailed plan for the ruined Mazar-Tagh fort on the eastern bluff of Mazar-tagh ridge next to the Khotan River.

 
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Photo 329 - Ruined fort and watch tower on Mazar-Tagh ridge seen from north west - bed of the Khotan River is in the background below.

 
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Photo 330 - Interior of ruined fort at Mazar-Tagh with remains of the keep in center and north bastion on the right.

 
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Photo 331 - North bastion of the ruined Tibetan fort at Mazar-Tagh seen from in its outer court.

 
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Photo 335 Mazar-Tagh hill with ruined fort on top as seen from north-east in the bed of the Khotan River.

 
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