Loulan – a kingdom lose against the nature

After the Kingdom of Loulan suddenly vanished in the Tang Dynasty, no trace of the ancient city was seen or heard of until in the 1900s, when a Swedish explorer uncovered its ruins. Once the veil was lifted, there was a sensation. But the world had to wait until 2002 to discover the reason for Loulan’s disappearance.

< Devoting life to archaeology >
The man in the photo is the director of Xinjiang Archaeology Institute. The sand and wrinkles on Idelisi’s face are traces of his many adventures in the Lop Nur Desert. In order to explore the mysterious ancient Kingdom of Loulan, his archaeological experience was one of harshness and toil.

Xinjiang Archaeology Institute director, Idelisi Abuduresule:
“When we arrived at the camp site, before we even put food in our mouth, we were struck by a sandstorm. We couldn’t eat and couldn’t even see anything. Tents and everything else all blew away. We stayed in the car for three days.”

< Loulan surprised the world in 1900s >
With the desire for knowledge, Idelisi uses his life to search for unknown history, but he is only one of many. Numerous archaeologists around the world were attracted to the historic site after Swedish explorer Sven Hedin accidentally discovered the ruins of the ancient city and took from them a large amount of relics.

The remains of an old woman in Xiaohe Tomb
Loulan woven piece
Loulan Coffin painting

< The excavation of Xiaohe tomb >
Several surveys were sent to the Loulan area and experts have different views on why and how the city, once a booming trade center disappeared so abruptly. Some say it was because of the drying climate in the Tarim Basin and reduction of river flow; while some hold that the change of the route of the ancient Silk Road had direct impact on it withering away. Nevertheless, none have covered direct evidence. It wasn’t until 2002, when Idelisi entered Loulan’s Xiaohe tomb complex and carried out a large excavation that the mystery was finally unveiled.

Xinjiang Archaeology Institute director, Idelisi Abuduresule:
“There is a tall wooden post in front of each tomb: a lingam in front of a female grave, and a yoni in front of a male grave. The coffin is completely wrapped in bark and oxhide. The coffins face the sun so they are better preserved. The Xiaohe princess we found was very well-preserved.”

< The once abundant resources in Loulan >
Looking at the mummy, it is as if she is merely sleeping soundly. At the graveyard, the wooden poles and ritual animal heads on top seem to be evidence of Loulan’s once flourishing cattle industry and its abundant forests. However, even with such rich natural resources, Loulan could not withstand the abusive use of timber for burial.

Xinjiang Archaeology Institute director, Idelisi Abuduresule:
“Most posts are 4.5 to 5 meters high and the diameter of each coffin board is 60 cm. Just imagine, in order to make one coffin, how many trees were cut down? In order to make a side board for the coffin, one or two trees were required. And the tall wooden post in front of it. Roughly, just how many trees were needed for a grave?”

< Abusive use of timber >
A coffin and a wooden post required more than four trees, and not just any ordinary trees, but 600 to 700 year-old poplar. 1500 old trees were cut down for over 350 tombs in Xiaohe. Apart from that, the wooden artworks and mortuary objects also showed how heavily they relied on these poplars; high demand, high deforestation. After the Han military troops entered the area, they also cultivated an excessive amount of wheat, an un-suitable crop for the local climate.

Xinjiang Archaeology Institute director, Idelisi Abuduresule:
“We discovered an abundance of their mortuary objects included wheat. We did a DNA analysis and they were hexaploid wheat which was modified and required a great amount of water.”

< Over deforestation doomed Loulan >
Abusive use of natural resources and over deforestation finally doomed the Kingdom of Loulan.

Xingjiang Institute of Ecology & Geography, Director Xia Xuncheng:
“This region is extremely dry and with very high temperature so climate change occurs very rapidly here. Other places have lower temperature and consistent rainfall, and are able to maintain a slower pace, but in Loulan, climate change happens very fast.”

Xinjiang Archaeology Institute director, Idelisi Abuduresule:
“It saddens one to see how the place has changed. We should do everything in moderate measure. Over-development and over-use leave you nothing but a desolate desert.”

< A precious lesson to learn >
So the prosperous land vanished in sand, leaving behind ruins, relics and perhaps the most expensive ecological lesson in history.

Source : Da Ai TV

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