Aurel Stein: A hundred years on

Camp & Work

Working and sleeping in the desert has probably not changed in essentials since Stein’s day. At remote sites such as Niya and Karadong all supplies have to be taken in, including water: Stein’s camels carried large blocks of ice to see him through excavations in the desert winters. His provisions included powdered soups, marmite and, for a treat, Cadbury’s chocolate. He ate and worked at night, as we did, by the light of bonfires fed with the wood of ancient forests.

What has changed is the portability of equipment, with digital cameras, GPS, solar chargers and lightweight tents. Stein had to carry large cameras, glass plates and developing equipment for his photography, a plane table for his surveying and heavy canvas tents — although he also had the luxury of a Willesden Green Circular Canvas Bath and a folding table and chair.

Today, the local guides and camel men still ply the same trade and many probably come from the same families. Indeed, the custodian at Niya and our guide to the site in 2011 recognized his relative in one of Stein’s photographs.

Idris Abdurusul bagging textile fragments at looted grave, Niya, November 2011.
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John Falconer at Karadong. November 2011.
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Matkasim Tomur examining human skull at looted grave, Niya, Rachel Roberts filming, November 2011.
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Rachel Roberts and Susan Whitfield filming at ruin 93A4., Niya, November 2011
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Niya, group at N.XVII. Hu Xinjiang and Rachel Roberts in foreground. Background, left to right, Vic Swift, Susan Whitfield, Matkasim Tomur, Kaysar Mahmut and Anwar Abulkasim, November 2011.
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Niya, farmstead N.VIII., Hu Xingjun with wooden board, November 2011.
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Stein surveying with plane table at Yaka-yardang-bulak, March 1915.
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Niya, farmstead N.XXXIX. in course of excavation, December 1913.
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Carpenters preparing packing cratesfor excavated artefacts in Narbagh, Khotan, June 1908.
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Lal Singh taking midday observation at Altmish-bulak, February 1914.
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Karadong camp, camel men at lunch, November 2011.
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Nijat Rozi cooking at Karadong, November 2011.
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Setting up Niya camp, November 2011.
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Kaysar Mahmut and Susan Whitfield in camp at Niya. November 2011.
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Solar travel chargers. November 2011.
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Susan Whitfield, Kaysar Mahmut, Hu Xingjun and driver in camp at Niya, November 2011.
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Sleeping bunker at Niya. November 2011.
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Camels drinking on journey from Karadong to Daheyan, November 2011.
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Camp inside the walls at Shorchuk, with shrubs covered by frost, December 1907.
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Tents at Mohand Marg with Sohrab, August 1930.
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Camels drinking at Saicheke with Hassan Akhun, March 1915.
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Stein's tent and Akhun Beg in his garden in Khotan on his return from Mecca, April 1908.
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Beside the camp fire at Karadong , November 2011.
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Karadong camp at night, November 2011.
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Camels resting at Karadong after journey from Daheyan, November 2011.
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Niya camp at sunset, November 2011.
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Idris Abdurusul beside the camp fire at Karadong, November 2011.
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Nijat Roza beside the camp fire at Karadong, November 2011.
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Camel man beside the camp fire at Karadong, November 2011.
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Kirghiz at Gumbaz Camp, May 1906.
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Afrazgul khan's medicine stall, July 1914.
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Mongol encampment above Khazangol, August 1907.
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Stein at his camp at Borgasu, Etsingol, May 1914.
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