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The Prehistory of the Silk Road

The Prehistory of the Silk Road

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The Prehistory of the Silk Road
    Book Description:

    In ancient and medieval times, the Silk Road was of great importance to the transport of peoples, goods, and ideas between the East and the West. A vast network of trade routes, it connected the diverse geographies and populations of China, the Eurasian Steppe, Central Asia, India, Western Asia, and Europe. Although its main use was for importing silk from China, traders moving in the opposite direction carried to China jewelry, glassware, and other exotic goods from the Mediterranean, jade from Khotan, and horses and furs from the nomads of the Steppe. In both directions, technology and ideologies were transmitted. The Silk Road brought together the achievements of the different peoples of Eurasia to advance the Old World as a whole.

    The majority of the Silk Road routes passed through the Eurasian Steppe, whose nomadic people were participants and mediators in its economic and cultural exchanges. Until now, the origins of these routes and relationships have not been examined in great detail. InThe Prehistory of the Silk Road, E. E. Kuzmina, renowned Russian archaeologist, looks at the history of this crucial area before the formal establishment of Silk Road trade and diplomacy. From the late Neolithic period to the early Bronze Age, Kuzmina traces the evolution of the material culture of the Steppe and the contact between civilizations that proved critical to the development of the widespread trade that would follow, including nomadic migrations, the domestication and use of the horse and the camel, and the spread of wheeled transport.

    The Prehistory of the Silk Roadcombines detailed research in archaeology with evidence from physical anthropology, linguistics, and other fields, incorporating both primary and secondary sources from a range of languages, including a vast accumulation of Russian-language scholarship largely untapped in the West. The book is complemented by an extensive bibliography that will be of great use to scholars.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9233-6
    Subjects: Archaeology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editor’s Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)

    Elena Kuzmina’sThe Prehistory of the Silk Roadis a major accomplishment, and I am proud to have had a hand in making it a reality. There is, of course, tremendous interest in the Silk Road, but we have had to wait for this volume by Dr. Kuzmina to describe and analyze the preconditions that led to its establishment. The story she tells is a fascinating one that encompasses nearly the whole of Eurasia in Bronze Age and Early Iron Age times.

    Having met Elena Kuzmina at several conferences in the United States and Kazakhstan during the mid-1990s, I had...

  4. A Note on Transcription
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    Recent years have seen a great increase in public interest in the remote past of Central Asia. The contribution made by the ancient peoples of that vast region to the history of civilization throughout the world is now widely recognized.¹

    One of the major phenomena in the history of the Old World is the Great Silk Road, in ancient times and in the Middle Ages the trade route between China, the Eurasian Steppe, Central Asia, India, Western Asia, and Europe, which then went on to the Byzantine Empire, Venice, and beyond (Map 1). The Road was used for transporting silk...

  6. Chapter 1 The Dynamics of the Eurasian Steppe Ecology
    (pp. 8-17)

    The role of the environment in the history of human communities was evaluated even in ancient times: Hippocrates (c. 460-c. 370 B.C.), in his tractOn Air, Waters, and Places,advanced an idea about the influence of geographical factors and climate on the human physical constitution and personality and on human social systems. The French Encyclopedist Montesquieu, regarded as the founder of the Geographic School, held that landscape, soil, and climate determined the spirit of a people and the character of their social development. The French sociologists of the Geographic School contributed a great deal to the substantiation of the...

  7. Chapter 2 Economic Developments in the Ponto-Caspian Steppe
    (pp. 18-38)

    The decisive turning point in the history of mankind and its adaptation to natural conditions was the transition from an extractive (foraging and collecting) to a productive economy, called by V. Gordon Childe the Neolithic Revolution. According to most scholars, this transition came about as a result of a combination of interrelated factors, both natural and human-induced: climatic change, population growth, and the extinction of certain species of animals and plants overexploited by man, leading to the reduction of food resources. This food crisis brought about a new food-producing economy that originated in Western Asia, particularly in Anatolia. From this...

  8. Chapter 3 The Eurasian Steppe In the Bronze Age
    (pp. 39-70)

    According to the paleogeographical data (Lavrushin, Spiridonova 1995a, b), the Subboreal period, which had started in the mid-third millennium B.C. and was marked, as already mentioned, by an abrupt cooling of the climate, at the turn of the third-second millennium B.C. gave way to a new temperature rise. Some researchers believe this caused the rise in moisture and humidity in the climate and subsequent change of the natural zones. In the second quarter of the second millennium B.C., the climatic conditions resulted in the development of the grass multiherbaceous Steppe and the spread of forested areas in which, alongside the...

  9. Chapter 4 Archaeological Cultures of Southern Central Asia
    (pp. 71-87)

    The vast territory of Central Asia is surprisingly diversified in its climate and landscape (deserts, dry Steppe, foothills, mountainous areas, fertile oases), which has meant that there have been great variations in the pace and course of the cultural development of different parts of Central Asia.

    In the extreme south, in Turkmenistan, beginning in the fifth millennium B.C., the development of the most ancient farming culture of the former Soviet Union was already under way. This was the Anau, which belonged to the circle of highly developed cultures of the ancient East.

    Groups of hunters and fishermen, who as far...

  10. Chapter 5 Relations Between Eastern and Western Central Asia
    (pp. 88-107)

    The interrelation of China with the Eurasian Steppe is of fundamental importance for understanding the emergence of civilization in China. Chinese archaeologists advocate the hypothesis that there was an autochthonous development of Chinese culture. However, most European and American researchers believe that the brilliant progress of the Chinese civilization in the Yin (Shang) period was premised on the appearance of three major innovations: wheeled transport, the horse, and metallurgy, which spread under the influence of the western impetus. This hypothesis was advanced by M. Loehr (1949b; 1956) and S. V. Kiselev (1960) and is supported today by many scholars (Lin...

  11. Chapter 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 108-114)

    As a result of the analysis performed here, several matters have been established.

    1. The functioning of certain sections of the future Silk Road, along which spreadpeople, objects,andideas,commenced at least as long ago as the latter half of the third millennium B.C. and considerably intensified in the second millennium B.C.

    2. We have identified the prevailing orientations of the cultural relations in different regions at different historical stages and the times at which the functioning of certain sections of the future Silk Road routes started and was most intense.

    3. We have determined the pivotal role...

  12. Appendix. Dating and Comparative Chronologies
    (pp. 115-128)
  13. Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. 129-202)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 203-206)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-242)
  16. Index
    (pp. 243-248)