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Reconfiguring the Silk Road

Reconfiguring the Silk Road: New Research on East-West Exchange in Antiquity

Victor H. Mair
Jane Hickman
Foreword by Colin Renfrew
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 136
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  • Book Info
    Reconfiguring the Silk Road
    Book Description:

    From the Bronze Age through the Middle Ages, a network of trade and migration routes brought people from across Eurasia into contact. Their commerce included political, social, and artistic ideas, as well as material goods such as metals and textiles.Reconfiguring the Silk Roadoffers new research on the earliest trade and cultural interactions along these routes, mapping the spread and influence of Silk Road economies and social structures over time. This volume features contributions by renowned scholars uncovering new discoveries related to populations that lived in the Tarim Basin, the advanced state of textile manufacturing in the region, and the diffusion of domesticated grains across Inner Asia. Other chapters include an analysis of the dispersal of languages across the Eurasian Steppe and a detailed examination of the domestication of the horse in the region. Contextualized with a foreword by Colin Renfrew and introduction by Victor Mair,Reconfiguring the Silk Roadprovides a new assessment of the intercultural evolution along the steppes and beyond.

    Contributors:David W. Anthony, Elizabeth Wayland Barber, Dorcas R. Brown, Peter Brown, Michael D. Frachetti, Jane Hickman, Philip L. Kohl, Victor H. Mair, J. P. Mallory, Joseph G. Manning, Colin Renfrew.

    eISBN: 978-1-934536-69-8
    Subjects: Archaeology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. FOREWORD: The Silk Roads before Silk
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Colin Renfrew

    The routes and highways that linked East with West, the Silk Roads, carried with them an allure of romance, attractive both for the world of China and for those of Greece, Rome, and Byzantium, which these highways brought together. They have fascinated travelers, from Strabo and Zhang Qian to Marco Polo and on to Aurel Stein. For us today they are brought to vivid life again by the tangible material reality of the wonderfully preserved finds which the archaeologists of Xinjiang have brought to light in recent years. Many of these were seen in the exhibitionSecrets of the Silk...

  6. INTRODUCTION: Reconceptualizing the Silk Roads
    (pp. 1-4)
    Victor H. Mair

    The chapters in this volume were originally presented as papers at the symposium entitled “Reconfiguring the Silk Road: New Research on East-West Exchange in Antiquity” (March 19, 2011) at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in conjunction with a major exhibition,Secrets of the Silk Road(February 5–June 5, 2011). The purpose of the symposium, as the title indicates, was to reassess the trans-Eurasian trade and migration routes that arose in the Bronze Age and even earlier, and continued up through the medieval period and, in a greatly diminished state, to the 20th century.

    It is...

  7. 1 AT THE LIMITS: Long-Distance Trade in the Time of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Kings
    (pp. 5-14)
    J.G. Manning

    The origin of the Silk Road, perhaps more accurately described as the Silk Routes, or more broadly as interregional Eurasian trade, has often been discussed in relation to exchange between two great empires, namely the Roman and Han, the termini of the routes, as one recent monograph about Silk Road history emphasizes (Liu 2010). It has in times past evoked an east-west orientation to exchange, one that was conducted overland and over long distances along a single trunk road. Such a simple understanding of the Silk Road, driven in large part by the specific survival of textual evidence and from...

    (pp. 15-22)
    Peter Brown

    The Silk Road has long been known as a place of mirages. There are two academic mirages that account, in large part, for the fascination which the Silk Road holds, both for scholars and for the general public.

    Largely as a result of the spectacular discoveries of manuscripts and artifacts in the deserts of Xinjiang, at the very beginning of the 20th century, the Silk Road has been associated with a remarkable eastward expansion of forms of art and religion whose origins lay in the long familiar world of Greece and Rome. To talk about “The Silk Road in Late...

  9. 3 THE NORTHERN CEMETERY: Epigone or Progenitor of Small River Cemetery No. 5?
    (pp. 23-32)
    Victor H. Mair

    Although it was only excavated in 2002–2005, Small River Cemetery No. 5 (also called Xiaohe Mudi and Ördek’s Necropolis; SRC5) is already well known, both to archaeologists and to the general public (Fig. 3.1). A clearly related site, called simply the Northern Cemetery (Beifang Mudi in Chinese; Ayala Mazar in Uyghur), has been discovered even more recently approximately 600 km to the southwest. The resemblances to SRC5 are so close and so numerous that there can be no mistaking their consanguinity. The puzzle that remains to be solved, however, is how these two closely related sites, which are so...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 33-40)
    Elizabeth Wayland Barber

    The remarkable geological conditions that preserve organic materials in the Tarim Basin have made the area a goldmine for textile history. Mere photographs of ancient cloth usually fail to reveal much that can be deduced from the objects themselves. But the arrival of a handsome group of these textiles at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, in 2010, enabled me to discover that the fabrics were actually far more remarkable than stated in the exhibition catalog, and to piece together something more of early Eurasian textile history.¹ But let us start at the beginning.

    Sheep were domesticated in the...

  12. 5 SEEDS FOR THE SOUL: Ideology and Diffusion of Domesticated Grains across Inner Asia
    (pp. 41-54)
    Michael D. Frachetti

    Well-known cradles of ancient civilization are associated most commonly with urban architecture, agricultural surplus, centralized and hierarchical rulership, writing, and extensive access to trade in commodities and luxury goods (Trigger 2003). The best documented archaeological examples include the Bronze Age societies of the Aegean, Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China. Lying between these major centers of innovation is the rugged territory of Central Eurasia (here Inner Asia), defined geographically by high mountain chains, vast steppes, and formidable deserts (Fig. 5.1, see color insert). Perhaps as a result of its extreme environmental setting and its (historically) diversified societies, few have...

    (pp. 55-72)
    David W. Anthony and Dorcas R. Brown

    Historians and archaeologists agree that horseback riding changed the way that the world went to war. The role of horseback riding in determining and enabling pastoral economies and herding practices, which might have been its earliest important effect in the Eurasian steppes, is less often mentioned. In this chapter we will briefly consider the effect of horseback riding on warfare; then we discuss the current evidence relating to the time and place where horse domestication occurred, which might have been as early as 4500 BC; we review the role of the horse in the development of Bronze Age pastoralism in...

    (pp. 73-88)
    J.P. Mallory

    The Eurasian steppe not only provided a conduit between two distant cultural worlds, it also served as a major corridor for the dispersal of languages. Within the historical period the languages are generally encountered moving from east to west as they were carried by such peoples as the Sarmatians (Iranian), Huns, Turks, and Avars (Altaic) or Magyars (Uralic). This succession of languages, spread by mobile societies across the Eurasian steppe, has been described as a linguistic “spread zone” (Nichols 1997, 1998). But the presence of Indo-European languages in both Europe and in the Tarim Basin suggests that there was an...

  15. 8 CONCLUDING COMMENTS: Reconfiguring the Silk Road, or When Does the Silk Road Emerge and How Does It Qualitatively Change over Time?
    (pp. 89-94)
    Philip L. Kohl

    I want to begin my brief concluding comments on the Silk Road with two quotes. Recently, Daniel Waugh very nicely summarized the conventional scholarly perspective on the “The Silk Roads (n.b. the plural, as inSeidenstrassen) in History” that appeared in a recent issue ofExpedition(2010): “The history of the Silk Roads is a narrative about movement, resettlement, and interactions across ill-defined borders…it is also the story of artistic exchange and the spread and mixing of religions, all set against the background of the rise and fall of polities which encompassed a wide range of cultures and peoples, about...

  16. INDEX
    (pp. 95-104)