Silk Road

The Silk Road was a complex system of trade routes that connected China in the east with the Mediterranean in the West. The trade routes were active for hundreds of years, beginning around 200 BCE and continuing through the 7th century CE. During this time, merchants and traders traveled the long distances, on foot and in camel caravans, carrying valuable goods to trade or sell to local inhabitants or other travelers. The good traded varied from fine textiles, such as silks and brocades, to precious metals and stones, medicine, glass, and paper. Not merely a conduit for material goods; ideas, inventions and religions also traveled and spread via the Silk Road.

Although it is most commonly known as the Silk Road, it was actually a network of many different routes that linked east and west. Travelers had to pass through harsh landscapes before resting at oasis towns along their way. Many of these oasis settlements were located in Central Asia’s Tarim Basin. The towns thrived by providing provisions and shelter to travelers. These merchants, missionaries, and pilgrims spread knowledge, technology, religion, music, culture, and even genetics as they did business. The many cultures influenced the people of the Tarim Basin, bringing sweeping changes to religion, language, and customs.

3 Responses to Silk Road

  1. J. K. says:

    For my own learning (retired), can you recommend a book or website that has for its subject the Silk Road from an anthropological perspective?
    I have only read the Museum of Natural History illustrated book on the subject, and a few classic old travel books (e.g. Isabella Bird et al) with their quirky interpretations. When I majored in cultural anthropology a million years ago I was particularly interested in culture contact/change.
    Thanks for your assistance.

    • jeremy says:

      Hello JK – sorry that your comment and the response are coming so late after you submitted it. As far as recent anthropological perspectives… Central Asia is still (comparatively) an understudied region. There are some books that cover typical anthropological topics (such as traditions, believes, customs, kinship) as well as more contemporary questions. One such anthology is Everyday Life in Central Asia edited by Jeff Sahadeo and Russell Zanca. Also, a solidly good work on religion and history in the region is The New Central Asia by Olivier Roy. There are a lot of focused anthropological articles in the academic press on topics in Central Asia, as well as a host of books on the archaeology of the region. If there’s something more specific that you are looking for, don’t hesitate to respond and I will try to help.

  2. jeremy
    what a fascinating life journey into central asia
    i was looking to find gardens along the silk route both its east west and north south corridors, and came upon your blog…do you have any suggestions for sites/books/resources in general from where i can glean on the subject from this anthropological perspective except via horticulture and the aesthetics of land. i hope you are still reading your blog:-)

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