Tag Archives: Silk Road

Iran, the Silk Road and Political Economy in Late Antiquity

Payne, Richard. 2018. The Silk Road and the Iranian political economy in late antiquity: Iran, the Silk Road, and the problem of aristocratic empire. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 81(2). 227–250.

The Iranian Empire emerged in the third century in the interstices of the Silk Road that increasingly linked the markets of the Mediterranean and the Near East with South, Central, and East Asia. The ensuing four centuries of Iranian rule corresponded with the heyday of trans-Eurasian trade, as the demand of moneyed imperial elites across the continent for one another’s high-value commodities stimulated the development of long-distance networks. Despite its position at the nexus of trans-continental and trans-oceanic commerce, accounts of Iran in late antiquity relegate trade to a marginal role in its political economy. The present article seeks to foreground the contribution of trans-continental mercantile networks to the formation of Iran and to argue that its development depended as much on the political economies of its western and eastern neighbours as on internal Near Eastern factors.

Also available from the author’s Academia page.

Empires of Ancient Eurasia

Benjamin, Craig. 2018. Empires of ancient Eurasia: The first Silk Roads era, 100 BCE – 250 CE (New Approaches to Asian History). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Silk Roads are the symbol of the interconnectedness of ancient Eurasian civilizations. Using challenging land and maritime routes, merchants and adventurers, diplomats and missionaries, sailors and soldiers, and camels, horses and ships, carried their commodities, ideas, languages and pathogens enormous distances across Eurasia. The result was an underlying unity that traveled the length of the routes, and which is preserved to this day, expressed in common technologies, artistic styles, cultures and religions, and even disease and immunity patterns. In words and images, Craig Benjamin explores the processes that allowed for the comingling of so many goods, ideas, and diseases around a geographical hub deep in central Eurasia. He argues that the first Silk Roads era was the catalyst for an extraordinary increase in the complexity of human relationships and collective learning, a complexity that helped drive our species inexorably along a path towards modernity.

About the author: Craig Benjamin is Professor of History at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He is the author of several books and numerous chapters and articles on ancient history, including Volume 4 of The Cambridge History of the World (Cambridge, 2015). Craig has filmed programs and courses for the History Channel and The Great Courses. He is a Past President of the World History Association and Vice President of the International Big History Association.

Silk, Slaves, and Stupas

Whitfield, Susan. 2018. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas: Material Culture of the Silk Road. University of California Press.

Following her bestselling Life Along the Silk Road, Susan Whitfield widens her exploration of the great cultural highway with a new captivating portrait focusing on material things. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas tells the stories of ten very different objects, considering their interaction with the peoples and cultures of the Silk Road—those who made them, carried them, received them, used them, sold them, worshipped them, and, in more recent times, bought them, conserved them, and curated them. From a delicate pair of earrings from a steppe tomb to a massive stupa deep in Central Asia, a hoard of Kushan coins stored in an Ethiopian monastery to a Hellenistic glass bowl from a southern Chinese tomb, and a fragment of Byzantine silk wrapping the bones of a French saint to a Bactrian ewer depicting episodes from the Trojan War, these objects show us something of the cultural diversity and interaction along these trading routes of Afro-Eurasia.

Exploring the labor, tools, materials, and rituals behind these various objects, Whitfield infuses her narrative with delightful details as the objects journey through time, space, and meaning. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas is a lively, visual, and tangible way to understand the Silk Road and the cultural, economic, and technical changes of the late antique and medieval worlds.

Continue reading Silk, Slaves, and Stupas

Silk, Slaves, and Stupas

Whitfield, Susan. 2018. Silk, slaves, and stupas: Material culture of the Silk Road. Oakland, California: University of California Press.

Following her bestselling Life Along the Silk Road, Susan Whitfield widens her exploration of the great cultural highway with a new captivating portrait focusing on material things. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas tells the stories of ten very different objects, considering their interaction with the peoples and cultures of the Silk Road—those who made them, carried them, received them, used them, sold them, worshipped them, and, in more recent times, bought them, conserved them, and curated them. From a delicate pair of earrings from a steppe tomb to a massive stupa deep in Central Asia, a hoard of Kushan coins stored in an Ethiopian monastery to a Hellenistic glass bowl from a southern Chinese tomb, and a fragment of Byzantine silk wrapping the bones of a French saint to a Bactrian ewer depicting episodes from the Trojan War, these objects show us something of the cultural diversity and interaction along these trading routes of Afro-Eurasia.

Susan Whitfield, author of Life Along the Silk Road, is a scholar, curator, writer, and traveler who has been exploring the history, art, religions, cultures, objects, exploration, and people of the Silk Road for the past three decades.

Between Rome and China

Lieu, Samuel & G. Mikkelsen (eds.). 2016. Between Rome and China: History, religions and material culture of the Silk Road (Silk Road Studies 18). Brepols Publishers.

This book contains a key study on sericulture as well as on the conduct of the trade in silk between China and the Roman Near East using archaeological and literary evidence.
The eight studies in this volume by established and emerging scholars range geographically and chronologically from the Greek Kingdom of Bactria of the 2nd century BCE to the Uighur Kingdoms of Karabalgasun in Mongolia and Qočo in Xinjiang of the 8th-9th centuries CE. It contains a key study on sericulture as well on the conduct of the trade in silk between China and the Roman Near East using archaeological as well as literary evidence. Other topics covered include Sogdian religious art, the role of Manichaeism as a Silk Road religion par excellence, the enigmatic names for the Roman Empire in Chinese sources and a multi-lingual gazetteer of place- and ethnic names in Pre-Islamic Central Asia which will be an essential reference tool for researchers. The volume also contains an author and title index to all the Silk Road Studies volumes published up to 2014. The broad ranging theme covered by this volume should appeal to a wider public fascinated by the history of the Silk Road and wishing to be informed of the latest state of research. Because of the centrality of the topics covered by this study, the volume could serve as a basic reading text for university courses on the history of the Silk Road.

Source: Between Rome and China: History, Religions and Material Culture of the Silk Road

Memory and Commemoration in Islamic Central Asia

LUCIS 7th Annual Conference: Memory and Commemoration in Islamic Central Asia

Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society

d1180x250The seventh annual conference of LUCIS focuses on Islamic Central Asia, both from a historical and contemporary perspective. Central Asia today is often regarded as a periphery of the Islamic world, but this region with its fluid borders, stretching into present-day Afghanistan, Russia, China, Mongolia, Iran and the Caucasus, has been for a long period the cradle of empires that ruled over large parts of the globe.

Central Asia in the past has been at the heart of the trade network known as the Silk Road, a premodern highway of global interaction. The idea of a New Silk Road today demonstrates Central Asia’s increasing importance as a centre stage of geopolitical interests. Comprehending the complex history of Central Asia by taking into account its dynastic and regional historiographies and more recent nationalistic narratives is crucial for perceiving the current dynamics of this vast region.

Analysing commemorative practices across Central Asia may provide a prolific framework to outline the complexity of its group identities, in modern times often constructed as nationalistic narratives. In this conference we propose to focus on the notion of memory and commemoration in Central Asia from past and present perspectives, in a broad sense, in order to shed light on the complexities of this fascinating and understudied region.

Themes

Rather than focusing on a single period, medium or language of commemorative practices, the conference will take a comparative and connective perspective. Questions that may be addressed include:

  • Narratives: How does literary and artistic production reflect imperial ideology and commemorative culture? How were dynastic members commemorated and rehabilitated? How were genealogies concocted and manipulated in order to commemorate the ancestral origins? How were important events commemorated?
  • Sites:  How were visions of kingship articulated in commemorative dynastic shrines and landscapes across Central Asia? How did religiously diverse commemorative practices contribute to the development of a distinct royal visual morphology? How were urban centres transformed through the diverse visual lexicon of local Islamic cult activities? How are historical shrines and cults commemorated in the present?
  • Religions:  How was commemorative culture influenced by orthodox Islam and Sufism? What was the impact of these complex theological interactions on the intellectual life and artistic production throughout Central Asia? How are religious commemorative practices used in contemporary nationalistic discourses?

The themes of the conference are broad on purpose, as we wish to welcome speakers from different disciplines and backgrounds.

Please find the full programme of the LUCIS annual conference here.

History of Sogdian Merchants

histoire-des-marchands-sogdiens-9782857570608_0de la Vaissière, Etienne. 2016. Histoire des marchands sogdiens. Troisième édition révisée. (Institut des hautes études chinoises (Collège de France) 32).
The Sogdian Traders were the main go-between of Central Asia from the fifth to the eighth century. From their towns of Samarkand, Bukhara, or Tashkent, their diaspora is attested by texts, inscriptions or archaeology in all the major countries of Asia (India, China, Iran, Turkish Steppe, but also Byzantium). This survey for the first time brings together all the data on their trade, from the beginning, a small-scale trade in the first century BC up to its end in the tenth century. It should interest all the specialists of Ancient and Medieval Asia (including specialists of Sinology, Islamic Studies, Iranology, Turkology and Indology) but also specialists of Medieval Economic History.
This volume is the third revised edition of the orginal published in 2002 and translated into english in 2005 by James Ward.
Étienne de la Vaissière (PhD 1999) in History, is Assistant Professor at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris. His courses and research are devoted to the economic and social history of medieval Central Asia.

Cultural Transfer along the Silk Road

Espagne, Michel, Svetlana Gorshenina, Frantz Grenet, Sahin Mustafayev & Claude Rapin (eds.). 2016. Asie centrale: transferts culturels le long de la route de la soie. Paris: Vendémiaire.
This collection of essays is the result of the International Symposium “Cultural Transfers in Central Asia: before, during and after the Silk Road” (Conference Program), held in Samarkand on 12–14 September 2013. Expanding the original Eurocentric orientation in a broad chronological and interdisciplinary perspective and involving new materials, the participants have attempted to test the methodological approach of the “cultural transfers” and the effectiveness of their basic concepts (ways of travel, guides, translators, innovation, assimilation of “new” assignments, semantic shifts, etc.) in the Central Asian context. In these studies Central Asia includes mainly the post-Soviet space and its Central Asian neighbors like Siberia, Xinjiang, Afghanistan, Iran and Azerbaijan. The purpose of the collection is to determine the significance of the theory of the “cultural transfers” and, if possible, the range of its applications.

Summer school in the Turfanforschung: Sogdians and Turks on the Silk Road

Manichaean priests writing Sogdian manuscripts, in Khocho, Tarim Basin, ca. 8th/9th century AD
Manichaean priests writing Sogdian manuscripts, in Khocho, Tarim Basin, ca. 8th/9th century AD

Summer school in the Turfanforschung:

“Sogdians and Turks on the Silk Road”

August 22 – September 2, 2016

Duration: two weeks, daily four seminars each 90 min.
Location: Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

 

 

A detailed programme is available here: “Sogdians and Turks on the Silk Road” Summer School”

Participation is free.

The Turfanforschung (Turfan Studies) at the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities offers in 2016 a summer school providing an introduction to the field of Turfan Studies, which deals with the many languages and scripts used along the Silk Road as well as the histories and cultures of those who used them. The summer school will center around the two main languages of Turfan research. Sogdian, a middle Iranian language, was widely used as a lingua franca in Central Asia since the 1st c. A.C. Old Turkic was the language of Turkic nomads which had a strong influence on the Silk Road since the middle of the 6th c. After the migration of the Uyghurs it was also used as the main language in the Turfan area under Uyghur rule until 14th c.

The courses in this summer school will be given by the staff of the Turfanforschung and the Katalogisierung der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland (Arbeitsstelle Berlin): A. Benkato, D. Durkin-Meisterernst, Y. Kasai, S.- Ch. Raschmann, C. Reck, A. Yakup. There will also be guest lectures by I. Colditz, M. Peyrot and L. Sander.

Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Jägerstraße 22-23,
10117 Berlin

Topics:
1. Scripts

  • Sogdian script
  • Uyghur script
  • Turkic Runic
  • Nestorian script
  • Manichaean script
  • Brāhmī script

2. Language: Old Turkic

  • language course with reading
  • lecture for linguistics

3. Language: Sogdian

  • language course with reading
  • lecture for linguistics

4. Language: Tocharian

5. Turfan studies

  • history of the Turfan expeditions
  • Central Asian book culture
  • history
  • religions
  • research history

Because a minimum number of participants are required for the summer school to take place, we ask for a binding registration by 20th May 2016 at rabuske@bbaw.de or in writing at: Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften AV Turfanforschung, Jägerstraße 22-23, D-10117, Berlin.

 

 

New issue of the Silk Road

The latest issue of The Silk Road features a number of articles relevant to Iranian Studies. The full journal and individual articles can be accessed online:

The Silk Road, vol. 13, 2015.