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The Silk Road: Key Papers (2 Vols)

Part I: The Pre-Islamic Period

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Edited by Valerie Hansen

This is the first of two collections by top scholars working on the history of the Silk Road. This collection’s main focus is the first millennium CE when the Silk Road trade was at its height. Most of the entries are organized chronologically and geographically, concentrating on the sites (like Niya and Loulan) which flourished in the third and fourth centuries, then Turfan and Samarkand (500-800), and closes with the period after 800, when Tang China withdrew its troops from the region and the local peoples reverted to a largely barter economy. Coverage ends in 1000, when the first cities on the western edge of the Taklamakan converted to Islam. Introductory texts provide general overviews of the trade (including classic pre- and post-war studies), followed by a brief survey of the ancient trade routes. Of particular interest in this collection are the Silk Road’s most famous group of travellers, the Sogdians, a people from the region of Samarkand (in today's Uzbekistan) thanks to Chinese archaeologists who have recently uncovered several tombs that allow us to see how the Sogdians gradually adjusted to Chinese culture, decorating their tombs with detailed scenes of everyday life.