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Before the Silk Road: tracing the earliest East West contacts

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The idea of a route of trade and exchange linking the Han Empire with Classical Europe has been a fertile one for archaeologists across the Old World. Chinese silk is well attested in the Roman Empire, and Hellenistic influences are traced in Chinese artifacts. Technological analysis of bronze metalwork has pushed those contacts back into the 2nd millennium BC. Now a series of more elusive traces is pushing the dates of contact back further still, by centuries and in some cases, millennia.

Those earliest of contacts involved materially poor farmers, and so cannot be traced by rich graves and material wealth. We have been using a range of bio-archaeological approaches to trace and understand those earliest contacts, that laid the foundation for the more visible trading routes of the late prehistoric and historic periods.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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