A Prehistoric Maritime Silk Road: Merchants, Boats, Cloth and Jade

Judith Cameron

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    It would be difficult to overstate the significance of the eponymous Silk Road in the transmission of commodities, people and ideas in the first millennium. Yet although the overland trade route was established during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), it is not widely known that silk was actually transported beyond Chinese borders long be­forehand. As archaeologists know, the trade routes of the historical period are not infre­quently based on prehistoric trade routes, reconstructed by sourcing materials excavated from dated archaeological sites. Because textiles in general, particularly silks, do not gen­erally survive in the archaeological record, by necessity, reconstructions are usually based on durable materials like pottery. Chinese archaeologists, such as Han Jianye .f+}t 1t-, recently demonstrated this by identifying a series of inter-connected prehistoric trade routes called the Painted Pottery Road linking China to the West, thereby establishing inter­regional interaction along the Silk Road millennia earlier than the historical period. 1 Though the concept of a prehistoric trade route linking the East and West was initially proposed almost a century ago to explain parallels between Yangshao 1tr -ifg pottery from the Yellow River and J\IIediterranean pottery/ the Painted Pottety Road is based on new, earlier archaeological data and is far more extensive.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationBeyond the Silk Roads: New Discourses on China's Role in East Asian Maritime History
    EditorsRobert J. Antony & Angela Schottenhammer
    Place of PublicationWisbaden
    PublisherOtto Harrassowitz Wiesbaden
    ISBN (Print)9783447109444
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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