Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Traces of the ancient Silk Road.

In Tang times, nobody spoke of the Silk Road. It was a nineteenth-century term, coined by the German geographer Freidrich von Richtofen, and it was not a single road at all, but a shifting fretwork of arteries and veins, laid to the Mediterranean. Historians claim its inception for the second century BC, but the traffic started long before accounts of it were written. Chinese silk from 1500 BC has turned up in tombs in north Afghanistan, and strands were discovered twisted into the hair of a tenth-century BC Egyptian mummy. Four centuries later, silk found its way into a princely grave of Iron Age Germany, and appears enframed -- a panel of sudden radiance -- in the horse-blanket of a Scythian chief, exacted as tribute or traded for furs twenty-four centuries ago.
Colin Thubron, Shadow Of The Silk Road 24 (HarperCollins, 2007).

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