Archeology and History of the Silk Road



Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Oldest crucible steel weapon in East Europe found by Russian archaeologists

Crucible steel sabre. Image: RAS Institute of Archaeology
From: Past Horizons/ Adventures in Archaeology/ April 20, 2015

Russian archaeologists conducting a routine examination of an old sabre unearthed seven years ago in the city of Yaroslavl say it represents the oldest crucible steel weapon found so far in East Europe.
It was highly unexpected and exciting find” said Dr. Asya Engovatova from the RAS Institute of Archaeology, who lead the research. “We were analysing a fragment of a sabre – which had already been in the Yaroslavl State Museum for seven years – and discovered it was a unique artefact.”

Mass grave site

The sabre was unearthed by Engovatova and her colleagues in 2007, at an excavation site in the historic centre of the city of Yaroslavl, alongside the Dormition Cathedral. The site is a mass grave of the city defenders and civilians slaughtered by Batu Khan’s invaders – on a single day 1238.
The site contains comprehensive evidence of the atrocity committed that day. We found numerous skeletons of murdered women and children, many household objects like dishes, jewellery, many weapons – and this sabre,” Engovatova said.

Crucible steel

The metallographic methods used in the analysis revealed that the sword has been made from crucible steel. The technology used to produce steel of this kind was first perfected in India, in the First Century AD. Artefacts crafted from such steel later begin to turn up in Central Asia. European sword-makers appear to have known nothing of this technology. The techniques for making crucible steel were later lost, and European steel-makers reinvented it only at the end of the XVIII century.
In the Middle Ages and thereafter, crucible steel was very expensive, and combined with great strength and ability to maintain a sharp blade, it was perfect warfare.
Scientists suggest that the “Yaroslavl Sabre” could have belonged to a very wealthy warrior from Batu Khan’s army.
Alan Williams, a well-known British expert on the ancient technologies of bladed weapons said that Central Asian crucible steel was used only for blades of German swords branded ULFBERHT, dating from the eighth and ninth centuries – and never for forging all-steel blades.
Microphotography image of microcracks in the metal. Image:  RAS Institute of Archaeology
Microphotography image of microcracks in the metal. Image: RAS Institute of Archaeology

Ritual damage

The intense interest surrounds not only the production methods for the blade, but how it came to be buried. The sabre was broken, its handle lost, and its blade bent. Analysis shows micro-cracks present in the blade – usually an indication that an object had been burned. Most likely the weapon was subjected to bending as ritual damage, for which the blade had to have been heated to a high temperature.
Currently, the sabre has been restored and returned to the Yaroslavl Museum, together with the entire collection of archaeological treasures found at the excavations.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Restoration Sogdian Hunting Scene and other projects in Hermitage/ St Petersburg

These two videos were prepared for the temporary exhibition from 29.10.2014- 1.3.2015 in the Hermitage in St Petersburg, called  "Restoration of the Hermitage. Looking through the Prism of Time" and introduces the work of one of the museum's restoration laboratories.

The first video is about the work restorers from The Laboratory of Scientific Restoration of monumental Painting and shows a.o. details of the restoration of the highly artistic wall painting- "Hunting Scene" (Sogdian Panjakent, 6th Century).

The second video is from  the Laboratory of Scientific Restoration of Oriental Paintings. This department always paid great attention to the collection of Buddhist tangkas and art from the ancient cities of Khara-Khoto, Turfan and Dunhuang. They include tangka ‘Vajravarahi’ (Central Asia, Khara-Khoto, 14th century), the Buddhist tangka ‘White Tara’ (Tibet, 17th century). Experts faced complicated tasks when working on the screen ‘Minamoto-no Yorimitsu with Vassals Returning to Capital After Victory over Demons’ (by artist Kano Kosyun, Japan, 17th century), a Chinese roll from the 17th century – ‘Mountain Landscape’ – and ‘Calendar-Palalintangan’, one of the exhibits from the Hermitage collection of glue painting from the island of Bali. 

The soothing music is from J.S> Bach: "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639" and is played on piano by Alfred Brendel

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Discoveries offer fresh look at Silk Road History

China by Wang Kalhao   14 April 2015

Archeological site at Dazhuangke relic of the Liao Dynasty (916-1125) in Beijing's Yanqing county is one of the Top 10 archeological discoveries in China in 2014. [Photo/China Daily]

Recent archeological discoveries in China may lead to fresh look at Silk Road history. Wang Kaihao reports.

Many archaeological discoveries in China last year have shed a new light on the history of the Silk Road and have the potential to trigger the rewriting of textbooks.

Hundreds of years ago, Chinese traders used overland and marine routes to trade silk and porcelain. In 2014, the discovery of a major porcelain kiln in coastal Zhejiang province's Shangyu city suggested the Maritime Silk Road, which is generally considered to have reached its peak during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), could actually have developed earlier- in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220). Liu Qingzhu, academic director for the Institute of Archeology, affiliated to think-tank Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is among the experts who believe this was the case.

The Shangyu site is on the 2014 Top 10 archeological discoveries' list that was unveiled by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage last week in Beijing. "The world has talked about Chinese porcelain for centuries, but where was it born?

Discovery of the celadon kiln offers important clues," Liu tells China Daily. "It could be a possible origin for China's mature ceramics industry."

Since 1990, China Cultural Relics News, an arm of the above administration, has organised an annual poll, dubbed by media as "the Academy Awards of Chinese archeology".

 Last year, 25 items of archeological importance entered the final round of appraisal after months of selection processes that involved a 21-member panel of experts, including Liu, and public surveys. The Top 10 list was then compiled.

Gold cup with sacred animals [Photo provided to China Daily]

In the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, a Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534) tomb that was discovered last year also provided hints of a "grassland Silk Road", a scholastic term to describe the frequent exchanges among different civilizations along the trade route across the Mongolian grasslands and the Gobi Desert.

That dynasty was made of the nomadic Xianbei people, who according to scholars encouraged free mixing among different ethnic groups at the time. Articles including glass vessels from the Roman Empire, religious artifacts from Central Asia and silverware from West Asia, were found among the relics.

"It reflects the inclusive nature of Chinese civilization," Liu says, adding that it is among the most important archeological findings in China's northern borders in recent times.

The discovery of a tomb complex in Ngari in the Tibet autonomous region, unveiled the previously unknown ancient state of Xiangxiong, thought to have existed during the Han Dynasty. "Surprisingly, the cultural relics unearthed in the tombs are more from Central Asia than from adjacent India," Liu says, adding that it opened more possibilities for Silk Road linkages.

"Some voids in historical studies of Tibet are also filled," he says. The Silk Road remains a hot topic for public discussion in today's China, where government efforts are being made to establish closer cooperation with countries along the ancient routes.

Another tomb complex found in Zunyi, Guizhou province, seemed to show it belonged to a tribal chieftain's family from the Bozhou regime. "The relics are uncommonly well-preserved," says Wang Wei, director of Archeological Society of China. "Technically advanced methods in labs are also used during the research. It allows archeologists to scrutinize details, which can sometimes be missed outdoors."

Wang, also a member of the judging panel, adds that with the discoveries a new trend in Chinese archeology is emerging. Previously, the country's archeologists tended to neglect relics after the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

Gold earrring [Photo provided to China Daily] "

We even once considered that there was no top-level discovery in these relatively recent dynasties. However, as our research expands to more areas, this has proved to be wrong. Relatively new relics can be equally significant for their closer relations to today's customs and cultures in those areas," Wang says.

The Dazhuangke mining and metallurgy relics of the Liao Dynasty (916-1125) in Beijing's Yanqing county, provided important leads to the development of Chinese handicraft industry.

Interestingly, since 1991 and until this year, the Chinese capital hadn't been able to place any of its discoveries on the top list. A highly expected candidate from the Palace Museum-the discovery of constructional foundation of Ming imperial palaces-failed to make it to the Top 10.

"The project is still at an early stage. It's worthwhile to expect more discoveries and solid proofs," Wang says of the Beijing site.

Gold necklace [Photo provided to China Daily]

At a glance Top 10 list of new archeological discoveries in China in 2014 (chronological order):

1.Modaoshan and Nanjiang relics from the Paleolithic age, Yunan county, Guangdong province.

2. Dongzhao relics from the Xia Dynasty (21st-16th century BC), Zhengzhou, Henan province.

3. Guojiamiao ancient Zeng state tomb from the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), Zaoyang, Hubei province. 

4. Dabona Tomb from 2,500 to 2,000 years ago, Xiangyun county, Yunnan province.

5. Jinshan porcelain kiln relics from the Eastern Han (AD 25-220) to Western Jin Dynasty (AD 265-319), Shangyu, Zhejiang province.

6. Ancient Xiangxiong state tomb complex from approximately 1,700 years ago, Ngari prefecture, the Tibet autonomous region.

7. Ih Nuur tomb complex from the Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534), Zhengxiangbai banner, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

8. Huiluo and Liyang Granaries relics from the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618), Luoyang, Henan province.

9. Dazhuangke mining and metallurgy relics from the Liao Dynasty (916-1125), Yanqing county, Beijing. 

10. Tusi Yang's clan tomb complex relics from Song (960-1279) to Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Zunyi, Guizhou province.

Ancient Bronze Artifacts in Alaska Reveals Trade with Asia Before Columbus Arrival

Bronze artifacts discovered in a 1,000-year-old house in Alaska suggest trade was occurring between East Asia and the New World centuries before the voyages of Columbus.

Archaeologists found the artifacts at the "Rising Whale" site at Cape Espenberg.

"When you're looking at the site from a little ways away, it looks like a bowhead [whale] coming to the surface," said Owen Mason, a research associate at the University of Colorado, who is part of a team excavating the site.

The new discoveries, combined with other finds made over the past 100 years, suggest trade items and ideas were reaching Alaska from East Asian civilizations well before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean Sea in 1492 archaeologists said. [See Images of the New Discoveries at the Rising Whale Site]

"We're seeing the interactions, indirect as they are, with these so-called 'high civilizations' of China, Korea or Yakutia," a region in Russia, Mason said.

Bronze and obsidian

The Rising Whale discoveries include two bronze artifacts, one of which may have originally been used as a buckle or fastener. It has a piece of leather on it thatradiocarbondates to around A.D. 600 (more tests will take place in the future). The other bronze artifact may have been used as a whistle.

Bronze-working had not been developed at this time in Alaska, so archaeologists think the artifacts would have been manufactured in China, Korea or Yakutia, and made their way to Alaska through trade routes.

Also inside that house, researchers found the remains of obsidian artifacts, which have a chemical signature that indicates the obsidian is from the Anadyr River valley in Russia.

Trade routes

The recent discoveries at the Rising Whale site add to over a century of research that indicates trade routes connected the Bering Strait (including the Alaskan side) with the civilizations that flourished in East Asia before Columbus' time. [Top 5 Misconceptions About Columbus]

In 1913, anthropologist Berthold Laufer published an analysis of texts and artifacts in the journal T'oung Pao in which he found that the Chinese had a great interest in obtaining ivory from narwhals and walruses, acquiring it from people who lived to the northeast of China. Some of the walrus ivory may have come from the Bering Strait, where the animals are found in abundance.

Additionally, a number of researchers have noted similarities in design between the plate armor worn by people in Alaska and that worn in China, Korea, Japan and eastern Mongolia.

For instance, in the 1930s, Smithsonian Institution archaeologist Henry Collins undertook excavations at St. Lawrence Island, off the west coast of Alaska. In his book "The Archaeology of St. Lawrence Island" (Smithsonian, 1937), he wrote that plate armor started appearing on the island around 1,000 years ago. It consisted of overlapping plates made of ivory, bones and sometimes iron.

Plate armor similar to this was developed in several areas of East Asia, including Manchuria (in China), eastern Mongolia and Japan, Collins wrote. The use of plate armor, he said, spread north from these areas, and was eventually introduced to Alaska from across the Bering Strait.

Genetic evidence

Recent genetic research also sheds light on interactions between people from East Asia and the New World.

Many scientists say that humans first arrived in the New World around 15,000 years ago by crossing a land bridge that had formed across the Bering Strait. This land bridge was flooded about 10,000 years ago.

However, a recent genetic study suggests there were also movements of people from East Asia to the New World at a later date. Those who lived at the Rising Whale site may be part of what scientists refer to as the "Birnirk" culture, a group of people who lived on both sides of the Bering Strait and used sophisticated skin boats and harpoons to hunt whales.

The genetic study indicates that people from the Birnirk culture are the ancestors of a people called the "Thule," who spread out across the North American arctic as far as Greenland. The Thule, in turn, are ancestors of the modern-day Inuit.

Long before Columbus

The Bering Strait wasn't the only area where interactions between people from the Old World and New World occurred before Columbus' arrival. By 1,000 years ago, the Vikings had explored parts of Canadaand had even established a short-lived settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.

Research also indicates that, around this time, the Polynesians had reached South America, bringing sweet potatoes back to Polynesia and possibly bringing chickens to South America.

Many other hypotheses have been put forward suggesting that people reached the New World before Columbus. One idea that has received a lot of attention in popular media is that Chinese mariners sailed directly to the New World, although this idea lacks scholarly support.

Mason and his team will present their research on the Rising Whale site at the Canadian Archaeological Association annual meeting in St. John's Newfoundland, Canada, between April 28 and May 2.

Archaeologists working in the 1,000-year-old house at the Rising Whale site at Cape Espenberg, Alaska.

Ancient Bronze Artifacts in Alaska Reveals Trade with Asia Before Columbus Arrival

An incredible archaeological discovery in Alaska provided evidence that trade was occurring between Asia and the New World centuries before Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492. Researchers uncovered two bronze artifacts in a 1,000-year-old house in Alaska, which were manufactured in China, Korea, or Yakutia.
Live Science reports that the discovery was made at the "Rising Whale" site at Cape Espenberg, which lies on the Arctic Circle at the terminus of a 30 km long mainland attached beach ridge plain at the northern limit of Seward Peninsula, in western Alaska.
“Cape Espenberg has had an unbroken stream of cultural continuity for at least 1,000 years, the time when the Thule people and their descendants occupied the coast and adjacent interior regions of northwestern Alaska” report Darwent et al. (2013) in their paper ‘1000 Years of House Change at Cape Espenberg, Alaska’.

Barrier islands and lagoons at Cape Espenberg. (Public domain)
Archaeologists unearthed a bronze buckle with a piece of leather attached to it that was dated to 600 AD, as well as another ancient bronze relic, which appears to have been a whistle.  Bronze-working had not been developed at this time in Alaska, so it is thought the artifacts were manufactured in China, Korea or Yakutia, before making their way to Alaska through trade routes.
“Though native copper and meteoritic iron, (i.e. naturally occurring pure metals), were hammered into a variety objects by late prehistoric inhabitants of arctic and subarctic North America, there is no evidence for the smelting, casting, or alloying of metals in the Western Hemisphere north of Mexico prior to the arrival of Europeans,” reports the research team on the website Arctic Research Consortium of the United States. “As a result, these two artifacts give the best and least ambiguous evidence to date that non-ferrous industrial smelted metals were arriving in Alaska via prehistoric trade across the Bering Strait.”
One of the bronze artifacts recovered from the 1,000-year-old Alaska house.

One of the bronze artifacts recovered from the 1,000-year-old Alaska house. (Photo by Jeremy Foin/University of California, Davis.)
The bronze artifacts are not the only evidence for trade between Alaska and other civilizations prior to the arrival of Columbus in the Americas. Researchers also found the remains of obsidian artifacts inside the house, which could be chemically traced to the Anadyr River valley in Russia.
In addition, “a number of researchers have noted similarities in design between the plate armor worn by people in Alaska and that worn in China, Korea, Japan and eastern Mongolia.”
Plate armor made of overlapping plates of ivory and bones began appearing in Alaska around 1,000 years ago.  A similar style of plate armor was also developed in several areas of East Asia, tracing back thousands of years.
Last year, archaeologists in Russia reported on the discovery of a suit of armor made entirely of bone, which belonged to an ancient Siberian knight who lived around four millennia ago. The armor consists of different plates made up of small fragments of bone that have been joined together.
Left: 4,000-year-old bone armor found in the Siberian city of Omsk (The Siberian Times). Right: Bone armor from North Alaskan at an exhibit in the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Left: 4,000-year-old bone armor found in the Siberian city of Omsk (The Siberian Times). Right: Bone armor from North Alaskan at an exhibit in the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Wikimedia Commons)
It has long been known that Christopher Columbus was not the first to ‘discover’ the New World.
“By 1,000 years ago, the Vikings had explored parts of Canada and had even established a short-lived settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland,” writes Live Science. “Research also indicates that, around this time, the Polynesians had reached South America, bringing sweet potatoes back to Polynesia and possibly bringing chickens to South America.”
A more controversial hypothesis is that China discovered the Americas 70 years before Columbus.  However, this view put forward by amateur historian Gavin Menzies has been hugely debated.
Featured image: Archaeologists working in the 1,000-year-old house at the Rising Whale site at Cape Espenberg, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Jeremy Foin, UC Davis.)

Friday, 17 April 2015

The conservation, digitisation and cataloguing of Tangut manuscripts


Collaborative Project for the Conservation, Digitisation, Research and Publication of         Tangut Material in the British Library

The project which started in January 2015 is a collaboration between the British Library and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region Archive(NXA) to enable the conservation, digitisation and cataloguing of the Tangut manuscripts and printed documents held in the British Library.

Tangut fragment. Or.12380/19
Using existing archival material relating to the collection including concordance lists and notes from early researchers and conservators the aim is to conserve, number, digitise and make available the estimated 6–8,000 documents on the IDP Interactive Web Databaseby June 2017, thereby contributing to the preservation and international dissemination of this important material and stimulating scholarly research.
The Tangut manuscript and printed material in the British Library was excavated from the city of Karakhoto (10th–14th c.) by Aurel Stein on his 3rd expedition (1913–16) following Russian excavations at the site (material now in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, an IDP partner and also working with NXA). Part of the Stein material was sent to India (National Museum of India). The remainder became part of the collection of the British Museum and then the British Library.

K.K.VI at Kharakhoto, May 1914 and October 2008. Photo 392/29(114)and Photo 1187/1(4)
Despite spite early research by scholars such as Professor Tatsuo Nishida, much of the material has never had full curatorial attention. Many items remain in the paper packets in which they were placed by Stein during his excavations and therefore remain unknown and inaccessible to scholars.

Pre-conservation Tangut fragments in Stein’s paper packets.
The project will make the entire British Library Tangut collection available for the first time for IDP’s international community of scholars and researchers, paving the way for future work including cataloguing and linking with related material in other collections. Potential work may also include the input and digitisation of related archival material such as historical catalogues and expedition reports.
Funds are secured for the first two stages of the project, enabling a conservator to work full-time on the unconserved material for one year. Funds are now being sought for stage three, for the remaining conservation and digitisation. Any offers of support are welcome.
To follow the progress of the project and digitisation output follow #Tangut @idp_uk.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Ghastly Hauntings and Divine Justice- Lecture by Bryan Lowe- Leiden- 12 may 2015

Ghastly Hauntings and Divine Justice: A New Approach to Ritual, Ethics and Kingship in Ancient Japanese Buddhism

Lecture by Bryan Lowe (Vanderbilt University)

Buddhism & Social Justice Event 
12 May 2015  
15:00 - 17:00 hrs

In the middle of 748, Queen Consort Kōmyō commissioned one hundred copies—many on fine colored paper—of a relatively obscure work, entitled the Scripture on Saving and Protecting Body and Life
This text promises protection from attacks by demons and sorcerers, as well as from other threats that plague humans living in an era of decline. 
She also sponsored one hundred copies of the Golden Light Sutra and three copies of the Scripture on Brahma’s Spirit Tablets, a divination sutra, at the same time. 

This talk will place these three projects within the broader historical and cosmological climate of eighth-century Japan. 
While recent scholarship on ritual and politics has focused on the way Buddhist patronage functioned to theatrically demonstrate political legitimacy, Bryan Lowe uses  these projects to depict a world in which kings and queens were haunted by ghastly attacks and answered to celestial kings who threatened to punish the impious. 
In this environment, ritual was not merely an expressive tool used to justify political authority; Buddhist ideas were themselves an authoritative force that structured ethical codes of conduct in early Japan. 

Kings reigned through earthly laws, but they were governed by divine justice.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Steppe and the Silk Roads, China’s Interactions with its neighbours- lectures by Jessica Rawson

Professor Dame Jessica Rawson, DBE, DLitt, FBA Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford will deliver a series of lectures in Leiden and Amsterdam between 4-9 May 2015.
Professor Dame Jessica Rawson, DBE, DLitt, FBA Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford

Professor Dame Jessica Rawson, DBE, DLitt, FBA is Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford. Her research interests involve the archaeology of China and Inner Asia, early Chinese material culture as evidence for religious concepts and beliefs, the development and function of ornament in all parts of Eurasia. Currently, Professor Rawson works on interactions between central China and Inner Asia in the Zhou (c. 1045- 221 BC), Qin (221-210 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD220) periods; on the structure and contents of Chinese tombs; and on exoticism in the Han to Tang periods (200 BC-AD900).

Selected Publications

Treasures of Ancient China, Bronzes and Jades from Shanghai, London, 2009With Evelyn Rawski (eds), China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795, London Royal Academy Publications, 2005

Chinese Jade, from the Neolithic to the Qing
, British Museum Press, London 1995.

Chinese Ornament, the Lotus and the Dragon
. London: British Museum Publications, 1984.

Some recent articles 
“Carnelian Beads, Animal Figures and Exotic Vessels: Traces of Contact between the Chinese States and Inner Asia, c. 1000-650BC.” Archäologie in China, vol. 1, Bridging Eurasia, 2010, pp. 1-42.

“Reviving Ancient Ornament and the presence of the Past: Examples from Shang and Zhou Bronze Vessels” in Wu Hung (ed.), Reinventing the Past: Archaism and Antiquarianism in Chinese Art and Visual Culture, Chicago: 2010 pp. 47-76.

“The Chinese Hill Censer, boshanlu: a note on Origins, Influences and Meanings”. Ars Asiatiques, Volume en homage á Madame Michéle Pirazzoli t’Serstevens, Vol. 61 2006, pp. 75-86.

“Novelties in Antiquarian Revivals: The Case of the Chinese Ritual Bronzes”, National Palace Museum Research Quarterly vol.22, no.1, Autumn, 2004, pp. 1-34

Published Books 2010
Rawson, J. , (2010), Hung, W. (ed.), Reinventing the Past: Archaism and Antiquarianism in Chinese Art and Visual Culture, Chicago, The Centre for the Art of East Asia, University of Chicago, Art Meia, Resources

Rawson, J., & Gorransson, K. (eds.), (2010), China’s Terracotta Army, Stockholm, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities

Rawson, J., (2009), Treasures from Shanghai: ancient Chinese bronzes and jades, British Museum Press

Contributions to Edited Books
2010 Rawson, J., (2010), Carnelian beads, animal figures and exotic vessels: traces of contact between the Chinese states and Inner Asia, c. 1000–650BC. : in “Archaeologie in China, Vol. 1, Bridging Eurasia, pp 1–42, Beijing branch of the German Institute of Archaeology, Berlin.

Steppe and the Silk Roads, China’s Interactions with its neighbours

Monday 4 May, Leiden: Warfare, Beauty and Belief, Bridging Eurasia

This talk will introduce my overarching ideas and show how I apply them in different periods to illustrate the ways in which central China was forced to interact, especially with the northern neighbours, introducing new technologies, artefacts and ideas, which China then changed and adapted within Chinese frameworks.

Time: 16.00-17.30 hrs
Venue: National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

17.30-18.30: Drinks at the National Museum of Ethnology

For this event, please register by 30 April at:

Wednesday 6 May, Leiden: The Lure of Iron and Gold, Interactions with the steppe in the First Millennium BC.

As riding on horseback changed the structure of the lives and warfare of the mobile peoples in Eurasia, all settled states, including central China, were forced to adapt to these challenges and change their own methods of warfare, affecting also society as a whole.
Time: 16.00-17.30 hrs
Venue: Small Auditorium, Academy Building, Leiden University

17.30-18.30: Drinks at the Faculty Club

For this event, please register by 30 April at:

Friday 8 May, Leiden: Sculpture and Stone in the Han dynasty, (206 BC-AD 220)

The early Chinese did not make use of either sculpture and stone, major features of Western Asian city culture.  Following the innovations of the First Emperor and the creation of the Terracotta Warriors, which owed their inspiration to both Western Asia and the steppe, the Han emperors adopted both the sculpture and stone, primarily in burial contexts. These innovations then filtered down to lower levels of the elite, but again in the context of tombs.

Time: 16.00-17.30 hrs
Venue: Small Auditorium, Academy Building, Leiden University

17.30-18.30: Drinks at the Faculty Club

For this event, please register by 30 April at:

Saturday 9 May, Amsterdam: Tents, Tombs and Horse Trade, The Tang (AD 618-906 ) and the Turks

The Tang period is renowned for its glittering court and the so-called Silk Road, bringing many merchants and foreign goods to the capital, Chang’an. The talk will illustrate the very fine artefacts of this period, but will also consider a much wider context. The Tang were embattled with several Turkish empires, at that period occupying large areas of the steppe. The Chinese were forced to purchase horses to engage with these mounted warriors, and they paid for the horses, which indeed came from the steppe, in silk. This silk drove the silk trade, mainly in the hands of an Iranian people, the Sogdians. Today we have much evidence from archaeological excavations of the lives of the Sogdians who settled in China in the sixth to eighth century.  the talk will present the fascinating scenes of these merchants and officials that are documented in carvings on their coffins buried at the capital cities of the Tang. The Tang period, renowned for its art and poetry, is now much better known and even more colourful for the multiple engagements that we now know the court had with its neighbours.

Time: 14.30-16.00 hrs
Venue: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

16.00-17.00: Drinks at the Rijksmuseum

For this event, please register by 30 April at:

The events are organized by Asian Modernities and Traditions. Everyone welcome!