Over the past three decades there have been systematic archaeological excavations of sites belonging to the ancient kingdoms of Khotan in the western Taklamakan and Kroraina in the eastern Taklamakan and Lop Desert, in modern-day western China. These have been carried out by Chinese archaeologists, some in conjunction with Japanese and French teams.
The exploration of these kingdoms, however, began much earlier. Early in the 20th century Sven Hedin and Aurel Stein uncovered significant archaeological remains and archives and brought the importance of these cultures to the attention of an international scholarly public. The materials they excavated are now in various collections in Europe and worldwide, and their influence on modern understanding of Central Asian history and society is without parallel.
The conference set the sites in context by looking at the historical geography and environment, the transmitted and excavated historical records, and archaeological archives in China and Europe. It brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, including field archaeologists from the Sino-Japanese and Sino-French excavations of recent decades, archivists, curators and historians working on the Hedin and Stein collections, and historical geographers, art historians, and historians from universities with a strong research record in this area. This was the first conference on this topic.
Niya, stitched panorama of stupa and surrounding area from the north, 10 November 2011. Photo 1235/2(68)