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Silk Roads
Research into the archaeology and history of the Silk Roads. Since 2008 this work has been engaged with UNESCO Silk Roads thematic serial trans-national nominations project. Between 2010-14 the ICOMOS Thematic Study of the Silk Roads (available at: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1356660/) provided a wider intellectual research context for the Silk Roads, stretching from East Asia to the Mediterranean between the 2nd century BC to the 16th century AD. This enabled 26 participating countries to select sites for conservation and display. The research explored a variety of data sources, mapped over 50,000 kilometres of routes and drew together data on over 10,000 individual sites, all over an area of 16 million square kilometres. The research analysed geographical, chronological and socio-political variations, developing a new holistic approach to the archaeology of the Silk Roads which focused on ‘corridors of movement’ rather than narrowly defined ‘routes’ between large cities or spectacular monuments. It revealed inter-relationship of activities, the impacts of political control on adaptation, and shifting pathways of control and exploitation. The research led to a greater appreciation of the impacts of the Silk Roads on communities, emphasising the significance of short to medium distance exchanges and the pivotal role of the Central and Southern Asian regions areas in promoting interactions. Crucially it challenged the traditional east-west focus of Silk Roads dialogues by characterising north-south routes. This led to a radical new policy framework for undertaking serial World Heritage nominations, transformed inter-state working of governmental and heritage agencies in the Asian region, and had a major impact on the conservation, management and interpretation of Silk Road archaeology. The research has led to a number of publications.The research is developing into new strands: (1) Silk Road Cities: Historic urban research, especially exploring the changing late Antique-early Islamic city, its spatial organisation and planning, neighbourhoods, the impact of religion and secular administration on urban planning, etc. (2) Silk Road urban heritage: currently jointly editing a book for Tongji University Publication Press, Shanghai, China, on Silk Road Cities and their relevance to 21st century communities: the project explores the significance of Silk Road cities and their management as a vital facet of 21st century communities. The project is supported by regional workshops, including a forthcoming urban heritage conference we are organising in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. (3) UNESCO South Asian Silk Roads project, covering China, India, Nepal, and Bhutan (which will hopefully extend to include Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan). This research explores the trans-Himalayan routes (including a new doctoral student in 2015 studying the Tea & Horse routes between Yunnan and South Asia). See also the project on Bhutan National Inventory.
1 Researchers
  • Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
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1 External Collaborators
University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT Tel:+44 (0)20 7679 2000

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