Silk, Slaves, and Stupas: Material Culture of the Silk Road

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Univ of California Press, Mar 13, 2018 - History - 376 pages
Following her bestselling Life Along the Silk Road, Susan Whitfield widens her exploration of the great cultural highway with a new captivating portrait focusing on material things. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas tells the stories of ten very different objects, considering their interaction with the peoples and cultures of the Silk Road—those who made them, carried them, received them, used them, sold them, worshipped them, and, in more recent times, bought them, conserved them, and curated them. From a delicate pair of earrings from a steppe tomb to a massive stupa deep in Central Asia, a hoard of Kushan coins stored in an Ethiopian monastery to a Hellenistic glass bowl from a southern Chinese tomb, and a fragment of Byzantine silk wrapping the bones of a French saint to a Bactrian ewer depicting episodes from the Trojan War, these objects show us something of the cultural diversity and interaction along these trading routes of Afro-Eurasia.
Exploring the labor, tools, materials, and rituals behind these various objects, Whitfield infuses her narrative with delightful details as the objects journey through time, space, and meaning. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas is a lively, visual, and tangible way to understand the Silk Road and the cultural, economic, and technical changes of the late antique and medieval worlds.   

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Form of glass bowls found in Hepu and Guixian South China
Engraving of a wooden boat from the tomb of the king of Nan
Coin of Wima Kadphises
Tamgha of the Kushan kings used on the coins
Coin of Kaniška I
Coins of Huviškas 11 Coin of Vasudeva I
Plan of Sanchi Stupa

A Hellenistic Glass Bowl
Structure of crystalline solid liquid and amorphous materials

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About the author (2018)

Susan Whitfield, author of Life Along the Silk Road, is a scholar, curator, writer, and traveler who has been exploring the history, art, religions, cultures, objects, exploration, and people of the Silk Road for the past three decades.

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