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UNIT 9: Connections Across Land

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VIDEO SEGMENT: The Silk Roads

This segment explores the development of the Silk Roads — a vast network of trading routes that spanned much of Eurasia beginning in the fourth to first centuries BCE. At that time, several strong empires were on the rise: the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean basin, the Han Empire in China, and the Mauryan Empire in India. These empires encouraged trading activities in Eurasia because they were strong enough to offer security for traveling merchants within their realms. In addition, each empire generated and consumed a wealth of commodities, which meant that each developed trading networks that consistently expanded outward.

Eventually, these networks overlapped and created routes that connected all three empires. As a result, even though these empires had little direct contact with one another, they came to serve as anchors for a thriving trade in silk, horses, glassware, coral, pearls, and textiles. In some cases, the possession of exotic goods — such as silk in the Roman Empire or horses in the Han Empire — came to serve as vital symbols of elite status.

In addition to providing routes for the dispersal of commodities, the Silk Roads also became an avenue for the spread of diverse cultural traditions, including music, dance, and — especially — religion. Islam, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Manichaeanism, and Zoroastrianism all traveled along the Silk Roads with merchants, missionaries, and pilgrims. This diversity helped make the trading centers of the Silk Roads richly cosmopolitan. In some cases, the spread of religion along these routes also led to profound social change as societies adopted and adapted new religions as their own.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous Chinese, PILGRIMS AT SILK ROAD CITY, MOGAO GROTTOES CAVE #217 IN DUNHUANG, CHINA (ca 618-907 CE). Courtesy of Chinastock Photos.

Anonymous Chinese, SILK ROAD MURAL OF TRAVELLER WITH CAMEL (ca. 618-907). Courtesy of Chinastock Photos.


Anonymous Chinese, POTTERY OF FOREIGNER ON SILK ROAD, TOMB OF YONG TAI PRINCESS (ca 618-907 CE). Courtesy of Chinastock Photos.

Anonymous, SILK ROAD LEATHER BOOTS (ca 206 BCE-8 CE). Courtesy of Chinastock Photos.



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