The Bronze Age Origins of the Silk Route:
New Discoveries of ancient trade links
Professor Chris Gosden
Wednesday, 20 April 2005
2/F Sports House, So Kong Po,
Drinks 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm We are delighted to welcome to Hong Kong Professor Gosden, the Chairman of Oxford's School of Archaeology, to lecture to the Society. It is often thought that Europe and Asia developed separately in the Bronze Age, but in fact Professor Gosden has shown they have long and entangled histories. The Silk Route in fact dates for some five thousand years and has formed a set of connections over which people, ideas and materials have travelled for five millennia. It linked China, Central Asia, SouthEast Asia, Persia and western Europe in different ways from the Bronze Age, millennia before the Roman Empire and beyond. In this lecture, Professor Gosden looks at the longterm history of this network of trade connections from 5,000 years ago and its consequences for people living in Asia and Europe. He looks at the role archaeology can play in uncovering the longterm history of trade, but also the movement of people, animals and plants. He first sketches the Bronze Age origins of the trade routes, connecting the first city states of China, Asia and the Middle East. This for instance resulted in the occurrence of silk in southern Germany in the Bronze Age. Subsequently, Alexander the Great, the fourth century BC Macedonian king, was fascinated by the east, conquering the Persian empire and leaving behind a set of connected Greek communities from the eastern Mediterranean to India. These were responsible for a series of mixed cultural forms, such as the GrecoBuddhist art styles of central Asia and western China. Many think of the Roman Empire as a western phenomenon. But Professor Gosden argues that many important cultural elements and forms of innovation came from the eastern part of the empire, leaving an indelible mark on the west. He explores the effect of the east on Rome and the lasting cultural legacy that this left for the west, but also the east. The connections that are springing up across Eurasia in the present have deep historical roots, which need to be understood to grasp fully the joint histories of the Eurasian landmass. Professor Chris Gosden is Chairman of the worldrenowned School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford. Research within the School combines the study of the prehistoric past of Europe, Asia and Africa with research into the early civilisations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome and China. A large research laboratory for archaeological science at Oxford carries out radiocarbon dating and materials analysis. The School has a strong focus on expanding its activities in Asia. Professor Gosden has carried out field research in Central Asia, Europe and Papua New Guinea, and on sites ranging from 35,000 years ago to the Roman period. He is a distinguished author and lecturer and has written and edited 12 books on subjects including art and archaeology, the prehistory of food, ancient trade, archaeology and colonialism. Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$50 for Members, HK$100 for Members' guests and HK$150 for others.