for ancient trading routes and patterns has led him to digs in Uzkekistan
and neighboring Turkmenistan, as well as to the Black Sea ["Gazetteer,"
July/Aug] and its environs. He also organized a scholarly symposium
titled "Unraveling the Silk Road" that was held at the University
Museum a few days after the exhibitions opening.
One of the symposiums
scholars, Dr. Victor Mair, professor of Chinese literature, suggested
that the route could just as easily have been called the Jade Road
or the Bronze Road or even the Wool Road, since all of those commodities
were, for many centuries, transported along it. But in the view
of Dr. Brian Spooner, professor of anthropology and curator of the
Near East Section of the University Museum, the name was not just
a matter of "inventiveness" or the "particular orientation of one
geographer." Rather, he said, it has to do both with the nature
of silk itself and the "way we classify the world."
"There just arent
many other things that link the east of Asia with the west of Asia
so obviously and directly" as silk, said Spooner. While the other
materials mentioned may have been found along the same route, "theyre
not commodities that started at one end of what we understand to
be the Silk Route and moved all the way to the other." Given the
difficulties of transportation, only "relatively light and relatively
expensive" things were likely to be transported regularly. "Silk
was obviously such a commodity."
The physical environment
has always been "a very big player" in the formation of the Silk
Road, said Hiebert, while Dr. Renata Holod, curator of Islamic Art
in the University Museums Near East Section, put it another
way: "In a sense, geography is destiny."
top: Gourd snuff bottles, Tashkent, ca. 1930; ossuary lid fragment,
Samarkand region, Tailiak, 6th century; mans coat, Bukhara,
1897; ossuary, Samarkand region, 7th-8th century; bowl, 12th-13th
century; knife and sheath, Bukhara, 19th century.
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