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The Early Silk Roads: Archaeology & Global Networks


Course description

The course uses the most up-to-date archaeological research of the early Silk Roads networks across the Eurasian continent (200 BCE-600 CE) in order to rethink and discuss the connectedness of our present globalising world.

The lectures offer an overview of the most important historical and archaeological contexts of the Silk Roads, ranging from ancient Egypt to Han Dynasty China. In-depth case study are discussed of specific sites, such as Berenike (Egypt), Petra (Jordan), Arikamedu (India), the Karakorum mountains (Pakistan), and the Tarim Basin (Xinjiang, China).
Subsequently, based on these case studies, each lecture uses the archaeological facts to incite debate about present global connections. Herein, three main focus points are central:

  • The issue of traditional centre-periphery/West-East dichotomies

  • Objects as globetrotters vs. human migrations

  • Cultural heritage challenges for both archaeology and politics

By means of 5 written assignments, students will develop archaeological analytical skills for individual objects, and are encouraged to interpret archaeological data in a much wider socio-political context. Feedback on all assignment will be provided during this process.

Throughout the course, students are challenged to think outside the box and consider the lasting connections between past and present. Moreover, they are encouraged to develop their academic skills through debate, empirical analysis, and essay writing.

Course objectives

  • To gain knowledge about archaeological data from the earliest trade networks of the Silk Roads;

  • To connect past and present by using informed historical knowledge to interpret and better understand current world connections;

  • To enhance student’s skills in academic discussion and essay writing;

  • To practise the critical analysis of individual case studies of sites and objects.
    Mode of instruction • Lectures with active participation and discussion;

  • Feedback on each assignment (in Turnitin).

Course load

  • 14 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 200 pages of literature, including assignments (1 ec);

  • Essay of 2,500 words (2 ec).

Contact hours

  • 14 hours of lectures;

  • 30 min of feedback time after each lecture (planned).

Assessment method

  • Average grade of 5 assignments (50%);

  • Final essay of 2,500 words (50%).

Assessment deadline

All assignments must be uploaded on BlackBoard before the following lecture (the lecture schedule will be provided on Blackboard).

Reading list

  • Syllabus: Xinru Liu, 2010, ‘The Silk Road in World History’, Oxford University Press.

  • Additional and specialised articles for each lecture will be provided per class.

Compulsory attendance