Fortresses of the Silk Roads, From the Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean is a new book authored by Jean-Claude Voisin after many years of academic research, journal articles and published books on fortifications across the Silk Roads, such as in Lebanon and Afghanistan.
In this book authors Rene and Claude Kappler provide an extensive commentary on the travel notes of the Franciscan monk, William of Rubrouck. Rubrouck was sent in 1253 on a mission by French King Saint Louis to the court of the Mongol king in modern day southern Russia, who was believed to be a Christian. Guillaume de Rubrouck travels sixteen thousand kilometers in two years from Constantinople to Karakorum, capital of the Mongol Empire, in the harshest of conditions and finally encounters the Great Khan Monke, grandson of Chinggis Khaan. His letter to St.
‘Art and Technique of Silk’ is a book that encompasses the entire history, technique and literature, of the silk worm, and thus silk, in its use in science and textiles. In the first part, the author discusses the history of the birth of silk and its arrival in Europe and in France. The second part addresses mulberry cultivation, livestock, spinning, weaving and dying, as well as the qualities and treatments of silk and its various uses. A chapter is devoted to the international association of silk, which has its headquarters in Lyon, France.
Owing to the conflicts, the number of clandestine excavations have increased in Afghanistan and Pakistan leading to major discoveries of treasures. One of the largest finds was a colossal amount of Greco-Bactrian, Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian, Indo-Parthian and Kushan coins, including one find that, altogether, weighed three tonnes and included 450,000 gold and bronze pieces.
It is well known that an evolved network of trade routes criss-crossed pre-Islamic Anatolia in the Seljuk era (11th -13th century AD), running from North to South, and from the Aegean towards the Far East. However, less is known about where travellers stayed and in what conditions. During the 12th century, leaders in the region invested in making the transport of merchandise and people as safe as possible and built approximately 30 caravanserais (also known as Khans or Ribats) in Anatolia before 1243.
Paper first appeared in China in the 2nd century BC, and it was massively diffused from the 2nd century AD onwards. Paper making techniques evolved significantly during the first centuries of our era. The new material was used for various purposes, and it progressively replaced wood tablets, bamboo tablets, and eventually silk as a support for writing. Paper was exported to neighbouring countries, such as the kingdom of Silla on the Korean peninsula, Japan, Vietnam, and later Tibet and India.
In certain areas of Central Asia, petroglyphs provide almost the only source of information on prehistoric routes of communication and the diffusion and migration of prehistoric populations. They have revealed that already in the 3rd millennium BC, there were contacts between Central Asia and the Himalayan region. The routes that were used by ancient populations are very similar to the ones that would later become the Silk Roads.
Persian and Arab sailors were the first to venture into the open sea outside the view of the coast. As a result, they had to elaborate universal systems of navigation based on the positions of the stars. According to literary sources, Chinese pilots had sailed into the open sea on their way to the Malay Peninsula by the 7th century. By the 15th century, they used similar navigation systems to their Persian and Arab predecessors.
A gold coin discovered close to Gilgil in Pakistan, which bears the portrait of a king and a legend in Parthian (“Abdagases king of kings”), is attributed to the Indo-Parthian king Abdagases II who ruled during the last quarter of the 1st century AD. There are some similarities between this piece and the coinage of the famous Kushan king Vima Taktu (Sôter Megas), who reigned roughly at the same time.
In spite of its difficulty, the study of orally transmitted traditions, such as sung epics, provides fascinating insight into a society’s culture. On the island of Palawan and among the Buryats living in the forests of Siberia, epics mostly dealt with the quest for marriage partners, acts of heroism and the overcoming of conflicts which led to social harmony and cohesion. In both these cultures, which were based on hunting and the exchange of goods, the epics were sung by shaman-bards.