In Nepalese Tarai, the area where the Buddha was born and grew up, several excavations were launched in the late nineteenth century. They have revealed sand stone pillars and stupas which were erected by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. The distribution of the pillars and stupas indicates that the sites where they were discovered – Lumbini, Kapilavastu, Mahavana, Kshemavati, Shobhavati and Ramagrama – were connected to the North Indian Silk Route.
Excavations in Panjikent in Tajikistan have revealed mural paintings of particular significance for the history of literature. These works by Sogdian painters, which range from the 6th to the 8th century AD, illustrate fables, epics and folk tales from different origins along the Silk Roads. The literary works represented on the walls include for instance fables by Aesop, stories from the Indian Panchatantra and the tale of the seven exploits of the Persian warrior Rustam.
Ancient Arabic poetry used two elaborated structures that acquired considerable prestige and became recognized as classic structures of Arabic poetry: one reserved strictly for the funeral elegy, the marthiya, and the second one, the qasida (the ode) serving as the framework for all thematic developments.
Textiles and artistic fabrics are one of the oldest art forms of Central Asia. From the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, silks, velvet, brocade, and wool were central to trade and culture in Iran, India, Western China, Transoxania and Mongolia, and carpets were the most important product of this art.
There is still much to be discovered about the crafts and techniques of metalwork, ceramic and sculpture in sixteenth to nineteenth century Iran, Afghanistan, Transoxania, Western China and India. In all of these countries there are surviving artefacts in copper, bronze, steel, gold and silver, as well as ceramics and sculpture. Weapons were also produced in these materials, although very few survive from before the nineteenth century.
The Malaysian region acted as a land bridge between the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea, linking mainland Southeast Asia with the rest of the islands. Archaeological data records prehistoric trade before and after the Pleistocene era. During this period coastal prehistoric sites developed into ports of trade and exchange, both intra-regionally as well as with mainland Southeast China. The abundant supply of minerals, such as tin and gold on the Peninsula, led to early settlements, including Hinduized Indonesian settlers, and to extended trading relations.
While there an overlapping of cultures of East and West via the Silk Routes usually occurred throughout history, the peninsula of Korea, however, restricted itself to mostly ‘absorbing’ cultural and artistic influences from far and wide and few traces of Korean culture have been found in Central Asia. Evidence of this cultural and material appropriation can be found in several tumuli, including buckled belts with a Scythian zoomorphic influence, Roman and Germanic glassware, central-Asian inspired metalwork, Chinese-inspired painting techniques.
Between the seventh and third centuries BC, western Central Asia was inhabited by Iranian nomadic tribes, whose principal activity was cattle-herding. Yet these tribes were closely related to those of the northern Asian steppe, not just in terms of farming and economy, but culturally too. Greek writers refer to these tribes as the Scythians, whilst Persian authors knew them as the Sakas.
During excavations of Chuy valley, Ak-Beshim, Burana and Red River in Kyrgyzstan a Buddhist temple, fragments of sculptures and paintings were discovered. Several archaeological expeditions to explore and preserve these sites have been launched: Specialists from central institutions of the former USSR dealt with the conservation of the medieval historical sites of Kyrgyzstan. Besides, a UNESCO project was greatly contributing to the preservation of objects of historical-cultural heritage and training of national cadres in this area.
Alexander, known as ‘the Great’ or ‘the Macedonian’, advanced his armies into Central Asia in the fourth century BC. Although originally at war with the Achaemenid monarch, Darius III Codomannus, his campaign soon expanded to become a wide-scale invasion of Asia, which was enormously successful until his retreat and death in 323.