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The Silk Road: Historical Geography. Developed by Joe Naumann, UMSL. The Silk Road.

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the silk road historical geography

The Silk Road:Historical Geography

Developed by Joe Naumann, UMSL

the silk road
The Silk Road
  • The Silk Road, or Silk Route, is an interconnected series of trade routes through Southern Asia mainly connecting Chang'an (today's Xi'an) in China, with Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. It extends over 8,000 km (5,000 miles) on land and sea.
  • Trade on the Silk Route was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, Mesopotamia, Persia, India and Rome, and helped to lay the foundations for the modern world.
major stops on the road
Major Stops on the Road

Taklamakan

Desert

cities and sights

Cities and Sights

Along the Silk Road

chang an xian today
Chang’an (Xian today)
  • The site of the Han capital was located 5 km northwest of modern Xi'an. As the capital of the Western Han Dynasty, it was the political, economic and cultural center of China, the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, and a cosmopolitan metropolis comparable with the greatest cities of the contemporaneous Roman Empire.
tianshui
Tianshui
  • Tianshuiis the second largest city in Gansu province in northwest China, with approximately 320,300 people. A nearby tourist attraction is the Maijishan Grottoes filled with thousands of ancient Buddhist sculptures. The Qin state, later to become the founding dynasty of the Chinese empire, grew out from this area, and the Qin name itself is believed to have originated, in part, from there. Qin tombs have been excavated from Fangmatan near Tianshui, including one 2200 year old map of Guixian county. It is a diocese of the Roman Catholic church, currently vacant.
lanzhou
Lanzhou
  • Early settlement in this region could be dated to the Han Dynasty and has a history of over 2,000 years. The city used to be called the Golden City, when it was a major stop on the ancient Silk Road. To protect the city, the Great Wall of China was extended as far as Yumen.
dunhuang
Dunhuang
  • The city is located near the historic junction of the northern and southern Silk Roads, and was therefore a town of military importance.
  • For centuries Buddhist monks at Dunhuang collected scriptures from the west, and many pilgrims passed through the area, painting murals inside the Mogao Caves or "Caves of a Thousand Buddhas."
turfan turpan
Turfan (Turpan)
  • The Oasis of Turfan (with water provided by karez) is some 260ft under sea level. Around Turfan are quite a few historic sites. Turfan has long been the centre of a fertile oasis and an important trade centre. It was historically located along the Silk Road's northern route. The very heat and dryness of the summer, when combined with the area's ancient system of irrigation, allows the countryside around Turfan to produce great quantities of high-quality fruit.
karez
Karez
  • 2000 kilometers of underground channels (Karez) bring bring ice-cold water from the Tianshan mountains to Turfan. They have to be underground as otherwise the water would evaporate on the way. This system is 2000 years old.
khotan
Khotan
  • Khotan is an oasis town in Khotan Prefecture and its capital as well, population 114,000 (2006). An important station on the southern route of the historic Silk Road, it has always depended on two strong rivers the Karakash River and the Yurungkash River to provide the water needed to survive on the southwestern edge of the vast Taklamakan desert.
taklamakan desert satellite view near khotan
Taklamakan Desert – satellite view – near Khotan

Kashgar

Turfan

Taklamakan Desert

Khotan

taklamakan desert
Taklamakan Desert
  • The Taklamakan is a desert of Central Asia, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. It is known as the largest sand-only desert in the world. Some references fancifully state that Taklamakan means "if you go in, you won't come out"; others state that it means "Desert of Death" or "Place of No Return." It covers an area of 270,000 km² of the Tarim Basin. It is crossed at its northern and at its southern edge by two branches of the Silk Road.
kashgar last stop in china
Kashgar – last stop in China
  • Kashgar is sited west of the Taklamakan desert at the feet of the Tian Shan mountain range. Situated at the junction of routes from the valley of the Oxus, from Khokand and Samarkand, Almati, Aksu, and Khotan, the last two leading from China and India, Kashgar has been noted from very early times as a political and commercial centre. The Kashgar oasis is where both the northern and southern routes from China around the Taklamakan desert converge.
pamir mountains
Pamir Mountains
  • Located in Central Asia, the Pamir Mountains are formed by the junction or "knot" of the Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains. They are also known by the Chinese name of Congling 葱嶺 or 'Onion Mountains.' Covered in snow throughout the year, the Pamirs have long and bitterly cold winters, and short, cool summers. Annual precipitation is about 5 inches (130 mm), which supports grasslands but few trees.
leaving china

Leaving China

The Silk Road west of China

samarkand
Samarkand
  • Samarkand (Tajik: Самарқанд, Persian: سمرقند‎ , Uzbek: Samarqand, Самарқанд, Russian: Самарканд), population 412,300 in 2005, is the second-largest city in Uzbekistan and the capital of Samarqand Province. The city is most noted for its central position on the Asian Silk Road between China and the west. Despite its status as the second city of Uzbekistan, the majority of the city's inhabitants (90%) are Persian-speaking Tajiks.
bukhara
Bukhara
  • Bukhara is the fifth-largest city in Uzbekistan, and capital of the Bukhara Province. It has a population of 237,900 (1999 census estimate). Bukhara (along with Samarkand) is one of the two major centres of Uzbekistan's Tajik minority. These two cities, Samarkand and Bukhara, belonged to Persians, especially to eastern part, who are now Tajiks. It is also home to a large number of Jews, whose ancestors settled in the city during Roman times.
khiva
Khiva
  • In the early part of its history, the inhabitants of the area were from Iranian stock and spoke an Eastern Iranian language called Khwarezmian. The city of Khiva was first recorded by Muslim travelers in the 10th century, although archaeologists assert that the city has existed since the 6th century. By the early 17th century, Khiva had become the capital of the Khanate of Khiva, ruled over by a branch of the Astrakhans, a Genghisid dynasty.
new serai
New Serai
  • At Tzaref in southern Russia, north of the Caspian Sea, are ruins which were once--possibly--the Mongol cities of Serai and New Serai, seats of Batu Khan and Janibeg Khan. New Serai was also known as Great Serai, and it was the capital of the Golden Horde; it lies in unusually good pasturage near the salt works of Selitrennoi Gorodok. In the nineteenth century, Pallas explored the area, and saw that the ruins were being pulled down and defaced.
northwestern terminus
Northwestern Terminus
  • This was the end of the northern route from Kashgar.
southern route from kashgar

Southern Route from Kashgar

This route terminated at the Mediterranean Sea.

bactria
Bactria
  • According to some writers, Bactria was the homeland of Aryan tribes who moved south-west into Iran and into North-Western India around 2500-2000 BC Later it became the north province of the Persian Empire in Central Asia. It was in these regions, where the fertile soil of the mountainous country is surrounded by the Turanian desert, that the prophet Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) was said to have been born and gained his first adherents.
ancient bactria
Ancient Bactria
  • BALKH - (ancient Bactria) Called the "Mother of Cities," Balkh is about 22 kms. (13 mi.) west of Mazar-e-Sharif. Today nothing remains of its ancient glory except a series of ruins such as the famous Arch Of Nawbahar and the remains of a Buddhist Stupa.
slide97
Merv
  • Merv in current-day Turkmenistan, was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of culture and politics at a site of major strategic value. It is claimed that Merv was briefly the largest city in the world in the twelfth century. The site of ancient Merv has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
baghdad
Baghdad
  • Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and of Baghdad Governorate. With an estimated population of seven million, it is the largest city in Iraq. It is the second-largest city in the Arab world (after Cairo) and the second-largest city in southwest Asia (after Tehran). Located on the Tigris River the city dates back to at least the 8th century, and probably to pre-Islamic times. It was once the center of Dar al-salam, the Muslim world.
babylon
Babylon
  • The city itself was built upon the Euphrates, and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods. Babylon grew in extent and grandeur over time, but gradually became subject to the rule of Assyria. It has been estimated that Babylon was the largest city in the world from c. 1770 to 1670 BC, and again between c. 612 and 320 BC. It was perhaps the first city to reach a population above 200,000.
damascus
Damascus
  • Damascus is the largest city of Syria and is also the capital. It is thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. before Al Fayyum, and Gaziantep. Its current population is estimated at about 4.5 million. Damascus lies about 80 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea, sheltered by the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. It lies on a plateau 680 meters above sea-level. The old city of Damascus, enclosed by the city walls, lies on the south bank of the river BaradDamascus lies about 80 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea, sheltered by the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. It lies on a plateau 680 meters above sea-level. The old city of Damascus, enclosed by the city walls, lies on the south bank of the river Barada.
antioch
Antioch
  • Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side (left bank) of the Orontes River located on the site of the modern city of Antakya, Turkey. Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch was destined to rival Alexandria as the chief city of the nearer East and to be the cradle of gentile Christianity. It was one of the four cities of the Syrian tetrapolis.
the final leg of the journey

The final leg of the journey.

From Antioch to Constantinople (Istanbul today) by sea.

constantinople istanbul
Constantinople (Istanbul)
  • Constantinople was the capital of the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). It was officially renamed to its modern Turkish name Istanbul in 1930 as part of Atatürk's Turkish national reforms. Strategically located between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara at the point where Europe meets Asia, Constantinople was extremely important as the successor to ancient Rome and the largest and wealthiest city in Europe throughout the Middle Ages; it was known as the Queen of Cities (Vasileousa Polis).