The Silk Road was a network of trade routes, formally established during the Han Dynasty of China, which linked the regions of the ancient world in commerce. As the Silk Road was not a single thoroughfare from east to west, the term 'Silk Routes’ has become increasingly favored by historians, though 'Silk Road’ is the more common and recognized name. Both terms for this network of roads were coined by the German geographer and traveler, Ferdinand von Richthofen, in 1877 CE, who designated them 'Seidenstrasse’ (silk road) or 'Seidenstrassen’ (silk routes). The network was used regularly from 130 BCE, when the Han officially opened trade with the west, to 1453 CE, when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with the west and closed the routes.
The Silk Road:
What exchanges of food tell us about our world
The Silk Road –designed UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014- is probably the most famous trade route in the history of the world. For more than 1600 years, its network of routes has been the main driver of goods exchanges between the West and the East, as well as the main channel of political and cultural interactions.
Just take it in for a moment: Thanks to the Silk Road’s trade routes, remnants of Chinese Silk have been found in Egypt from 1070 BCE!
The amazing history of this network suggests that commercial routes have never been only a way to sell and buy goods, but instead they can tell several stories of relationships, politics, culture, lifestyles, and power balance.
Investigating its shape over time, we can appreciate the creation of economies, and the development of great civilizations as Chinese, Indian, Persian, Roman and Syrian, among others.
So, what modern commercial route would tell us, if we could interrogate them? Niccolo Cirone found 30 years’ worth of data from the FaoStat to figure it out!