'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
Jane Qiu - Archaeologists Uncover Another Branch of the Silk Road - through the heights of Tibet
facilitating an incredible exchange of culture and goods between the East and
the West, the ancient Silk Road is thought to have meandered across long
horizontal distances in mountain foothills and the lowlands of the Gobi Desert.
But new archaeological evidence hidden in a lofty tomb reveals that it also
ventured into the high altitudes of Tibet—a previously unknown arm of the trade
Discovered in 2005 by
monks, the 1,800-year-old tomb sits 4.3 kilometers above sea level in the Ngari
district of Tibet. When excavations began in 2012, the research team examining
the site was surprised to find a large number of quintessential Chinese goods
inside. The haul lends itself to the idea that merchants were traveling from
China to Tibet along a branch of the Silk Road that had been lost to history.
“The findings are
astonishing,” says Houyuan Lu, an archaeobotanist at the Chinese Academy of
Sciences' Institute of Geology and Geophysics in Beijing. Among other
artifacts, archaeologists unearthed exquisite pieces of silk with woven Chinese
characters wang hou (meaning “king” and “princes”), a mask
made of pure gold, and ceramic and bronze vessels.
They also were taken
aback by what looked like tea buds. The earliest documentation of tea in Tibet
dates to the seventh century A.D., but these buds would be 400 to 500 years
older. To confirm the identification, Lu and his colleagues analyzed the
chemical components of the samples and detected ample amounts of caffeine and
theanine, a type of amino acid abundant in tea. Moreover, the chemical
fingerprints of the tea residues were similar to those of tea found in the tomb
of a Chinese emperor of the Han Dynasty dated to 2,100 years ago, and both
could be traced to tea varieties grown in Yunnan in southern China. “This
strongly suggests that the tea [found in the Tibetan tomb] came from China,” Lu
says. The findings were recently published in Scientific Reports.
Such early contacts
between Tibet and China “point to a high-altitude component of the Silk Road in
Tibet that has been largely neglected,” says Martin Jones, an archaeobotanist
at the University of Cambridge. The evidence contributes to the emerging
picture that the Silk Road—which the Ottoman Empire closed off in the 15th
century—was a highly three-dimensional network that not only traversed vast
linear distances but also scaled tall mountains.
Other studies, too,
have documented signs of trade along mountain trails in Asia from around 3000
B.C.—routes now known as the Inner Asia Mountain Corridors. “This suggests that
mountains are not barriers,” says Rowan Flad, an archaeologist at Harvard
University. “They can be effective conduits for the exchange of cultures, ideas
This article was
originally published with the title "Silk Road Heads for the Hills"