First Step(pe)s: The Silk Road from a Steppe Perspective

Lecture | December 4 | 5-7 p.m. | 370 Dwinelle Hall

 Ursula B. Brosseder, Bonn University

 Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS)

Numerous, far-reaching migrations and contacts have taken place during prehistory across the vast Eurasian steppes, reaching from Eastern Europe or the Near East to Inner Asia and present-day China. However, the intensity and speed of connectivity between East and West changed profoundly in the late first millennium BC. Traditional narrative holds that this change was initiated by the travels of Zhang Qian in 138 BC which is seen as the “foundation” of the Silk Roads. In the present lecture I will dive deeper into the dynamics of power politics in the steppes of that time period and show how archaeology reveals existing steppe networks and how they contributed to the East-West exchanges we know from the literary sources. Integrating archaeological and textual sources leads to a more comprehensive understanding of the processes and dynamics of interaction across Eurasia.

Ursula B. Brosseder received her PhD in 2001 from the Freie Universität in Berlin on the Early Iron Age in Europe. After a research stay with a fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Novosibirsk, Siberia, she shifted her research focus on Eurasian Archaeology and the Archaeology of Mongolia in particular where she has been conducting fieldwork since 2005. She is a specialist on Xiongnu Archaeology and their contacts and connectivity across the Eurasian steppes during the late Iron Age ("Silk Roads"). Her work has been supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton where she was a member in the School for Historical Studies in 2013/2014.