Dumplings, Bows, & Fermented Milk: The Silk Roads in 10 Objects
- Oscar Aguirre-Mandujano
- College of Arts & Sciences
First-Year Seminar Grant
Trade routes have stretched across much of Eurasia since before the Common Era until the twentieth century. Nomadic empires seem to appear in the periphery of many civilizations, challenging and, one could say, enriching their borders. We first hear of them in Chinese chroniclers’ tales of a powerful people in the wilderness. Greek historians, Byzantine writers, and Arab polymaths write about the empires of the steppes. Centuries later, the heirs of the heroes of these empires moved south and west, establishing empires and tribal confederations beyond the steppe, in Central Asia, Anatolia, and the Middle East. The food, culture, and objects of the nomadic empires connected many civilizations in Asia and Europe. This course introduces the student to the history of the silk roads by following its various histories of food, material culture, and trade. Through the study of ten objects, this course discusses questions of periphery, borders, and the divide between agrarian, pastoral, and nomadic societies. The student will learn to derive historical questions and hypotheses through the intensive study of material culture, literature, and historical writing tracing the long and diverse history of the bow, the saddle, dumplings, and fermented milk (among others) across Eurasia.