Tag Archives: The Silk Road

The Silk Road: A New History with Documents

Hansen, Valerie. The Silk Road: A New History with Documents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
ISBN: 9780190208929


I was recently delighted to receive the new edition of Valerie Hansen’s Silk Road: a New History, originally published in 2012. The original edition was already much acclaimed for being eminently readable and accessible — my much-thumbed edition accompanied me faithfully on two visits around China — as a guide to the Silk Road, based on up to date scholarship of archaeological and historical sources. It was largely the stories contained in the primary sources which the author drew on that made this such a ‘gripping’ account. The special value of this new edition is that it has been expanded to include 138 pages of those primary sources, many of which were previously only available in a wide range of specialist academic publications. Some are translated into English for the first time.

The sources range from documents dating from the 1st century BC written on woodslips found at Xuanquan Fort to excerpts from Charles Blackmore’s travel account Crossing the Desert of Death (1995). They include memoirs of medieval monks, letters written by women, inscriptions, prayers, legal contracts, and many others. A full list of the documents is available here. The new edition also includes an eighth chapter which takes the history up the period of Mongol rule.

Confusingly published with a copyright date of 2017, more information can be had from OUP’s US site. The book is however available in the UK from Amazon. A copy has also been added to the AIIT Library, shelfmark: AIIT.a.1819.

Ursula Sims-Williams

New to the AIIT

A Dictionary: Christian Sogdian, Syriac and English

A Dictionary: Christian Sogdian, Syriac and English / Nicholas Sims-Williams. Wiesbaden : Reichert Verlag, 2016
17.0 x 24.0 cm, 408 p., cloth
148,00 €
ISBN: 9783954901753
Ancient India & Iran Trust Library shelfmark: AIIT.a.1802

9783954901753This recent publication by our Chairman Nicholas Sims-Williams represents a landmark in the study of Christian Sogdian and at the same time is designed to be accessible both to Iranists, whether or not they know Syriac, and to Syriacists, whether or not they know Sogdian.

Many works of Syriac literature were translated into Sogdian, a Middle Iranian language originating in the region of Samarkand and widely spoken along the so-called “Silk Road”. This Christian Sogdian literature, which includes biblical, liturgical, ascetic and hagiographic texts, is chiefly known from a cache of manuscripts discovered in 1905 at the site of the ruined monastery of Bulayïq in the Turfan oasis. It is important for Syriac studies, since the Sogdian translations were often made on the basis of earlier recensions than those which survive in Syriac and since some texts are no longer extant in Syriac. It is no less important for Sogdian and Middle Iranian studies, since those texts whose Syriac originals can be identified provide a firm basis for the understanding of the Sogdian language; moreover, the material in Syriac script, with its elaborate system of vocalic points, is a unique source of information on the pronunciation of Sogdian.

The present Dictionary consists of two main sections followed by a comprehensive English index. Part 1, arranged by Sogdian lemmata, provides a complete listing of all words attested in published Christian Sogdian texts, both in Syriac and in Sogdian script, including variant spellings, full parsing of all inflected forms, and details of their equivalents in the most closely corresponding Syriac parallel text. In Part 2 the same material is arranged by Syriac lemmata. The two parts together make it possible to see what Syriac form or forms any Sogdian word can represent and how any Syriac word or idiom is translated into Sogdian. The dictionary thus fulfils a range of functions. Firstly, it will provide a reliable guide for anyone who wants to read the extant Christian Sogdian texts; secondly, it will assist future editors in identifying, restoring and translating Christian Sogdian texts; and thirdly, it will contribute to the study of the transmission of literature from Syriac into Sogdian and the techniques of the translators.

The majority of the Christian Sogdian texts from which the dictionary is compiled can be viewed online on the Turfanforschung Digital Archive or on the International Dunhuang Project Database.

Mapping Ming China’s maritime world

針路藍縷 = Mapping Ming China’s maritime world / Zhen lu lan lü = Mapping Ming China’s maritime world /  Hong Kong Maritime Museum. 2 vols. Xianggang : Zhonghua shu ju (Xianggang) you xian gong si, 2015
Hardcover: 808 pages
ISBN-10: 9888366564
ISBN-13: 978-9888366569
Ancient India & Iran Trust Library shelfmark: AIIT.a.1803

611MVvmyMILIn a recent post on facebook, we highlighted Professor Fung Kam Wing’s donation of this two-volume publicatin of  the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. Based on a 2014 international exhibition and symposium: Mapping Ming China’s Maritime World – The Selden Map and Treasures from University of Oxford, this 2-volume set presents a multidisciplinary approach to the sixteenth-century map bring to light the latest research on the historical implications of the Selden Map of China and rutters, underwater archaeology, seafaring and maritime trade, and the relationship between China and Southeast Asia during the Ming dynasty. The book set also reprints in colour the Selden Map and other navigation charts, manuscripts of two Chinese rutters, and a selection of export porcelain.

Volume I is primarily a catalogue of the exhibition, and volume II contains the proceedings of the nineteen papers presented at the symposium.

Further information about the Selden map is available on a dedicated website: http://seldenmap.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/about/.


Some recent acquisitions

Arts of the Hellenized East : precious metalwork and gems of the pre-Islamic era

Arts of the Hellenized East: precious metalwork and gems of the pre-Islamic era / Martha L. Carter ; with contributions by Prudence O. Harper and Pieter Meyers. London: Thames & Hudson, 2015. The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait.

Hardcover | ISBN 9780500970690 | December 2015
424 pages | 350+ colour illustrations | 9 in x 11.2 in x 1.7 in

artsofhellenizedeastThis is the sixth volume in Thames & Hudson’s series exploring the treasures of The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait. The al-Sabah Collection houses one of the world’s most spectacular collections of ancient silver vessels and other objects made of precious metals and gems, dating from the centuries following Alexander then Great’s conquest of Iran and Bactria in the later 4th century BCE up to the advent of the Islamic era.

Leading expert Martha Carter discusses eighty spectacular bowls, drinking vessels and other luxury items from the Hellenistic East, including many rare and important objects never before reproduced in print. The decorative motifs of these objects…testify both to the astonishing skill of their craftsmen and to the complex interconnected cultural histories of Greece, Iran and Central Asia. These connections are explored further in two illustrated essays. Prudence O. Harper’s discussion of a group of Sasanian and later Central Asian works of art and an essay by Pieter Meyers on the technology of ancient silver production.

Martha L. Carter holds a doctorate from Case Western Reserve University and has taught and curated at institutions including the Cleveland Museum of Art and the University of Wisconsin. She has published extensively on the art and archaeology of India, Iran, and Central Asia.

Prudence O. Harper is Curator Emerita in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pieter Meyers is an independent scholar and Senior Research Chemist at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where he was formerly Head of Conservation – publisher.

The Ancient India and Iran Trust was delighted to host the UK launch of this visually stunning and informative book in February 2016 and a copy is available at the trust for visitors to view – Shelfmark: AIIT.a.1741

Persian Painting: the arts of the book and portraiture

Persian Painting: the arts of the book and portraiture / Adel T. Adamova and Manijeh Bayani. London: Thames & Hudson, 2015. The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait.

Hardcover | ISBN 9780500970676 | 2015
552 pages | 450+ colour illustrations |

persianpaintingPersian miniature painting is among the most well-established and celebrated traditions of Islamic art. Written by two eminent scholars specializing in Persian painting and epigraphy, respectively, Persian Painting catalogs more than forty masterpieces of Persian miniature painting, manuscript illustration, and bookbinding in The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait.

Coauthors Adel T. Adamova and Manijeh Bayani place the works in an artistic and historical context and demonstrate their significance in the development of Persian painting. From a historical perspective, they document the movement of manuscripts through their owners’ seal impressions and librarians’ notes, and identify various works by scribes and illustrators involved in the production of these manuscripts and miniatures.

Richly illustrated and including rare examples from the pre-Mongol invasion period never before reproduced in print, the book (the seventh in Thames & Hudson’s series exploring treasures from the al-Sabah Collection) also includes illustrated folios detached from important fourteenth- and fifteenth-century manuscripts and paintings from dispersed Safavid and post-Safavid albums, as well as seventeenth-century bookbindings and oil paintings from the Zand and Qajar periods.

Adel T. Adamova is a curator at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, and a prominent author of numerous books and articles on Persian painting.

Manijeh Bayani is a specialist in Persian epigraphy and has contributed to numerous publications and articles on Persian manuscripts and inscriptions. – publisher.

A copy of Persian Painting is available for reference use at the trust – Shelfmark: AIIT.b.159

The Silk Road – Volume 13 (2015)

The Silk Road is the journal of The Silkroad Foundation, published annually and supplied to academic libraries free of charge. There is also a free online version of the journal available.


Volume 13 of The Silk Road includes a selection of images of Palmyra, a tribute to the memory of Khaled Mohamad al-Asaad, Syrian archaeologist and Head of Antiquities for the ancient city of Palmyra. Khaled al-Assad ‘…devoted much of his life to studying and protecting the antiquities of Palmyra, the World Heritage site in Syria which UNESCO cited as “a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.” Al-Asaad’s dedication and what it symbolized cost him his life, when Daesh publicly beheaded him on 18 August of this year.’—In Memoriam, page v, The Silk Road.

Contents of vol. 13:

  • In Memoriam: Khaled al-Asaad, 1932-2015
  • Safe Journey! A Very Short History of Shoes from Korean Tombs, by Youngsook Pak
  • The Emergence of Light: A Re-interpretation of the Painting of Mani’s Birth in a Japanese Collection, by Wang Yuanyuan 王媛媛
  • When Herakles Followed the Buddha: Power, Protection and Patronage in Gandharan Art, by Jonathan Homrighausen
  • Ancient Iranian Decorative Textiles: New Evidence from Archaeological Investigations and Private Collections, by Matteo Compareti
  • Nomads and Oasis Cities: Central Asia from the 9th to the 13th Century, by Xinru Liu
  • Maes Titianus, Ptolemy, and the “Stone Tower” on the Great Silk Road, by Igor’ Vasil’evich P’iankov
  • The Location of Ptolemy’s Stone Tower: the Case for Sulaiman-Too in Osh, by Riaz Dean
  • The Test Excavation of the Nanhai No. 1 Shipwreck in 2011: a Detail Leading to the Whole, by Xu Yongjie 许永杰
  • The Archaeological Assessment of Pajadagh Fortress (Qal’a-e Tashvir), Tashvir Village, Tarom County, Zanjan Province, by Ali Nourallahi
  • Khermen Denzh Town in Mongolia, by Nikolai N. Kradin, Aleksandr L. Ivliev, Ayudai Ochir, Lkhagvasuren Erdenebold, Sergei Vasiutin, Svetlana Satantseva, and Evgenii V. Kovychev
  • The Chinese Inscription on the Lacquerware Unearthed from Tomb 20, Gol Mod I Site, Mongolia, by Chimiddorj Yeruul-Erdene and Ikue Otani
  • The Ancient Tamga-Signs of Southeast Kazakhstan and Their Owners: The Route from East to West in the 2nd Century BCE – 2nd Century CE, by Alexei E. Rogozhinskii and Sergey A. Yatsenko
  • Museum Collections: Assyrian-style Seals of the Silk Road and Their Relationship to Ties between Iran and Mesopotamia, by Amir Saed Mucheshi
  • “I was born a dervish and a Flying Dutchman.” Sven Hedin and Ferdinand von Richthofen: Introduction and Presentation of Unpublished Letters, by Felix de Montety
  • Museum Collections II: Berlin’s “Turfan Collection” Moves to the Center
, by Lilla Russell-Smith
  • The Mezquita: A Photo Essay, by Daniel C. Waugh