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The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History, Second Edition
Richard W. Bulliet, Pamela Kyle Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson, David Northrup
History WIRED

Chapter 8: Networks of Communication and Exchange, 300 B.C.E.-1100 C.E.


Map of the Trade Routes

Hyperhistory: The World 100-200 C.E.

Eurasian Trade Map

A View from Above: South Asia

Asia: Reference Map

Middle East Reference Map  

Parthia at Its Greatest Extent

Interactive Map of Parthia

The Indian Ocean

Map of Monsoon patterns in Indian Ocean

A View from Above: The Western Indian Ocean

Saharan Trade: A Link Between Europe and Africa

A View from Above: Africa

Physical Map of Africa

Africa Reference Map

CNN Millennium: Map of major Eurasian religions, Eleventh Century


The Silk Road: Pictures
This site provides current photographs of many stops along the ancient overland Eurasian trade routes.

The Silk Road
This comprehensive site provides many links with images from various historical periods of the Silk Road.  It also includes several useful Maps.  The most useful material can be accessed by clicking "Timeline" and "Maps" in the left-hand column.

Silk Road DunHuang [Tun-Huang] Grottoes
This excellent site contains numerous superb images from this famous Buddhist sanctuary from the sixth century in Central Asia and allows you to explore the spread of Buddhism through the Eurasian trade routes.

In the Mountains of Central Asia
These photos from a recent journey to Central Asia provide geographical context to this part of the overland silk routes.

Images from World History: Samartia
These images of artifacts provide insight into this first millennium culture in Central Asia.

Images from World History: Bactria
This site provides images of artwork from a civilization that was located in modern-day Afghanistan.  The images show strong Greek influence dating back to Alexander the Great's conquests.

Images from World History: Kushnan Empire
This site provides images of artwork from this first- through third-century Central Asian Buddhist kingdom.

Images from World History: Parthia
More images of this vital Iranian kingdom along the Eurasian trade routes.

Parthia: Art and Artifacts
A comprehensive site with many links to artwork from this ancient Iranian kingdom.

This site provides many images of the ruins of this Middle Eastern trading post.

Bactrian Camel
A brief site that offers a few images and a brief description of this unique breed of camels.

Chinese Junk
A detailed drawing, with description, of this East Asian sailing vessel that aided the development of Indian Ocean and South China Sea commerce.

Arab Dhow
Another detailed drawing, with description, of this Indian Ocean sailing vessel.  The dhow took unique advantage of the Indian Ocean monsoon patterns.

Early Central Asia Kingdoms
This site provides multiple images of coins from various kingdoms in Central Asia.

Saharan Rock Art
A comprehensive site that offers extensive examples and analysis of the artifacts left behind by this ancient African culture.

Saharan Rock Art
Another site exploring ancient Africa.  The site includes images relating to recently discovered depictions of giraffes.

Images from World History: Saharan Rock Art
This site offers further images of this phenomenon.

Images from World History: Axum
This site provides several excellent images from this East African civilization strongly influenced by its ties to the Christian Mediterranean world.

Activity One:

This chapter covers a wide range of time and space.  To strengthen your understanding of the geographical context, refer to the following Maps: Map of the Trade Routes, Hyperhistory: The World 100-200 C.E., Eurasian Trade Map, Asia: Reference Map, Middle East Reference Map, Africa Reference Map. Identify the following locations or physical entities: Silk Road, Indian Ocean, Caspian Sea, Arabian Sea, Sahara Desert, Takla Makan Desert, Tien Shan Mountains, Himalayan Mountains, Niger River, Great Rift Valley, Ghana, Armenia, Ethiopia (or Axum), Parthia, Yemen, Samarkand, and Bukhara.  When finished, print out the map at World: Physical and label these features.  After familiarizing yourself with this material analyze how geography affected trade patterns.  To review the trade patterns, refer to Map of the Trade Routes.  How did geography encourage or hinder trade?  What obstacles had to be overcome?  How did merchants overcome these barriers? How did geography encourage, or discourage, cross-cultural contact?  In other words, which specific areas of the Afro Eurasia world between 300 B.C.E. and 1100 C.E. were centers of exchange or what areas served as entrepots - places where merchants from different cultures most likely convened from many areas to exchange goods?  For example, the city of Rome was not an entrepot, but the city of Samarkand was.

Activity Two:

Central Asian nomads, whom you have seen several references to in your readings on the great empires of the Eurasian continent such as Rome and Han China, played a crucial role in the development of the long-distance trade explored in this chapter.  This role was seldom appreciated by the great civilizations of the time, who usually labeled the nomads as barbarians.  For a more nuanced perception, click on The Kushans and Kanishkas (AD 50 - 300).  To locate the Kushan Empire, see Map of the Trade Routes.  What civilizations did the Kushan Empire border?  How did it disseminate culture, religion, and technology?  What do you think this group's greatest impact on world history was?  For more information, go to Buddhism and Its Spread Along the Silk Road.  Using the Kushan people as an example, how would you classify the role of Central Asian nomads in world history?  Were they barbarians as the Romans or Chinese labeled them?  Defend your answer.

Activity Three:

One area that was relatively isolated from the expanding networks of communication and exchange in the Eastern Hemisphere between 300 B.C.E. and 1100 C.E. was much of sub-Saharan Africa.  Our knowledge of developments in sub-Saharan Africa during this time period are extremely limited.  Archaeologists made a remarkable discovery during the 1970s and 1980s.  For more detail, go to Jenne-jeno: An Ancient African City.  What does this site reveal about the level of social development in Western Africa before the year 1000?  What do the authors mean when they claim, "The results indicated that earlier assumptions about the emergence of complex social organization in urban settlements and the development of long-distance trade as innovations appearing only after the arrival of the Arabs in North Africa in the seventh and eighth centuries were incorrect."  Why do you think that historians have assumed that urban societies did not exist in sub-Saharan Africa before 1000?

Activity Four:

The long-term consequences of sustained contact and exchange among various civilizations and communities in the Afro Eurasian world between 300 B.C.E. and 1100 C.E. was profound.  This level of interaction often led to cultural exchange.  The spread of Buddhism, which you explored in Activity Two, is one example of this development.  To further explore this issue, read the essay at Old World Contacts: Cultural Conversion.  After analyzing this article, make a list of the variety of ways in which cultures absorb aspects of foreign cultures.  How does trade foster this phenomenon? "The Spread of Christianity," on pages 221-222 of your textbook, discusses examples of cultural conversion in Armenia and Ethiopia.  Using the categories in this essay, explain how long-distance trade encouraged this development.