Silk Road leads from Uzbekistan to London for landmark exhibition

Last Updated: June 23, 2024By

Exploring the Silk Roads: A Journey of Trade, Art, and Culture


In the bustling world of ancient treasures, a colossal six-meter wall painting from the 7th century and delicate ivory figures carved in the 8th century for an ancient chess set are gearing up for their debut in Britain. These marvels, hailing from the historic city of Samarkand, will be part of a groundbreaking exhibition at the British Museum, marking the first-ever loan from Uzbekistan’s museums to this iconic institution.

The Silk Roads exhibition, scheduled to open in September, promises a journey through time from AD500 to 1000. It delves beyond the familiar imagery of east-west trade routes, camel caravans laden with silks, and bustling bazaars. Instead, it unveils a tapestry of cultural connections crisscrossing continents and bridging civilizations centuries before globalization as we know it today.


Unraveling the Threads of History

Contrary to the notion of a single trade artery, the exhibition reveals a web of interconnected networks linking diverse communities across Asia, Africa, and Europe. Over 300 artifacts, including loans from 29 institutions worldwide, will grace the halls of the British Museum. From majestic wall paintings depicting vibrant processions to intricate ivory chess pieces symbolizing strategic prowess, each artifact whispers tales of bygone eras.

A Glimpse into Diverse Legacies

The six-meter wall painting, a vivid portrayal of camel-riding processions, transports viewers to the ancient “Hall of the Ambassadors” in Samarkand. Its origins in the 660s reflect the cosmopolitan nature of the Sogdians, a testament to their thriving trade and cultural exchanges. Meanwhile, the 8th-century ivory chess pieces, a testament to strategic intellect and luxury, offer a glimpse into early games of military prowess and elite entertainment.


Beyond Borders: Traversing Continents and Cultures

The exhibition transcends geographical boundaries, showcasing artifacts from every corner of the ancient world. From Indian garnets nestled in Suffolk soil to Chinese ceramics unearthed in Egyptian sands, the Silk Roads’ reach is awe-inspiring. Visitors will encounter relics like a gilded container once brimming with aromatic chrism, smuggled past customs in a daring medieval tale.

Bridging Worlds: From Samarkand to Britain

This narrative of interconnectedness extends even to Britain, where artifacts like a whalebone box intricately carved with global stories await discovery. As curator Sue Brunning notes, these treasures expand our understanding of the Silk Roads, weaving together narratives of history, art, and human connection across distant lands.

Embark on a voyage through time and culture, where each artifact is a thread in the rich tapestry of human heritage. The Silk Roads exhibition promises a riveting exploration of our shared past, bridging ancient worlds and contemporary marvels for all to behold.

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