Jun 26, 2013

Trading along the Silk Road

Strands of silk woven into hair of Egyptian mummy revealed important new information about the fabled Silk Road, archeologists reported in 1993.

The Silk Road was the ancient overland route between the Far East and the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It was a collection of tracks and trails across some of the most barren and desolate country on earth. Merchants travelled them, and it was their trade in silk that gave the route its name.

Silk was discovered in China more than 4,000 years ago, and the Chinese carefully guarded the secret of how it was made. Traders who visited China brought gold, silver, and other luxuries from the West. They sold these, then used their earnings to buy silk, which they carried back to the West. The traders took dangerous risks and endured many hardships. But the reward of a successful journey was fabulous wealth.

It had long been thought that trade along the Silk Road began around 100 B.C. But in 1993, archeologists found strands of silk woven into the hair of a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy. Using laboratory tests, they showed that the silk had come from China. Thus trade along the Silk Road - and contact between East and West-must have begun almost 1,000 years earlier than had been believed. (Grolier New Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia)