Following her bestselling Life Along the Silk Road, Susan Whitfield widens her exploration of the great cultural highway with a new captivating portrait focusing on material things. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas tells the stories of ten very different objects, considering their interaction with the peoples and cultures of the Silk Road—those who made them, carried them, received them, used them, sold them, worshipped them, and, in more recent times, bought them, conserved them, and curated them. From a delicate pair of earrings from a steppe tomb to a massive stupa deep in Central Asia, a hoard of Kushan coins stored in an Ethiopian monastery to a Hellenistic glass bowl from a southern Chinese tomb, and a fragment of Byzantine silk wrapping the bones of a French saint to a Bactrian ewer depicting episodes from the Trojan War, these objects show us something of the cultural diversity and interaction along these trading routes of Afro-Eurasia.
Exploring the labor, tools, materials, and rituals behind these various objects, Whitfield infuses her narrative with delightful details as the objects journey through time, space, and meaning. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas is a lively, visual, and tangible way to understand the Silk Road and the cultural, economic, and technical changes of the late antique and medieval worlds.
Susan Whitfield, author of Life Along the Silk Road, is a scholar, curator, writer, and traveler who has been exploring the history, art, religions, cultures, objects, exploration, and people of the Silk Road for the past three decades.
"In the tradition of Neil MacGregor's History of the World in 100 Objects, but digging deeper, Susan Whitfield takes us on a tour of Silk Road culture and history via ten exemplary pieces (nine inanimate, one human). Each chapter's discussion spirals out from the object to take in history, technology, trade patterns, ancient and modern provenance, museology and other aspects, linking Silk Road past to globalizing present. Whitfield's micro-to-macro treatment of this handful of key Eurasian things is new to books on the Silk Road. Her expertise in art history, history, archaeology, museology, Dunhuangology, and other specialties is very much in evidence; few if any other scholars could do what she has done here. More than that, however, she manages to write for the student, the museum-goer, and the armchair traveler, as well as for the specialist."—James A. Millward, author of The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction
"No one knows more about the material culture of the Silk Road than Susan Whitfield. With this book it's now clear that no one tells the story of the early world through objects better than she does. Whitfield carries her readers to the far corners of the earth through her deep and vast research on Silk Road artifacts."—Xinru Liu, author of The Silk Road in World History
"The fabled Silk Road springs to life in this engaging and erudite book. The author conjures up its rich history through a series of vignettes that take the form of biographical sketches of some of the fascinating things that moved in and out of many hands and many places across Asia, Europe, and Africa. This is a book of enthralling stories about familiar and unfamiliar objects, peoples, and landscapes in premodern times."—Anand A. Yang, author of Bazaar India: Markets, Society, and the Colonial State in Bihar