10 secrets of the Silk Road that have recently become known

1. Prehistoric Civilizations

In 2010, during excavations along the western bank of the Heihe River, traces of civilization from 4, 100 to 3, 600 years old were found. Researchers found copper objects and smelting equipment, suggesting that the site was previously an ancient metallurgical center. Interestingly, such a copper smelter is the earliest in history.

In addition, during the excavations, charred barley and wheat seeds were found, as well as stone agricultural tools and adobe houses. This indicates that trade between East and West along this route was conducted much earlier than during the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), during which it was previously assumed that the Silk Road.

2. Yiddish roots

Yiddish is the 1000-year-old Ashkenazi language. Initially, scholars believed that it was a German dialect, since Yiddish contains elements of Slavic languages, Hebrew, Farsi and Turkish, and in writing it is similar to Aramaic. Recent research by the University of Sheffield suggests that Yiddish originated among the Persians and Ashkenazi living along the Silk Road. Researchers were even able to pinpoint exactly where this mysterious language originated - in the territory of modern Northeastern Turkey.

The theory that Yiddish was the language of the Silk Road is supported by the fact that it has 251 terms for buying and selling. Some believe that Ashkenazi Jews settled in Khazaria in the first millennium AD, moving to Europe after the collapse of trade routes. Other researchers, such as Paul Wexler of Tel Aviv University, disagree and insist that Yiddish is a Slavic language that borrowed new words from other languages ​​while retaining its original grammar.

3. Diseases

Scientists have long thought that plague originated in the West as a result of infected fleas carried by rats. However, recent studies have shown gerbils to be the culprit. A team from the University of Oslo analyzed the surviving recordings from the Black Death outbreaks and determined that they were associated with climate change affecting Asian rodents rather than European rats.

A 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature doubles the prevalence of plague in Central Asian rodents. Researchers believe that perhaps one of the key factors in the spread of the plague were the camels of the Silk Road traders. These pack animals could easily catch plague from fleas from gerbils and transmit the disease to humans.

4. Lost branch

In 2005, monks discovered an 1, 800-year-old tomb in Tibet that contained evidence of a long-lost part of the Silk Road. In a tomb located at an altitude of 4.3 km above sea level, Chinese silk, ceramic and bronze vessels and a mask of pure gold were found, which clearly indicates contacts between Chinese and Tibetan merchants. The tomb also contained the most ancient examples of Tibetan tea.

Earlier, the oldest Tibetan tea dates back to the 7th century, but the one found in the tomb is 500 years older. The chemical composition of the tea was roughly the same as that found in the tomb of a Han emperor 2, 100 years ago. Experts believe that both teas were grown in the Yunnan province of southern China. The researchers said the findings were evidence of a long-lost high-altitude offshoot of the Silk Road.

5. Sughd letters

In 1907, English archaeologist Aurel Stein discovered five mysterious letters in the ruins of a watchtower that once guarded the Silk Road city of Dunhuang. These letters are the earliest examples of writing in the Sogdian culture. The Sogdians were a people of Iranian origin and controlled trade in the fertile valleys of Central Asia between the 6th century BC. and X century A.D.

These 5 letters describe the history of the Sogdian diaspora and its role as merchants on the Silk Road. Some believe the correspondence was confiscated by the Chinese authorities, while others believe that the mail carrier forgot the letters in a hurry.

6. Cannabis shroud

In 2016, archaeologists discovered a tomb in the Turpan oasis near the Silk Road, which contained cannabis. The find testifies to the importance of marijuana among the ancient inhabitants of the Silk Road. The grave dates back to 2, 800 - 2, 400 years and a 30-year-old man was buried with 13 hemp bushes up to a meter in length, in which a corpse was wrapped like a shroud.

Researchers believe that the burial belongs to the ancient culture of Subeyhi, which dominated the region 3000-2000 years ago. Oasis Turpan has always been a popular stopover for travelers along the Silk Road. This burial clearly demonstrates that cannabis was very popular along the Silk Road.

7. Greek influence on the terracotta army

In 1974, farmers accidentally unearthed approximately 8, 000 stunningly detailed life-size terracotta soldiers in Qin Shi Huang's tomb. Recently, a theory has been put forward that the Terracotta Army was influenced by Greek culture. Before the creation of the emperor's terracotta warriors in 210 BC. the Chinese did not have a tradition of making life-size sculptures. DNA tests in Xinjiang province also showed that there were contacts between Chinese and Europeans at the time. However, not everyone agrees with the Greek theory of influence.

Chinese historians note that Shi Ji, a historiographer of the Han empire, Sima Qian, contains a detailed account of the creation of the tomb and terracotta army without any reference to European influence. Although there is no doubt that the cultures of the East and West met along the Silk Road.

8. Kizil Caves

The Kizil Caves of a Thousand Buddhas reflect the spread of religious ideas along the Great Silk Road. This cave complex, located in Xinjiang, is the earliest of the Chinese Buddhist cave temples and is currently located in the Muslim region. Traders spread both religions in the region along the Silk Road. The complex was built between the 3rd and 8th centuries in the Tocharian state of Gaochang. 236 famous cave temples are carved into the 2 km rock.

Some of these temples are simple, unadorned cells. Others are richly decorated rooms filled with frescoes (moreover, the origin of the frescoes remains a mystery). The absence of Chinese elements suggests that they were written before the rise of Tang influence in the region in the 8th century. The presence of Greco-Indian and Iranian elements suggests a much earlier date for the creation of these mysterious murals.

9. Oasis Cemetery

In 2007, an archaeologist unearthed a mysterious 1, 700-year-old cemetery near the Silk Road. In the mysterious grave M3 discovered near the Kucha oasis in northwestern China, the walls were painted with carvings depicting the mythical guardians of the cardinal points: the Azure Dragon of the East, White Tiger of the West, Black Turtle of the North and Scarlet Bird of the South. Who these people were, buried in the cemetery near the Silk Road, is unknown.

The grave was plundered and no inscriptions were found that could reveal the identity of the deceased, and some of the graves were used several times at all (up to 10 people were buried in a number of cells). Kucha was once the most populous oasis in the Tarim Basin and the center of a Buddhist state that controlled trade along the northern edge of the Silk Road.

10. Tombs of Upper Mustang

In 2009, seismic activity uncovered a series of tombs in Upper Mustang, Nepal that literally rewrote the history of the Silk Road. These 10 tombs dated from 400 to 650 years, and in one of them they found a coffin with the body of an adult in a complex burial mask. However, the textiles found in the tomb were of the greatest interest to researchers. The analysis revealed silk fibers and lacquer dyes imported from China and India in these garments.

Given that there is no evidence that silk was produced at this site, researchers now believe that the Silk Road ran much further south than previously thought. The dry climate and an altitude of 4000 meters allowed the fabrics to be perfectly preserved. The find shows that the Upper Mustang region was once a small but integral part of a much larger trading network.