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Prehistoric civilization along Silk Road

Prehistoric civilization found along Silk Road

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Archaeologists have found artefacts that suggest ancient humans lived along the Silk Road long before it was created about 2,000 years ago and that trading between east and west began prior to the Han Dynasty.

The Silk Road is a historical network of interlinking trade routes covering over 10,000 kilometres which connected Asia with the European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa, and began during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).

Initial discoveries suggesting the existence of prehistoric civilization along the Silk Road were made from 2003 to 2005 at the Xihetan ruins in Gansu’s city of Jiuquan, China – archaeologists found a pen for cattle and footprints and skeletons of livestock. In 2005, researchers from China and Japan found traces of a primitive tribe that lived about 4,500 years ago.

However, more recent excavations on ruins in the northwest of China’s Gansu province has provided confirmation that people lived on the west bank of the Heihe River 4,100 to 3,600 years ago and that they were able to grow crops and smelt copper.

Archaeologists have found a variety of copper items, as well as equipment used to smelt metal and a rare copper-smelting mill.  "People back then mainly dealt with red metal. They also began to make alloys," said Chen Guoke, a researcher with the Gansu Provincial Institute of Archaeology.

The researchers also discovered carbonized barley and wheat seeds, as well as stone hoes and knives used for farming, which indicate trading since barley and wheat originated in central and west Asia.

Giving its historical importance and significance, China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan jointly submitted an application to the UNESCO for adding the Silk Road to the World Heritage List for 2014.

By April Holloway

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