Ancient nomadic herders beat a path to the Silk Road | Science News

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Ancient nomadic herders beat a path to the Silk Road

Seasonal migrations marked early steps in establishing cross-continental trade route

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1:00pm, March 8, 2017
a Silk road caravanserai

INN CROWD  Highland herders in Asia forged high-altitude travel routes that became part of an ancient trade network known as the Silk Road, a new study concludes. This Silk Road caravanserai, or inn, near a simulated herder route sits at about 3,500 meters above sea level in Kyrgyzstan, near the Chinese border.

Nomadic herders took the ancient Silk Road to new heights.

Starting 4,000 years ago or more, Central Asian herders routinely migrated from highland pastures in summer to lowland areas in winter (SN: 5/3/14, p. 15). Over roughly the next 2,000 years, those routes through mountainous regions eventually became a key part of the Silk Road, an ancient trade and travel network stretching from China to Europe, says a team led by anthropologist Michael Frachetti of Washington University in St. Louis.

This finding underscores the important contribution of nomadic herders, interacting with lowland farmers and early city dwellers, to the Silk Road and overland trade, the researchers conclude in the March 9 Nature. Extensive Silk Road pathways ran across Asia by around 2,200 years ago. Merchants, pilgrims,

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