The Maritime Silk Road: Global Connectivities, Regional Nodes, Localities

edited by Franck Billé, Sanjyot Mehendale and James Lankton
Asian Borderlands
Amsterdam University Press, 2022
eISBN: 978-90-485-5242-9

The Maritime Silk Road foregrounds the numerous networks that have been woven across oceanic geographies, tying world regions together often far more extensively than land-based routes. On the strength of the new data which has emerged in the last two decades in the form of archaeological findings, as well as new techniques such as GIS modeling, the authors collectively demonstrate the existence of a very early global maritime trade. From architecture to cuisine, and language to clothing, evidence points to early connections both within Asia and between Asia and other continents—well before European explorations of the Global South. The human stories presented here offer insights into both the extent and limits of this global exchange, showing how goods and people traveled vast distances, how they were embedded in regional networks, and how local cultures were shaped as a result.

Franck Billé is a cultural anthropologist based at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is program director for the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies. He is the author of Sinophobia (Hawaii, 2015), coauthor of On the Edge (Harvard, 2021), editor of Voluminous States (Duke, 2020), and coeditor of Yellow Perils (Hawaii, 2019) and Frontier Encounters (Open Book, 2012). He is currently finalizing his latest book, Somatic States: On Cartography, Geobodies, Bodily Integrity (Duke University Press). More information about his current research is available on his website:

Sanjyot Mehendale is Chair of the P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for Silk Road Studies and Vice Chair of the Center for Buddhist Studies at UC Berkeley. Her main research concerns is a focus on the Kushan period, in particular on trade and cultural exchange and the relationship between Kushan kingship and Buddhist institutions. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, she has developed, in collaboration with the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative, a digital archive of the Begram ivory and bone carvings, which were once housed in the National Museum in Kabul, Afghanistan ( The author of several articles on Silk Roads art and archaeology, she is the co-editor of Central Asia and the Caucasus: Transnationalism and Diaspora (Routledge, 2005).

James W. Lankton is currently a Senior Research Associate at UCL Institute of Archaeology in London and has been a Visiting Scholar at the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, UC Berkeley. For the past twenty years James has focused on the interpretation of chemical analyses of early glass found both East and West, with recent projects on glass from South and Southeast Asia and Korea in the late 1st c. BCE to the 6th c. CE, and Egypt and the Mediterranean basin from the Late Bronze Age.

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