Eternal ‘Silk Road’? The Rise of Sogdiana during the 3rd–4th Centuries A.D.


Sören Stark
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University

In the last three decades ‘Silk Road’ studies have seen an unprecedented boom. As one of the consequences of this boom, Sogdiana and its traders were brought into the view of the broader academic and non-academic audience. Unfortunately (as is often the case with popular labels attached to research) the ‘Silk Road’ label has a tendency to take a somewhat timeless quality, thus turning Sogdiana into an eternal hub of transcontinental trade routes, supposedly flourishing since the dawn of history. But is this really the case? And if not, how can we explain the rise of Sogdiana as one of Eurasia’s economic power houses during Late Antiquity? In my lecture, I will attempt to approach this question with the help of both written sources as well as archaeological data. With regard to the latter, I will in particular draw from the results of archaeological fieldwork conducted since 2011 by the Uzbek-American Expedition in Bukhara in present-day Uzbekistan.

Sören Stark is Associate Professor for Central Asian Archaeology at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. He received his PhD in 2005 from Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. Professor Stark has close to two decades of experience in archaeological fieldwork in Western Central Asia. Between 2005 and 2007, he conducted and co-directed archaeological surveys and excavations in Northern Tajikistan on Bronze and Iron age petroglyphs, Iron age kurgans, and Samanid-Qarakhanid period mountain settlements; from 2011 to 2015, he co-directed surveys and excavations at various monuments related with the oasis wall of Bukhara. Since 2015, he is co-directing an archaeological field project investigating agro-pastoral groups in Western Sogdiana during the Hellenistic and post-Hellenistic period.

His current research interests are, among others, on Hellenistic and Late Antique/Early Medieval Sogdiana and the archaeology and history of nomadic groups close to oasis territories in Western Central Asia. His publications include a monograph on the archaeology of the 6th-8th century Türks in Inner and Central Asia, an exhibition catalogue on Early Iron Age kurgans from Kazakhstan, and numerous articles and book chapters on the history and archaeology of Sogdiana between the Hellenistic and the Islamic periods. He has been co-editor of the Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology (at Brepols) and is currently co-editor of Brill’s Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 8: Uralic & Central Asian Studies (HO8).

This lecture will take place live on ZOOM, followed by a question and answer period. Please register to receive the Zoom link. An email with the relevant Zoom information will be sent 1–2 hours ahead of the lecture. Registration closes on November 19, 2021, at 9:00 AM. 


Wall Painting of Sogdian Banqueters, Panjikent, Tajikistan (ancient Sogdiana), Site XVI:10, first half of 8th century CE. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, SA-16215-16217.
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