Hi! I'm working on a novel, and one of my characters is a prehistoric archaeologist. I was wondering if you knew any good sources for intercontinental trade between prehistoric Britain and other civilisations. I loved your posts about Egyptian and Middle Eastern beads and textiles ending up in Britain, and I'm trying to explore how far back those trade routes go.
Have I got a search term for you! What you’re curious about is often called “The Steppe Road,” and that’s usually how these trade routes are described in antiquity and pre-history narratives.
World historians are becoming increasingly aware of the underlying unity of Afro-Eurasian history. Andre Gunder Frank and Barry Gills have argued that the entire Afro-Eurasian region belonged to a single “world-system” from perhaps as early as 2000 B.C.E. And William McNeill and Jerry Bentley have recently restated the case for a unified Afro-Eurasian history. But Marshall Hodgson had made the same point as early as the 1950s, when he argued that “historical life, from early times at least till two or three centuries ago, was continuous across the Afro-Eurasian zone of civilization; that zone was ulti-mately indivisible… The whole of the Afro-Eurasian zone is the only context large enough to provide a framework for answering the more general and more basic historical questions that can arise.”
-David Christian, “Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History.” Journal of World History 11, no. 1 (2000): 1–26.
The majority of the Silk Road routes passed through the Eurasian Steppe, whose nomadic people were participants and mediators in its economic and cultural exchanges. Until now, the origins of these routes and relationships have not been examined in great detail. In The Prehistory of the Silk Road, E. E. Kuzmina, renowned Russian archaeologist, looks at the history of this crucial area before the formal establishment of Silk Road trade and diplomacy. From the late Neolithic period to the early Bronze Age, Kuzmina traces the evolution of the material culture of the Steppe and the contact between civilizations that proved critical to the development of the widespread trade that would follow, including nomadic migrations, the domestication and use of the horse and the camel, and the spread of wheeled transport.
You can also check out the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History links for Central and North Asia, 1000 B.C.–1 A.D: