A Partial Prehistory of the Southwest Silk Road: Archaeometallurgical Networks Along the Sub-Himalayan Corridor
Historical phenomena often have prehistoric precedents. In this presentation, we examine the potential for archaeometallurgical analyses and networked data processing to elucidate the progenitors of the Southwest Silk Road, (茶馬道, or ‘Tea Horse Road’), in Mainland Southeast Asia and southern China. Building upon recent data for a ‘late 2nd/early 1st millennium BC interaction arc’ spanning the Southeast Asian Massif’, we present excavation and chronological data from the UNESCO-listed, Pyu city of Halin (2017-2020), as well as the analysis of 40 copper-base metal samples and mineral 25 samples, also from northern Myanmar. These data were combined with existing national datasets and compared to the 1300+ sample late prehistoric archaeometallurgical database available from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan. Manual processing indicates significant supra-regional connectivity from ca. 1200 BC but complex network analysis with regionally adapted consistency parameters allows us to capture unexpected exchange relationships between far-flung communities. So far, we posit four major Bronze Age routes and suggest southern sections of the Southwest Silk Road were active by the late 2nd – early 1st millennium BC.
About the speaker
Dr T. Oliver Pryce HDR is a Senior Researcher/Associate Professor for the French Centre for Scientific Research since 2013, member of Dept. 7065 “IRAMAT”, associated to the University of Paris-Saclay. He has conducted Southeast Asian research since beginning his PhD at University College London (UCL) in 2004. He has directed the Southeastx Asian Lead Isotope Project (SEALIP) since 2008, as well as the French Archaeological Mission in Myanmar since 2012. Pryce won the Shanghai Archaeology Forum Research Prize in 2019 and was appointed Regional Editor for the Global Lead Isotope Database (GlobaLID) in 2023. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the French Institute of Research for Development in 2013, and the University of Oxford from 2009-2012.
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