Institute of Archaeology


The Archaeology of the Silk Roads

This module aims to provide advanced, interdisciplinary training in Silk Roads archaeology.

The archaeology of the Silk Roads spans Eurasia, providing a context for the comparative debate of the impacts of short and long-distance contacts and exchange, and their impacts on societies, technologies and belief systems. The main themes centre on theories of mobility, transfer, technology, trade, and networks, to explore how contact and interaction along various routes over time are reflected in the archaeological record. It will encourage students to adopt cross-regional and cross-disciplinary approaches, and to take a critical attitude towards theoretical paradigms and narratives that have influenced the study of the Silk Road over the past century. This module provides a comparative overview of key debates in the archaeology of Silk Roads, with a particular focus on how and why they matter today. It will emphasise the different regional trajectories of Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Western, Central, Southern and Eastern Asia.

Aims of the module

  • To provide advanced, inter-disciplinary training in Silk Roads archaeology
  • To introduce students to the most important current research questions and the main interpretative paradigms that have dominated the field.
  • To develop critical faculties both in debate and in written evaluation of current research (problems, method and theory, quality of evidence).



  • To engage students with the different forms of evidence (objects, archaeological sites, texts) and to critically discuss their interpretative potential for the study region.
  • To examine how Silk Roads archaeology is presented today to the public across the world, in the media, in museums and on sites. 
  • To prepare students to undertake original research on topics in Silk Roads archaeology.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • demonstrate a good knowledge and understanding of major themes and debates in Silk Roads archaeology today
  • critically analyse and present complex arguments and theories about aspects of the subject orally and in writing
  • show a critical awareness of the contribution made by different academic disciplines and types of data to our understanding of the Silk Roads
  • compare and analyse data and material across regional and chronological boundaries and apply acquired knowledge to individual sites and bodies of material.

Teaching Methods

The module is taught through 10 two-hour lectures, with discussion time. Students will be provided with a reading list for each lecture and seminar. Each session will use applied case studies (linked to students individual interests) to address key theoretical issues in Silk Roads archaeology. Sessions have weekly recommended readings, which students will be expected to have done, to be able fully to follow and actively to contribute to discussion.

Module information

  • Code: ARCL0210
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinator: Tim Williams 
  • Prerequisite: There are no formal prerequisites for this module
  • Handbook: open»

For registered students

  • Moodle page: open»
  • Reading list: 


  • Running in 2021-22