2. Caravan Animals: Distribution of Wealth and Disease

Case Studies in the Silk Roads Archaeology - Branka Franicevic

Branka Franicevic [+-]
University of Bradford
Branka Franicevic, archaeologist and forensic scientist, University of Oxford reader, Nottingham Trent University lecturer and a PhD student in University of Bradford. Her research interests concerns migration of people and animals, including funerary archaeology, in particular the treatment of the body and the inclusion of grave goods associated with the Silk Road cultures. Her second research area concerns environmental change in taphonomic context, and examination of the effects of microbiological and taphonomic processes on the decay of dismembered body parts.


From the time the Silk Road opened trade with the West until its decline little thought was given to the role of animals in shaping its legendary route networks. With an aim to understand the process of bringing together civilisations, the archaeological record focuses mainly on trade routes and trade goods. Judging by the scarcity of other evidence, it would appear that domestic animals and wildlife had been mainly consumed or/and used for transport. However, as new cultures and beliefs were exchanged, different functions animals had in everyday life were inevitably introduced and adopted. It is, therefore, possible that these functions justify only certain aspects of connecting East to West. This paper argues that the heartbeat of the Silk Road was essentially the animals that were intimately connected with its making, existence and its decline. In doing so, it discusses them as keys to the trade and international relations to include the animal role in the creation of the Silk Road, the silk-making, transportation, trade of luxury goods, religious belief, military support and the spread of disease. A proposed framework of the study is a combination of theoretical interpretations, iconography and imagery, and the material evidence.

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Franicevic, Branka. 2. Caravan Animals: Distribution of Wealth and Disease. Case Studies in the Silk Roads Archaeology. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Feb 2023. ISBN 9781000000000. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=42849. Date accessed: 07 Dec 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.42849. Feb 2023

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