One of the most important discoveries in marine archaeological history occurred in 1998, just off Indonesia’s Belitung Island in the western Java Sea: A 1,200-year-old Arabian dhow with an astounding cargo of gold, silver, ceramic artifacts, coins, and tangible personal effects. The ship’s hold contained some 57,000 pieces in total and yet no human remains. The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route, now on show at the newly opened Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, explores the movement of cross-cultural exchange, trade, and technology between the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 CE) and Tang dynasty China (618-907 CE) through the prism of an ancient shipwreck.In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Mr. John Vollmer, Guest Curator for the Aga Khan Museum’s presentation of this exhibition, about the importance of the objects in this exhibition and what the exhibition means to the recently opened museum.
China’s Tang dynasty golden age is routinely described as one of the most brilliant eras in Chinese history. Under Tang rule and leadership, China became the wealthiest, most populous, and most sophisticated civilization on earth. While exerting political hegemony and a powerful cultural influence across East Asia, China was also open to influences from its Turkic and Indian neighbors. In this exclusive holiday interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Jonathan Skaff, Professor of History at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and expert on Chinese-Turkic relations during the Tang era, who reevaluates Chinese culture and politics during an age of commercial trade, technological innovation, and ultimately, political instability.
The reconstruction of ancient recipes challenges experimental archaeologists and chefs alike, while concurrently offering unique glimpses into the culinary tastes of diverse ethnic groups. Ms. Laura Kelley, author and founder of The Silk Road Gourmet blog, analyzes the links between recipes, civilizations, and trade across great distances and over long periods of time. As a frequent traveler, Laura first noted the commonalities between recipes and cooking methods, which in turn provided the catalyst for her research as an independent scholar. In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Laura about her interest in cooking — past and present — as well as how she has been able to reconstruct recipes from ancient Central Asia, Mesopotamia, and Rome.
The Cham people of central and south Vietnam have impressive artistic and architectural traditions, dating back more than 1700 years. Migrating from the island of Borneo to present-day Vietnam in second century CE, the Cham maintained a series of coastal kingdoms from c. 192-1832 CE. Champa–located at the crossroads of India, Java, and China–was the grand emporium of Southeast Asia and the chief rival of the powerful Khmer Empire. While primarily remembered in history as merchants, sailors, and warriors, the Cham were also skilled artisans and talented architects. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Ky Phuong Tran–a specialist on Cham cultural history–with regard to the unique characteristics of Cham art and architecture. The arts of Champa adapted various artistic tendencies from Southeast Asia, India, and even China as well.
For many the “Silk Road” conjures images of exotic goods, verdant desert oases, and the bustling markets of ancient China. However, the Silk Road was also a conduit of ideas, technologies, diseases, the arts, and even fashion. Spread across nearly 6,500 km (4,000 mi), the Silk Road affected the course of history, molding civilizations in Europe, Arabia, Persia, India, and China. In this media interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Professor Valerie Hansen, author of The Silk Road: A New History and Professor of History at Yale University. Approaching the importance of cultural transmission through archaeology and material history, Hansen reveals new perspectives while narrating a fascinating story of early global exchange.
For centuries, Wang Xizhi (c. 303-361 CE) has been revered as the “Sage of Calligraphy” across East Asia. Born in the town of Linyi, in Shangdong, China, during the tumultuous years of the Jin dynasty (265-420 CE), Wang revolutionized and reinvigorated this traditional art through his mastery of all forms of Chinese calligraphy, including the notoriously difficult semi-cursive or “walking script.” A legend in his lifetime, Wang’s works were avidly copied by aspiring calligraphers across ancient China. Over the centuries, original pieces by Wang were lost and only exquisitely traced copies remain. Today, many of these copies are kept in Japan and revered as “national treasures.” This winter, the Tokyo National Museum, in Tokyo, Japan, celebrates the life and legacy of China’s most admired calligrapher in Wang Xizhi: Master of Calligraphy. Reflecting on Wang’s style and artistic prowess, this exhibition seeks an authentic image of an elusive artist, reevaluating his artistic role and legacy through his influence on successive artists in China and Japan. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History …