In Celebration of the Silk Road

Adapted from : Maps on File

To the many merchants, wandering armies, and adventurers of our ancient civilizations, the Silk Road served as an important communication link between cultures and economies. During the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), this 5000-mile stretch of trade routes was possibly the world's first "Internet," linking Asia to Europe and Africa. Today one can travel the Silk Road and still find evidence of the people, ideas, and goods that traveled and transformed its links.

Caravan on the Silk Road

Source: Silk Road: A History by I. Franck and D. Brownstone

The Task

Congratulations!  As a member of the Council of National Treasures, you have been selected to travel to the province of Xinjiang, China, to  represent your country at the First International Celebration of the Silk Road.   The Xinjiang Trade Commission (XTC) is hosting this exciting event to encourage trade and tourism with the outside world-- and to perhaps rekindle the spirit of cultural exchange that once linked this province to points both east and west.

The celebration will culminate with the opening of the Silk Road Museum in Xinjiang's historic city of Turpan, which was once a much welcomed oasis stop for caravans passing through the province.  Today, as in the time of the Han Dynasty, Turpan is a living example of  cultural exchange along the Silk Road.  Centuries later,  the city continues to be a hotbed of ethnic hostilities, culture clash, and melding.  Your country is invited to help promote unity out of  diversity by making an important contribution to the Silk Road Museum.   The XTC has offered to reserve a display area in the museum for any nation that once traveled the silk routes and would now be willing to donate a national artifact that is at least 1,800 years old and could have by been transported along the Silk Road.

Your country considers the invitation to celebrate and share in this unique period of world history not only as an honor, but also as an excellent opportunity to renew trade with Xinjiang, which is rapidly developing its oil and coal industries.  Therefore, the Council of National Treasures has been given the go-ahead to select an appropriate artifact, design the display, and prepare for the trip to Turpan.

 The XTC has requested that participating nations use the following guidelines in designing their displays:

You will be presenting your display to a team of XTC officials and, of course,  the international press.  The key to a successful presentation is a well-planned project in which eachteam member has helped create a museum-quality display and is prepared to answer any questions from the officials or the press. Your team will consist of a historian, an archaeologist, an anthropologist, a cartographer, and a graphic designer.  Good luck with your research, display, presentation--and team work!

The Process

Once you have drawn or been assigned the name of the country your team will represent, you need to start making preparations for your trip, display, and press conference. For full credit, the display should be eye-catching, historically accurate, and must follow XTC guidelines (see The Task).  Use the Action Plan (Handout #1) to help your team organize and complete  the roles/jobs listed below:

Your presentation  to the press should be 5 -10 minutes long and should include all the members of your team. Use the Oral Evaluation Checklist(Handout #4) as a practice guide.


The following resources will provide you with background information on the history and culture of Turpan/Xinjiang:

Silk Road Foundation-Xinjiang Studies/News Updates from Xinjiang
Pam Logan's Journal--a first-hand account of her recent travels to China (click on Turpan)
Oliver Wild's Silk Road Photos

Sites for Egyptian Artifacts

Exhibit of Artifacts--Memphis State Museum
Oriental Institute-University of Chicago-Egypt page
Ancient Egyptian Art from the Permanent Collection of Emory University

Sites for Mesopotamian artifacts:

Treasures From the Royal Tombs of Ur--University of Pennsylvania Museum (click on more; click on Ancient Mesopotamia Excavation; click on itinerary)
Ancient Art of the Near East from the Permanent Collection of Emory University
Oriental Institute Museum-University of Chicago

Sites for Israeli Artifacts:

Oriental Institute--University of Chicago
Hecht Museum Welcome Page (click on here to get to images of artifacts)
Yale Library

Sites for Indian Artifacts:

Madhubhani Painting--the Women of India

Sites for Greek Artifacts:

Greek Jewelry-5000 Years of Tradition
Collection of Pottery
Perseus Project-Tufts University
Ancient Greek World: Internet Resources
Ancient Roman and Greek Coins

Sites for Roman Artifacts:

Roman Artifacts from the David M. Robinson Collection
Roman Artifacts and Coins for the Ancient Tourist

Sites of Chinese Artifacts:

The Art of China
Chinese Art Forms

Learning Advice

Your teacher will help you to find research sources for this project. Make sure that the artifacts you select from your country's past were crafted from materials available during or before the Han Dynasty .

Your evaluators will be looking for a high-quality, informative display as well as an enthusiastic, well-prepared press conference. You will also be evaluated on your contributions to the group effort. Refer to your Action Plan to make sure responsibilities and work load have been divided evenly. Do your share and make every minute of class research time count!


As a class, you will work with your teacher to develop a rubric based on the following criteria:


Can you see the effects of the Silk Road in Turpan today? Do cultures still exchange people, goods and ideas? Do you see any evidence in your own culture of how trade influences change in how people think or act?


Think about the process you went through to take this Silk Road project from the planning stages to the presentation.

Teacher Notes