Friday, January 2, 2009: 4:10 PM
Sutton North (Hilton New York)
The paper will investigate the commercial role played by the pastoral nomadic empire of the Uyghurs in early medieval
Eurasia. Located in Mongolia and the Tuva region of southern Siberia, the Uyghur qaghanate (744-840) was ideally located for making connections in the south with T’ang China (618-907), in the east with the Bohai/P‘o-hai kingdom (698-926) of Manchuria-Russian Far East-North Korea, in the west with Islamic central Asia, and in the north with the numerous tribes of hunting-gathering peoples of Siberia. Indeed, due to its ideal location, the Uyghurs played a critical middleman role in trade relations not only along the well-known east-west Silk Roads, but also across their north-south branches that can be called Fur Roads, since this commodity was one of the chief items of their commerce. While the fur trade was not new to Eurasia, it did increase to unprecedented heights in its volume due to the changing tastes and a massive demand for furs all across southern Eurasia and North Africa during the early medieval era. As a consequence, having ideal geographic connections to the northern furs of Siberia, the Uyghurs established well-developed routes, fortified sites/markets, and transport facilities for maintaining this cross-continental commerce. This well-developed infrastructure allowed for the exchange of goods such as silks, coins, precious metalwares, and other commodities that were brought to the Uyghurs by Soghdian merchants from as far away as in the west and T’ang China in the east. In turn, merchants carried the imported commodities deep into Byzantium Siberia in exchange for furs. In this way, for the first time in the history of Eurasia, the northern sections of Siberia came to be commercially interlinked with a much larger network of international trade routes or the Silk Roads of Afro-Eurasia.
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