By land, China is physically isolated from neighbouring regions of settled life. While the nomads who roamed the Chinese borderlands are generally seen as predatory, this reflects a late stage in their social structure and economy, with the rise of mounted horsemen and tribal confederacies from the Iron Age onwards. Equally, it is only part of the story of their significance. Back into the Bronze Age, mobile pastoralists played a critical role in facilitating the introduction of key technologies and economic practices from the west, developments that had a major impact on early society in China. This paper will discuss the pre and early history of Xinjiang and surrounding regions, exploring the role of nomadic peoples in cultural exchange.
Alison Betts is Professor of Silk Road Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research interests extend from Western Asia to China. Her current major projects include a collaborative project to study the Bronze Age of western China and another to explore the Neolithic of Kashmir. Her second focus is on the excavation of an ancient royal citadel in Uzbekistan which has yielded remarkable new data on the early history of Zoroastrianism. Her research themes include ancient animal traps, nomadic peoples, and East-West contact in prehistory, particularly the transmission of crops and metallurgical technologies.
This event is part of the lecture series ‘Borderlands in Chinese History and Archaeology’, co-presented throughout 2019 by the Department of History and the China Studies Centre.