Ashgabat, 23 November 2016 (nCa) — Amir Timur (known as Tamerlane during the age of ignorance) writes in his biography: “If an old woman carrying gold and diamonds in an open platter travels alone from the borders of China to the borders of Europe, no one will dare touch her. I have established peace and security. I have cleared the land for trade caraans.”
One of his biographers writes that if a boy travels on foot for years within the domain of Timur, carrying gold coins, he will remain unharmed from one end to the other, and it surely takes years to travels by foot across his domain.
Connectivity is inherently linked to peace and security: Peace and security encourage better connectivity, and connectivity helps maintain peace and facilitate prosperity.
Connectivity is the lifeline for this landlocked region. The history shows that the years of peace and prosperity in Central Asia were also the years of connectivity. Before Timur there was another man of vision who razed the bumps and created conditions for seamless connectivity in the Eurasian land mass: Genghis Khan.
Here are some of the achievements of Genghis Khan, also known as Great Khan (Khaqan):
- He introduced a kind of passport-visa system for the travelers inside his vast empire – this helped encourage unhindered movement of cargo and people throughout his lands
- He pioneered the system of bank transfer, credit card and letter of credit
- He institutionalized religious tolerance
- He popularized the use of trouser that is the basic piece of western dress today
As a matter of fact, the rise of Genghis Khan is rooted in his decisive clash with Khwarezm Shah, a fateful encounter that took place because of the need to open the trade route to Iran and the west.
The celebrated Silk Road, which is being energetically revived in the shape of OBOR (One Belt, One Road), North-South and East-West corridors, and a number of other initiatives subscribing to the concept of connectivity, thrived only during the times of peace, stability and safe passage.
The significance of Silk Road is in spotlight again as the movement of cargo through land routes has become faster and cheaper compared to the sea routes.
An event of paramount importance in this context would be the First Global Conference on Sustainable Transport that will take place in Ashgabat on 26-27 November 2016. It is an event led by the United Nations with overwhelming support of the world community.
For connectivity to rejuvenate its roots in the region and beyond, there is the need to harmonize the political will and transform it into doable action plan.
In a bygone era, this was done by conquering the lands. Today, we have it easy: all we need to do is to exercise some flexibility in the interpretation of our national interests and get into bilateral and multilateral agreements to ensure smooth movement of cargo and people.
The conference in Ashgabat is just the first step in a global awakening that sees connectivity as the answer to many of the pressing challenges of our times.
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An article at Mental Floss gives brief history of some trade routes:
8 Trade Routes That Shaped World History
Trade routes have developed since ancient times to transport goods from places of production to places of commerce. Scarce commodities that were only available in certain locations, such as salt or spices, were the biggest driver of trade networks, but once established, these roads also facilitated cultural exchange—including the spread of religion, ideas, knowledge, and sometimes even bacteria.
- SILK ROAD // THE MOST FAMOUS TRADE ROUTE IN THE WORLD
The Silk Road is the most famous ancient trade route, linking the major ancient civilizations of China and the Roman Empire. Silk was traded from China to the Roman empire starting in the first century BCE, in exchange for wool, silver, and gold coming from Europe. Alongside spreading trade, the Silk Road also became a vital route for the spread of knowledge, technology, religion, and the arts, with many trading centers along the route—such as Samarkand in modern-day Uzbekistan—also becoming important centers of intellectual exchange.
The Silk Road originated in Xi’an in China and travelled alongside the Great Wall of China before crossing the Pamir Mountains into Afghanistan and on to the Levant, where goods were loaded on to ships destined for Mediterranean ports. It was rare for tradespeople to travel the full 4000 miles, and so most plied their trade on only sections of the route. As the Roman Empire crumbled in the fourth century CE, the Silk Road became unsafe and fell out of use until the 13th century, when it was revived under the Mongols. Italian explorer Marco Polo followed the Silk Road during the 13th century, becoming one of the first Europeans to visit China. But the famous route may have spread more than trade and cross-cultural links—some scientists think it was merchants traveling along the route who spread the plague bacteria which caused the Black Death.
- SPICE ROUTE // BRINGING FLAVOR FROM EAST TO WEST
Unlike most of the other trade routes in this list, the Spice Routes were maritime routes linking the East to the West. Pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg were all hugely sought-after commodities in Europe, but before the 15th century access to trade with the East was controlled by North African and Arab middlemen, making such spices extremely costly and rare. With the dawning of the Age of Exploration (15th to 17th centuries), as new navigation technology made sailing long distances possible, Europeans took to the seas to forge direct trading relationships with Indonesia, China, and Japan. Some have argued that it was the spice trade that fueled the development of faster boats, encouraged the discovery of new lands, and fostered new diplomatic relationships between East and West (it was partly with spices in mind that Christopher Columbus set out in 1492 and ended up finding America).
The Dutch and English especially profited from the control of the spice trade in the East Indies—modern-day Indonesia, especially the area known as the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, which were the only source of nutmeg and cloves at that time. Wars were fought, lands colonized, and fortunes made on the back of the spice trade, making this trade route one of the most significant in terms of globalization.
- INCENSE ROUTE // STARRING THE DOMESTICATED CAMEL
The Incense Route developed to transport frankincense and myrrh, which are only found in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula (modern Yemen and Oman). Frankincense and myrrh are both derived from tree sap that is dried in the sun; these nuggets of sap can then be burned as incense or used as perfume, and were also popular in burial rituals to aid embalming. The camel was domesticated around 1000 BCE and this development allowed the Arabians to begin to transport their valuable incense to the Mediterranean, an important trade hub. Frankincense and myrrh became a significant commodity for the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians—indeed it was said that the Roman emperor Nero had a whole year’s harvest of frankincense burned at the funeral of his beloved mistress.
The trade flourished, and the overland route was, at its height, said to have seen 3000 tons of incense traded along its length every year. Roman historian Pliny the Elder wrote that it took 62 days to complete the route, although it is clear that at times the exact route shifted when greedy settlements pushed their luck and demanded taxes that were too high from the caravans coming through. By the first century CE, this ancient overland route was largely redundant, as improved boat design made sea routes more attractive.
- AMBER ROAD // TRADING BEADS
Amber has been traded since c.3000 BCE, with archaeological evidence revealing amber beads from the Baltic having reached as far as Egypt. An Amber Road linking the Baltic with the rest of Europe was developed by the Romans, who valued the stone as both a decorative item and for medicinal purposes.
Large deposits of amber are found under the Baltic Sea, formed millions of years ago when forests covered the area. The amber washes ashore after storms, and can be harvested from the beaches across the Baltic, which is how many local amber traders built their business. However, during the crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Baltic became an important source of income for the Teutonic Knights, who were granted control of the amber-producing region. The Knights persecuted the local Prussians brutally, and anyone attempting to harvest or sell amber was put to death. Today traces of the old Amber Road can be found in Poland, where one of the major routes is known as the “Amber Highway.”
- TEA ROUTE // THE PRECIPITOUS TEA-HORSE ROAD
This ancient route winds precipitously for over 6000 miles, through the Hengduan Mountains—a major tea-producing area of China—through Tibet and on to India. The road also crosses numerous rivers, making it one of the most dangerous of the ancient trade routes. The main goods traveling the route were Chinese tea and Tibetan warhorses, with direct trades of tea-for-horses and vice versa being the main goal of merchants plying the route. Parts of the route were used starting c.1600 BCE, but the entire route began to be used for trade from about the seventh century CE, and large-scale trade was taking place starting in the Song dynasty (960–1279).
At least one piece of research suggests that in the period 960–1127 some 20,000 Tibetan warhorses were traded along the route every year in exchange for an eye-watering 8000 tons of tea. As sea routes became more popular, the significance of the road lessened, but during World War II it once again grew in importance as the Japanese blocked many seaports, and the Tea-Horse Road became an important route for supplies traveling between inland China and India.
- SALT ROUTE // VIA SALARIA
Salt has long been a precious commodity—it’s been used to flavor and preserve food, and as an antiseptic, for example. But easily harvested salt was a scarce mineral in antiquity, and so areas rich in salt became important trading centers. Routes connecting these centers to other settlements also became commonplace. Of the many such routes that sprang up, one of the most famous was the Roman Via Salaria (Salt Route), which ran from Ostia, near Rome, across Italy to the Adriatic coast. So precious was salt that it made up a portion of a Roman soldier’s pay, and it is from this that we get the word salary (from the Latin for salt, sal) and the phrase “Not worth his salt”—the latter because a soldier’s salt pay would be docked if he did not work hard.
Another important salt route across Europe was the Old Salt Road, which ran 62 miles from Lüneburg in northern Germany, which was one of the most plentiful salt sources in northern Europe, to Lübeck on the north German coast. During the Middle Ages this route became vital for providing salt for the fishing fleets that left Germany for Scandinavia, as the salt was used to preserve the precious herring catch. It would take a cart delivering salt some 20 days to traverse the Old Salt Road, and many towns along the way grew wealthy by levying taxes and duties on wagons as they passed through.
- TRANS-SAHARAN TRADE ROUTE // TRADING ACROSS THE DESERT
The Trans-Saharan Trade Route from North Africa to West Africa was actually made up of a number of routes, providing a criss-cross of trading links across the vast expanse of desert. These trade routes first emerged in the fourth century CE, and by the 11th century caravans made up of over a thousand camels would carry goods across the Sahara. Gold, slaves, salt, and cloth were the most important commodities on this route, but many other objects also found their way into the caravans, from ostrich feathers to European goods such as guns.
The trade route was instrumental in the spread of Islam from the Berbers in North Africa into West Africa, and with Islam came Arabic knowledge, education, and language. The Trans-Saharan trade route also encouraged the development of monetary systems and state-building, as local rulers saw the strategic value in bringing large swathes of land, and thus their commodities, under their control. By the 16th century, as Europeans began to see the value in African goods, the Trans-Saharan trade routes became overshadowed by the European-controlled trans-Atlantic trade, and the wealth moved from inland to coastal areas, making the perilous desert route less attractive.
- TIN ROUTE // BRONZE AGE BUSINESS
The Tin Route was a major Bronze Age to Iron Age trade route that provided early settlements with access to a vital ingredient for metal-making—tin. Copper must be alloyed with tin to make bronze, an advance that occurred in the Near East around 2800 BCE and created a stronger, better metal than the type used previously. This new technology put tin much in demand, and as it is not found in many places, it became an important item for trade.
One such tin route flourished in the first millennium BCE from the tin mines in Cornwall in the far southwest of Britain, over the sea to France, and then down to Greece and beyond. Evidence for this route is provided by the many hillforts that sprung up along the way as trading posts. Historians believe that trade passed both ways up and down this route, as the hillforts provide evidence of exotic artifacts, including coral and gold. No written accounts survive from this period, but the archaeological record shows that technology and art traveled the route between northern Europe and the Mediterranean alongside tin—thus providing a vital link across Europe.
September 20, 2016 – 8:00am
Link to this article at Mental Floss
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Here is a short article from LiveScince about the impact of ancient trade routes on the world:
How Ancient Trade Changed the World
February 17, 2008
You’ve got the gold I need for my necklace and I’ve got the silk you need for your robe.
What to do?
Nowadays, if you need something, you go to the closest mall, shell out a few bucks and head home. Thousands of years ago, the process wasn’t nearly as simple. If you or someone in your town didn’t grow it, herd it or make it, you needed to abandon that desire or else travel for it, sometimes over great distances. For many towns, the effort of trade was too much. Those ancient towns make only rare appearances in our history books.
When the first civilizations did begin trading with each other about five thousand years ago, however, many of them got rich…and fast.
Trade was also a boon for human interaction, bringing cross-cultural contact to a whole new level.
When people first settled down into larger towns in Mesopotamia and Egypt, self-sufficiency – the idea that you had to produce absolutely everything that you wanted or needed – started to fade. A farmer could now trade grain for meat, or milk for a pot, at the local market, which was seldom too far away.
Cities started to work the same way, realizing that they could acquire goods they didn’t have at hand from other cities far away, where the climate and natural resources produced different things. This longer-distance trade was slow and often dangerous, but was lucrative for the middlemen willing to make the journey.
The first long-distance trade occurred between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley in Pakistan around 3000 BC, historians believe. Long-distance trade in these early times was limited almost exclusively to luxury goods like spices, textiles and precious metals. Cities that were rich in these commodities became financially rich, too, satiating the appetites of other surrounding regions for jewelry, fancy robes and imported delicacies.
It wasn’t long after that trade networks crisscrossed the entire Eurasian continent, inextricably linking cultures for the first time in history.
By the second millennium BC, former backwater island Cyprus had become a major Mediterranean player by ferrying its vast copper resources to the Near East and Egypt, regions wealthy due to their own natural resources such as papyrus and wool. Phoenicia, famous for its seafaring expertise, hawked its valuable cedar wood and linens dyes all over the Mediterranean. China prospered by trading jade, spices and later, silk. Britain shared its abundance of tin.
In the absence of proper roads, the most efficient way to transport goods from one place to another was by sea.
The first and most extensive trade networks were actually waterways like the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates in present-day Iraq and the Yellow River in China. Cities grew up in the fertile basins on the borders of those rivers and then expanded by using their watery highways to import and export goods.
The domestication of camels around 1000 BC helped encourage trade routes over land, called caravans, and linked India with the Mediterranean. Like an ancient version of the Wild West frontier, towns began sprouting up like never before anywhere that a pit-stop or caravan-to-ship port was necessary. Many of the better-known satellite towns of Rome and Greece were founded this way, stretching those fabled empires further afield until their influences crossed continents.
And in each of these places, foreign traders drank in port towns and shared stories and customs from back home, leaving more than just their parcels behind.
LiveScience link to this article:
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The all-encompassing connectivity solution is China’s OBOR, the One Belt, One Road initiative linking some 70 countries directly and 144 indirectly. There are six main corridors in OBOR.