Uncovering Ancient Knowledge Along the Silk Road
At the turn of the 20th Century, the great race was on to uncover ancient knowledge on the Silk Road.
"Journeys on the Silk Road" tells the story of archaeologist Aurel Stein and the ancient knowledge he seeks in the deserts of Central Asia.
Cover Courtesy Lyons Press
The Silk Road once linked China
with the Mediterranean. It conveyed merchants,
pilgrims and ideas. But its cultures and oases were swallowed by shifting sands. Journeys on the Silk Road (Lyon’s Press, 2011) tells the story of Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-born
scholar and archaeologist whose expeditions in Central Asia uncovered hidden
ancient knowledge along the once lost Silk Road. In this excerpt from chapter 1, “The
Great Race,”, follow Stein through a desert sand storm on the eve of a planned,
An unforgiving wind blew
clouds of dust and sand as if every grain were aimed at one tired man astride a
weary pony. He urged his mount forward, determined to keep a promise. He had
set out long before dawn, leaving behind his team of men and pack animals,
knowing he would have to cover in one day ground that would typically take
three. Traveling through the heat and glare of the Central Asian desert, he now
looked on his vow—to arrive that day on the doorstep of friends in a distant
oasis—as uncharacteristically rash. But for seventeen hours he pressed on
across parched wastes of gravel and hard-baked earth.
As dusk approached, the
sting of the day’s heat eased, yet the failing light compounded his struggle to
keep to the track amid the blinding sand. His destination of Kashgar could not
be far away. But where? He was lost. He looked for someone—anyone—who could
offer directions, but the locals knew better than to go into the desert at
night during a howling wind storm. He found a farm worker in a dilapidated
shack and appealed for help to set him back on the path. But the man had no
desire to step outside and guide a dirt-caked foreigner back to the road, until
enticed by a piece of silver.
The rider still had seven
miles to go. He groped his way forward as the horse stumbled in ankle-deep
dust. Eventually, he collided with a tree and felt his way along a familiar
avenue until he reached the outskirts of the old town. Then, as if conceding
defeat, the wind abated and lights could be glimpsed through the murky dark. He
crossed a creaking wooden bridge to reach the mud walls that encircled the
oasis. The guns that signaled the sunset closing of the iron gates to the old
Muslim oasis had been fired hours ago.
The only sound was the
howling of dogs, alert to the clip-clopping of a stranger on horseback passing
outside the high wall. He continued until he reached a laneway. He had covered
more than sixty miles to reach Chini Bagh, the home of good friends and an
unlikely outpost of British sensibilities on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>