Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Marco Polo Study: The Silk Road and Spice Trade

SILK ROAD-Trade by Land: 115 BC to 16th Century
The silk road was an ancient path dating back to 200 BC. Silk cloth has been found from over 5,000 years ago. It was used the most between the 2nd century BC and 2nd Century AD. The Khan family opened the path from one end to the other. Only Chinese knew how it was made and kept it a secret. Caravans of camels would transport: silk, rhubarb, and pearls. They would return with gold, gems perfumes, pomegranates, and fruit.

Woven silk textile, 2nd century

SPICE TRADE-Trade by Sea: 200 BC to 18th Century
A long time ago spices were as valued as gold and silver. A 15th century saying went: "No man should die who can afford cinnamon." There are records of spice being traded in 2600BC. References are made to the importance of spices in the historian, Josephus writings, The Arabian Nights, and in Shakespeare's works. The trade was established from Egypt to Asia. There were specific routes for cinnamon and cloves. Again to create a monopoly, the Arabians used mystical stories to convince everyone that only they knew how to obtain the demanded spices. The control of the spice trade shifted hands, but cunning was always used to keep the upper hand.
Harvesting pepper

These were dangerous times for trade as a trader was likely to be subjected to robberies, storms, shipwrecks, and piracy.
Red: Silk Road                      Blue: Spice Routes

We read  Marco Polo: A Story of the Middle Ages Ch. 1 and pages vii-viii, 1-2 in the Travels of Marco Polo Edited by Komroff.

See our References for more information.

Previously: Let the Adventures Begin       Next Up: Venice

Wishing you homeschool blessings,

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