The Making of the Silk Roads: what archaeomaterials science can tell us about the building of the first global economic network – Talk by Dr Miljana Radivojević, UCL Institute of Archaeology

Thursday, 20th February, Uzbekistan Embassy


The Eurasian Steppe has been increasingly recognised as the place where fundamental technologies, languages and ideas originated and spread from Bronze Age onwards. The intricate system of trade networks at the time paved the way for the routes that long outlived the Bronze Age world, the Silk Roads. Of all items transported along these routes, the exchange of ores and metal objects would have been the largest in volume and the most fundamentally transformative for the steppe communities. The prehistory of the Silk Road is therefore intimately related to that of the steppe metallurgy and mobility, leading the field of study of its origins at the crossroads of archaeology and materials science. The most recent archaeometallurgical studies shed new light on the origins, scale and supply routes for ores and metal – long before silk was in vogue – and reveal the connectedness of communities that laid the foundations for the first global economic network.


Miljana Radivojević holds a Lectureship in Archaeomaterials at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, where she acquired her PhD in Archaeometallurgy. During her previous research posts at the Universities of Belgrade, Cambridge and UCL she has developed a strong research profile in both fieldwork excavations and laboratory analysis of material culture, specifically technology of metal making. Her collaborations span across Europe and northern Eurasia, with emphasis set on research links across central and southeast Europe, Anatolia, northern Africa, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Dr Radivojević has published in high impact journals on the origins of metallurgy in the Balkans and southwest Asia, invention of tin bronze metallurgy, innovation and transmission of copper metallurgy across southeast Europe, use and circulations of Bronze Age metals in Europe, experimental archaeometallurgy and aesthetics of ancient metal objects, as well as co-developed a novel method of re-assessing archaeological phenomena using complex networks analysis of metal supply systems in the Balkans. Her current research focuses on the prehistory of Silk Roads, linking Central Asia, the Eurasian Steppe and most of Europe during the 4th – 1st millennium BC, and more broadly addressing the pre-modern globalisation of Eurasian continent by looking at the (technological) knowledge economy at the time.