Title slide for presentation, showinjg cityscape of Bukhara, three ancient objects, and lecture information

Present-day Skyline of Bukhara (Uzbekistan) with Spearhead, Terracotta Figurine Fragment, and Lusterware Bowl from Iraq, all found during excavation by the UzAmEB in and around Bukhara. © S. Stark 2023

Eternal Silk Road?:

New Archaeological Data from Bukhara and its Hinterland

Sören Stark


This lecture will take place in person at ISAW.

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The archaeological exploration of Bukhara lags, compared to other important urban centers in southern Central Asia (such as Merv or Samarkand), considerably behind. Unfortunately, the lack of data is often compensated by clichés about the 'Silk Road,' imagining Bukhara as a flourishing hub of transcontinental trade routes since the dawn of history.

Since 2011, archaeological investigations carried out by the Uzbek-American Expedition in Bukhara (UzAmEB) – a collaboration between ISAW and the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan – have considerably advanced our understanding of the archaeology and history of the city and its hinterland from the Late Bronze age, over antiquity, to the time when Bukhara housed the fabled court of the Samanid dynasty. Our results show how problematic many supposedly 'timeless' notions of the conventional 'Silk Road' narrative are, as our new data reveal a much more dynamic and complex picture of connectivity between the "micro-regional" and the "global."

Sören Stark is Associate Professor of Central Asian Art and Archaeology at ISAW. Professor Stark received his PhD in 2005 from Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. Before joining the faculty of ISAW, he was Junior Fellow at the Excellence Cluster TOPOI and teaching at the Freie Universität in Berlin.

Professor Stark has close to two decades of experience in conducting and directing archaeological fieldwork in Central Asia. Between 2005 and 2007 he conducted and co-directed archaeological surveys and excavations in Northern Tajikistan on Bronze and Iron age petroglyphs, Iron age kurgans, and Samanid-Qarakhanid period mountain settlements; from 2011 to 2015 he codirected surveys and excavations at various monuments related with the oasis wall of Bukhara. Since 2015 he is co-directing an archaeological field project investigating agro-pastoral groups in Western Sogdiana during the Hellenistic and post-Hellenistic period, centered on excavations at the desert site of Bashtepa.

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