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The Early Turks and the Silk Road
The Early Turks and the Silk Road
WhenThursday, Oct. 5, 2017, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Campus roomCMU 120
Event typesAcademics
Event sponsorsTurkic & Central Eurasian Studies Program at the University of Washington
Near Eastern Languages & Civilization at the University of Washington
China Studies Program at the University of Washington

The ancient Turk people have been identified with the commercial economy of Central Eurasia—the famed “Silk Road”—since the earliest times. However Byzantine Greek historical sources and early Chinese accounts reveal that the first Turk envoys said that their people had originally been “Sakas.” Why “Sakas?” Saka is a specific dialect form of the word “Scythian,” so that what the Turks actually told the Romans and Chinese was that their forebears had been Scythians. Similarly, the political nomenclature of the Turk rulers was borrowed from that of various Central Eurasian peoples; and what is more, the known locations of the early Scythians, Huns and Turks are strikingly consistent. Taken together, the facts provide evidence for a long historical continuity, in which the connection between the Turk people and Central Eurasian identity—which would continue into and beyond the High Middle Ages—had roots dating back to the earliest Central Eurasian people and their empire.

Christopher I. Beckwith is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University. His work focuses on the history, philology, linguistics, and thought of Central Eurasia and neighboring
regions. He now teaches Aramaic, Tokharian, and several topics in Central Eurasian history. Selected publications include – Empires of the Silk Road: A history of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the present (2009); Warriors of the cloisters: The Central Asianorigins of science in the medieval world (2012); and Greek Buddha:Pyrrho’s encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia (2015).…
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