Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Muthesius, Anna Maria. “Byzantine Influences along the Silk Route: Central Asian Silks Transformed.” Contact, Crossover, Continuity: Proceedings of the Fourth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 22–24, 1994 (Los Angeles, CA: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1995), pp. 181–191.


Copyright © 1994 Anna Maria Muthesius


Silks traded along the ancient Silk Route were precious, light, and easily transportable commodities that served as ideal vehicles for cross-cultural exchange. The survival of several hundred Central Asian silks, variously datable between the seventh and the eleventh centuries, presents an opportunity to trace patterns of trade, diplomacy and cross-cultural developments at the heart of the Silk Road. These silks perfectly mirror contact, cross over, and change fostered under the auspices of Mediterranean/Near Eastern economic and diplomatic exchange.

This paper will ask three questions:

1. What lay behind Byzantine influence in Central Asia along the ancient Silk Route?

2. What was the precise nature of the transformations which the Byzantine contact engendered?

3. What do these changes reflect about Byzantine silks as a medium for cross-cultural exchange?