Valerie Hansen will be coming to speak in the Seminar in Comparative Medieval Material Culture Wednesday, March 23, 2011, on “Assessing the Nature of the Silk Road Trade: The Material Evidence.”

Valerie Hansen is Professor in the History Department at Yale University, where she has taught since 1988. Professor Hansen is the author of the forthcoming publication, A New History of the Silk Road, which will present an integrated political, social, and religious history of the Tarim Basin, as well as several other books including, Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1276 (1990), Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China: How Ordinary People Used Contracts, 600-1400 (1995), The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600 (2000), and with Kenneth R. Curtis, Voyages in World History (2010). From 1995-1998, she was principle researcher for the collaborative research projectThe Silk Road Project: Reuniting Turfan’s Scattered Treasures. Awarded a grant by the Luce Foundation, the project focused on the documents and art objects found between 1899 and the present in Turfan, an oasis near the city of Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang province and resulted in three international conferences in China and the United States and a bilingual Chinese-English finding guide to over 3,000 artifacts.

Professor Hansen’s talk will examine the nature of the Silk Road trade of the sixth through eighth centuries, using the evidence from two sites: the wall paintings at Afrasiab in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and the Hejiacun hoard of Xi’an in China’s Shaanxi province. Where the Afrasiab wall paintings underline the importance of envoys, the gold and silver vessels, rare gems, and a coin collection from Hejiacun suggest that many objects displaying classic Silk Road motifs were made locally.

Please RSVP and join us in the Lecture Hall at 38 West 86th Street, between Columbus Ave and Central Park West, at 5:45pm for a reception before the talk.