The Rise and Fall: Environmental Factors in the Socio-Cultural Changes of the Ancient Silk Road Area

28.09 - 29.09.2017  
Kiel, Germany
Contact person:
Liang Yang, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Workshop report: 
> Access

A PAGES-supported workshop titled "The Rise and Fall: Environmental Factors in the Socio-Cultural Changes of the Ancient Silk Road Area" will be held in Kiel, Germany, from 28-29 September 2017.


Olshausenstr. 75
Building S2, Room 168
Kiel University
24118 Kiel


This is an open call workshop, focussing on the socio-cultural changes that took place in the ancient Silk Road areas where climate/environment proxies indicate rapid and/or high amplitude changes, especially the complexity in constructing relationships between long-term climatic and social changes. The timescales covered are from 500 BC - 1500 AD.


The Silk Road is a modern concept for an ancient network of trade routes that for centuries facilitated and intensified processes of cultural interaction and goods exchange between West China, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. The Silk Road flourished when the Han dynasty explored Central Asia around 139 BCE and thrived throughout Antiquity and far into Middle Ages under the Islamic and Mongol Empires.

Along the ancient Silk Road, empires, dynasties and the associated institutions, social structures, and economic systems changed for several reasons. There is increasing discussion that climate and environmental factors might have also played a significant role in fostering economic and socio-cultural changes along the Silk Road and in a broader area. In fact, coherent patterns and synchronous events in history suggest certain links between the social upheaval and climate/environment forcing, and environmental factors have been claimed as multipliers that accelerated socio-culture changes in some cases. However, links between climatic, environmental, economic, societal and cultural changes manifested themselves differently in different places and times and often remain unclear.


The Silk Road serves as the geographical pattern and inspirational concept for the workshop. The objective of this workshop is to increase our understanding of the role played by the environment in the socio-cultural changes that occurred in the territories along the ancient Silk Road, and also to initiate a network of young researchers to facilitate international connectivity and multidisciplinary cooperation.


Specific topics include (but are not limited to):

- Paleoclimate change in the Silk Road area
- Proxy reconstructions of environment disasters and their impacts
- Climate-related human mobility and demographic changes
- Conflicts, cooperation, institution and social organization under environmental stresses
- Quantitative approaches for analyzing the relationships between environmental and social changes

The workshop focuses on the impacts of macroscale palaeoclimate changes and mesoscale environment events/disasters, and the responses of local social-culture systems along the ancient Silk Road territory. It links the three cornerstone-themes of climate, environment and humans that are integrated within PAGES research. The "impact-response" component of the workshop naturally holds multi-discipline interactions which fit well to the PAGES’ integrative activities, particularly suited to the investigation of past extreme events and thresholds of social resistance.


Access a copy of the program here (pdf).

Registration and abstracts

Interested participants are encouraged to submit 500 word abstracts via email to Liang Yang (see below) by 30 June 2017, and state the willingness to submit a full paper. Full paper is due by the time of the workshop for the peer review process, and a book of the proceedings is planned to be published in early 2018.

Authors will be notified of acceptance/rejection by 14 July 2017 and those selected to contribute to the workshop will receive full funding to cover their participation costs.

Further information

Access the meeting website:

or contact meeting organizer Liang Yang: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Post-meeting material

group silk 2017 webMeeting attendees in Kiel, Germany.