Strikingly similar uses of seals (including ideas of seals) are widely attested in religious and magical practices across Afro-Eurasian history, in cultures and periods as disparate as medieval Britain, ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and Tang China. This much is easily shown. What is much more difficult to answer are questions of how to understand these connections. For example, can we--and if so, in what precise ways can we--consider the rich and far-flung evidence for these similar practices and conceptions as evidence for the trade and cultural networks we now call the silk road? Surveying evidence especially from China, India, and Central Asia (but considering broader connections), this talk will ponder this question and the methodological issues connected with it.
Free and open to the public.