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Robert Spengler III – Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat

December 4, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Speaker: Robert Spengler III

From almonds and apples to tea and rice, many foods that we consume today have histories that can be traced out of prehistoric Central Asia along the tracks of the Silk Road to kitchens in Europe, America, China, and elsewhere in East Asia. The exchange of goods, ideas, cultural practices, and genes along these ancient routes extends back five thousand years, and organized trade along the Silk Road dates to at least Han Dynasty China in the second century BC. Robert Spengler presents a broad array of archaeological, botanical, and historical evidence, narrating the story of the origins and spread of agriculture across Inner Asia and into Europe and East Asia. Through the preserved remains of plants found in archaeological sites, he identifies the regions where our most familiar crops were domesticated and follows their routes as people carried them around the world, shaping the course of human history.

Members and students: Free
Non-members: $5.00

Robert Spengler III is studying the paleoeconomy and ecology of Central Asia from the third millennium B.C. onward and has ongoing research projects in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, China, and Mongolia. While he has used several methods in the archaeobotanical sciences, he primarily analyzes macrobotanical remains. Through this research he has shown that farming was an important part of the economy across eastern Central Asia for at least four millennia and that many important crops spread through this region in prehistory. Through his archaeobotanical studies, he is helping to fill in the last major gaps in the global map of agricultural spread, and showing how important the Silk Road was in the spread of specific crops and technologies.

Register at my.arboretum.harvard.edu or call 617-384-5277.


December 4, 2019
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Hunnewell Building, Arnold Arboretum
125 Arborway
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 United States
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Arnold Arboretum
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