The so-called “Silk Road“ was coined in 1877 by the German geographer-explorer Ferdinand von Richthofen (1833–1905); it remains today the popular name for the land and sea routes connecting Europe, Africa and Asia since the first millennium BCE. By the late 19th century, Western imperial powers began to cast a covetous eye upon these roads, especially those situated in Central Asia. The Hungarian-British archaeologist Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943) explored these roads and travelled across the Tarim Basin in the pursuit of Chinese past, which was unknown until then. He led four expeditions between 1900 and 1930, leaving behind him an archive of over 5,000 images, now mostly held by the British Library in London. His photographs unveiled his discoveries and his experience: from ancient inscriptions, to architectural or sculptural vestiges, and hazardous tracks traversing magnificent landscapes. A fair number of the photographs depicted one of the most famous sites: the oasis of Dunhuang in the Gansu province. This great Buddhist centre of China from the 4th to the 10th century attracted international attention after the random discovery of the “Library Cave” in 1900.
• See Stein’s photos on the International Dunhuang Project Catalogue. The previous link redirects towards a page that offers British Library Stein Photos Part I only. To explore all the photos, feel free to explore other catalogues here.
• CABOS. M. 2014. “Marc Aurel Stein: The Silk Road, Past and Present.” L’Oeil de la Photographie