The Silk Routes were important in ancient times because they
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facilitated the exchange of goods and ideas between China and the Roman Empire
allowed gold and silver mined in China to be traded for European furs and wool cloth
provided trade links between the people of Siberia and the people living on islands in the Bering Sea
provided a conduit for trade in silk, porcelain, and costly gems between China and Japan
allowed carts and carriages to travel on paved roads across northern Asia as far west as the Caspian Sea
The Silk Routes (also known as the Silk Roads) were a series of overland trade routes stretching from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and the northern shores of the Black Sea, through central Asia, to China. There is evidence of long-distance travel and trade along the Silk Routes from as early as the second century B.C.E., but their prominence in the history of Eurasia increased in the first two centuries of the common era, when both the western and the eastern terminus were under politically stable imperial rule (by the Roman Empire and Han dynasty China, respectively). In this period, the Silk Routes became an important conduit for the exchange of both trade goods (such as silk and spices from East and southeast Asia, glassware from the Roman Empire, and horses from Central Asia) and ideas (such as the spread of Buddhism from Central Asia to China, and of Nestorian Christianity from the Eastern Mediterranean to Central Asia).