Modeling and reconnecting the Silk Road

© Edouard Michel/UNESCO.
3D models of the Silk Road.

Silk trade was done mainly over land from the Chinese Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) until maritime connections took over progressively after the 13th century, following the fall of the Mongol Empire. In addition to its use as a trade route, this network of roads connecting Asia to Europe helped to spread ideas, values, cultures and knowledge for over a millennium. This was first referred to as the Silk Road by the German geographer Ferdinand Von Richthofen in 1877.

Space technologies assisting the preparation of a candidature for the World Heritage List

The Belgium Federal Science Policy (BELSPO) is sponsoring a UNESCO project using space technologies to assist China, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in preparing the necessary data for the presentation of a candidature to inscribe the Silk Road on the World Heritage List as a single transboundary World Heritage site.

Other UNESCO partners involved in this activity include the Geographical Information Management (GIM), a private Belgian company; the University of Ghent (Belgium); the Department of Cartography (Belgium) and the University of Leuven (Belgium).

© Edouard Michel/UNESCO.
3D models of the Silk Road.

Securing access to accurate data is a key component of the protection of cultural heritage; this allows for the timely detection of emerging threats to take the necessary decisions and implement mitigation measures. The emerging concept of ‘digital heritage’ puts new technologies at the disposal of an interdisciplinary group of experts working jointly to understand, document, present and preserve cultural heritage sites. For this purpose, vast amounts of complex and diverse data is needed, ranging from satellite images, photogrammetry, 3D models, digital images and text in addition to considerable archaeological data.

Applying the ‘digital heritage’ concept is undoubtedly necessary, as is serves both as a platform to facilitate the exchange of data and information among interdisciplinary groups of experts, and as a repository to store and retrieve all of the data needed for cultural heritage management.

© Edouard Michel/UNESCO.

The project aims to develop a heritage information management system for a series of cultural heritage sites located among several countries in Central Asia and China through which the Silk Road passed.

The project focuses on reconnecting the different parts of the Silk Road. A technology is being developed using satellite images combined with digital topography to identify routes with the best topographical and terrain conditions for caravans: easy access to freshwater, without steep slopes, etc.

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