hey stantistic thankx for the link. Totally fascinating article.
rarely is the old adage that "history predicts the future" so perfectly illustrated as in the emerging Silk Road research.
russia & china are the leader/drivers in the new Silk Road railway. Russia obviously intends to play the major controlling role in the western end of the new transcontinental rail system. Apparently via seaports in syria or on the black sea.
the prize for the new Silk Road? will be the vast untapped oil, gas & mineral resources buried in the himalayas. Soviet geologists & engineers explored many of these orebodies & petro deposits in the 60s & 70s. Also in siberia, mongolia & across northeastern asia ... the existence of canada's Kinross mine in siberia was probably not an accident, kinross historically has had close ties to barrick gold.
these are all emerging issues for the future, but already we can see how russia is moving to assert dominion over the future mining of the himalayas.
another region of the earth that is stuffed with untapped petro & mineral resources is canada's arctic. Global warming is making this vast region accessible. Russia has also indicated - with its recent increased military flyovers into or near canadian air space - that it is interested in our arctic north, if only to assert a right to transship through canadian arctic waters.
turning back again to the history of the ancient Silk Road, your article makes clear that this land route from china gradually fell out of use as the era of european ocean exploration dawned during the renaissance. From the 15th century onwards, sailing ships would be able to transport commodities faster than nomads & traders walking with their donkeys, horses & other pack animals across thousands of miles in asia & asia minor.
one can also see how arab civilization reached its height towards the end of the first millenium. The caliphs were sitting on the junction of the Silk Road trading route with the equally famous Swahili trading route up the east coast of africa, the route that brought african gold & spices to trade with vikings from the west & with eastern traders from Samarkand.
thankx again for the Ars Technica link, they're publishing a number of contemporary scholars who are excavating & reporting on the Silk Road story. Everything that is old is new again.