Silver of Eurasia

A 6th- to 8th-century silver bowl display at the Perm Regional Museum, Perm, Russia, which I visited for research in July 2018 (author’s own photograph)
detail of a 6th- to 8th-century small bowl found near Bartym village, Perm Krai, Russia (author’s own photograph)


‘Silver of Eurasia’ is a digital knowledge-sharing platform that I am creating to run parallel to my second book project.  Provisionally entitled, Creating Cosmopolitanism: the Banquet in Central Eurasia (5th–13th century CE), the book will explore how the material culture circulated at dinner and drinking parties was an integral component of negotiating social relations. My project aims to utilize surviving vessels to foremost reconstruct banqueting practices within this milieu, and furthermore illuminate the social and political dynamics that made these events more than jovial gatherings, but also strategic spaces for mediating relationships between communities across Central Eurasia.

With silver vessels operating as the footholds for the book, I am undertaking a parallel digital project to comprehensively map surviving banqueting objects, ranging from cups and plates to ewers and rhyta. The data I am collecting ranges from the cultural context of production and use to provenance history. This project is in dialogue with Natal’ia Fedorova’s work and builds on that of my field’s predecessors, Boris Marshak and Vladislav Darkevich, and founders, Iakov Smirnov and Kamilla Trever.

The corpus of fifth- through thirteenth-century silver vessels is extraordinarily rich. However, only a handful of objects in American or Western European collections are regularly researched and published, and citations are too often limited to works in English, French or German. This imbalance is often the result of inaccessibility to materials in collections across Russia and Central Asia or publications only available in Russian and other Slavic languages. Thus I envision this platform as a foundation from which future studies can jump by pooling together raw data on objects and essential bibliographies, as well as a network for communication between researchers, curators, archivists, and librarians.