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Ancient trade route that linked China with Europe. Originally a caravan route and used from c. 100 BC, the 4,000-mi (6,400-km) road started in Xi'an, China, followed the Great Wall to the northwest, climbed the Pamir Mtns., crossed Afghanistan, and went on to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, where goods were taken by boat to Rome. Silk was carried westward, while wool, gold, and silver were carried eastward. With the fall of Rome, the route became unsafe; it was revived under the Mongols, and Marco Polo used it in the 13th century.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Silk Road, visit Britannica.com.