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British Museum Silk Road exhibition coming in September 2024

The British Museum has announced it will host a major exhibition on the history of the Silk Road in September 2024.

The huge London-based museum says that the show will explore the pivotal 500-year period where the Silk Road was at its height.

But the display will also go further curators promise. It'll go “beyond the idea of the silk road as a simple trade route between East and West” to showing how “journeys of people, objects and ideas shaped cultures and histories in the period AD 500 – 1000” the museum said in a press statement.

They also promise it will inspire reflections on global connections today.

What were the Silk Roads?

For many visitors, what will be most eye-opening about the display will be that there wasn't one singular road. In fact the term has nothing really to do with roads at all, at least not as we know them today.

The Silk roads were in fact a vibrant network of trade routes that stretched from East Asia through to the Roman Empire, and were where goods, ideas and even religion flowed across vast lands.

'Sancai' (three-colour) ceramic tomb figure of a camel. The saddlebag clearly shows a 'monster' mask, perhaps to frighten off danger. Made of brown, green glazed earthenware.
Sancai Camel © The Trustees of the British Museum

And it was vast. This tapestry of the trails weaved across the landscapes of modern-day China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and even reached the shores of Italy.

So in theory, there'll be a huge number of objects the British Museum can display to tell this story.

The only thing is, we don’t know anything about what visitors will actually get to see yet.

The museum is remaining tight-lipped on specific objects, stories or sections. That also means, we have no idea about tickets either, how much they will cost or when they will go on sale. These details are not expected to be revealed until later in the year.

But what we can be fairly certain of though is that the exhibition — with the working title of simply The Silk Roads — will be huge. This is because it’ll be hosted in the British Museum’s Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery which is their largest space for temporary shows.

So we can at least expect that visitors will be immersed in a display that will be evocative of these ancient trails.

Imagine caravans laden with pungent spices from India, merchants bartering delicate Chinese porcelain for sturdy Central Asian horses, and Buddhist monks offering their philosophy and wisdom to fellow travellers.

We can’t wait, and we’ll update you with details as soon as we have them.

But if you’re itching to visit an exhibition on ancient history much sooner than September, then you’re in luck, as a Roman legion exhibition is coming to the British Museum in February.

Or, if you prefer your exhibitions a bit more focussed on recent in history (relatively anyway) then Michelangelo’s last decades are examined in a show from May.

The Silk Roads opens at the British Museum on 26 September 2024 and runs until 23 February 2025.

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