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Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron is at once current and profoundly backward looking. It is a beautiful treatise, dense with historical information and a luminous and varied vocabulary of description. In this book, we see warriors of antiquity sweeping down from the north onto the ancient tribal communities of the mountains and flatlands of central Asia, leaving residues of their own languages, customs, and DNA. We learn about the 8,000-year-old tenuated silk culture with its difficult and knotted trade route to the foreigners in the West.