On the 9-10th of November 2012 the first international conference on the archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan was held at the British Library in London. It was organized by Susan Whitfield of the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) and brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, including field archaeologists from the Chinese, Sino-Japanese and Sino-French excavations of recent decades, archivists, curators and historians working on the Hedin and Stein collections, and historical geographers, art historians, and historians from universities with a strong research record in this area.

Sven Hedin and Aurel Stein were the two most important pioneers in this area and Håkan Wahlquist, keeper of the Sven Hedin Foundation held the keynote speech at the conference.

Susan Whitfield, Director of the International Dunhuang Project

The organizers description of the conference: “Over the past three decades there have been systematic archaeological excavations of sites belonging to the ancient kingdoms of Khotan in the western Taklamakan and Kroraina in the eastern Taklamakan and Lop Desert, in modern-day western China. These have been carried out by Chinese archaeologists, some in conjunction with Japanese and French teams.

The exploration of these kingdoms, however, began much earlier. Early in the 20th century Sven Hedin and Aurel Stein uncovered significant archaeological remains and archives and brought the importance of these cultures to the attention of an international scholarly public. The materials they excavated are now in various collections in Europe and worldwide, and their influence on modern understanding of Central Asian history and society is without parallel.

The conference will set the sites in context by looking at the historical geography and environment, the transmitted and excavated historical records, and archaeological archives in China and Europe.”

Below is a photo gallery with all the speakers at the International Conference on the Archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan:

Photographs by Adrian Nordenborg.