The Sogdians were the middlemen of the transcontinental trade known as the Silk Road, amassing great wealth, which financed a flowering of civilization in their homeland–the area around Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan. But they were also purveyors of culture to their imperial neighbors, transporting craftsmen, artists, Buddhist monks and others, and introducing new artistic and religious ideas and contributing to military and diplomatic affairs as far west as Europe and as far east as Japan from as early as 550 BCE until approximately 1000CE. Despite their remarkable influence, the Sogdians remain an understudied and underrepresented culture in the history of Eurasian studies.

This site is the end product of a project-based course that investigated Sogdian culture and explored how best to use digital media to create a fuller, multi-faceted portrait of them. As part of an ongoing digital exhibition project at the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian museums of art — the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery – aimed at increasing awareness of Sogdian importance in the region, students wrote thematic essays and object studies that tell the story of how Sogdians’ adaptability and mobility allowed them to influence the art and culture of people across Asia without the traditional trappings of empire wielded by the adjacent Iranian, Chinese, and Byzantine empires.