Sir Aurel Stein
An extraordinary individual who advanced human knowledge on many fronts, Sir Aurel Stein (1862-1943) pursued dramatic adventures with scientific purpose. Trained as an orientalists, Stein exerted a decisive influence on a wide spectrum of scholarly disciplines. His investigations touched on the neolithic to medieval periods and spanned the area from the Persian Gulf to the pacific watershed.
Sir Aurel Stein was one of a small, scholarly band of pioneers who expanded knowledge to include the European landmass and the interactions between each of its four high civilizations: the Mediterranean West, the Indian, the Iranian and the Chinese. Central Asia, the region with which Stein’s name is most notably associated, was a crossroads between East and West for commerce, and culture, religion, arts and peoples. Stein rediscovered the ancient Silk Route between China and the West and unearthed dozens of sites long buried in the sands of Central Asia. His recovery of the library at Tung-Huang (the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas) [see The International Dunhuang Project below] is comparable to that of the Dead Sea scrolls: and his excavations in Turfan, Nija, Miran, and other places provided important materials for the studies of Buddhism, for linguistics, for Han and T’ang history, law and administration, popular literature, painting, sculpture, and many other disciplines.
Source: Jacket introduction to Jeannette Mirsky’s Sir Aurel Stein: Archaeological Explorer. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Jacket cover to Jeannette Mirsky’s Sir Aurel Stein
Two passports used by Sir Aurel Stein and the banner given his caravan to identify and safeguard it on its way from Turfan to Kashgar in 1915
Image credit James Ballard