SOAS University of London is the leading Higher Education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

SOAS is a remarkable institution. With our vast repository of knowledge and expertise on our specialist regions, we are uniquely placed to inform and shape current thinking about the economic, political, cultural, security and religious challenges of our world. Our programmes are taught by respected academics engaged in fieldwork and research which influences government policy and the lives of individuals across the globe. SOAS scholars grapple with the pressing issues confronting two-thirds of humankind today: democracy, development, economy, finance, public and corporate policy, human rights, migration, identity, legal systems, poverty, religion, and social change.

Global Trade in the Ancient World

Cultures of Luxury (3000 -300 BCE)

1 – 10 June 2021

The advent of the 3rd millennium BCE saw a rise in contact between civilisations along the great land and maritime routes. The impetus for connectivity was often a desire for rare and precious materials such as ivory, cornelian and lapis lazuli, or metals such as tin, essential for the manufacture of bronze for superior weaponry. Luxury artefacts were traded and exchanged along these routes, and ambitious rulers even sought to enhance their prestige by importing wild and exotic animals for their zoological gardens, for hunting or simply for their own amusement.


These interactions, sometimes across thousands of miles, stimulated artistic enrichment throughout the centuries. This course focuses on the flowering of arts across boundaries, apparent in Bronze Age seals and hard-stone vessels, from India to Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan. Luxury objects including virtuoso metalwork and ivories, and expensive commodities discovered on shipwrecks, all reveal connections between the ancient cultures of Egypt, the Mediterranean and the Near East. In the first millennium, the rise of Iranian empires spread new arts and ideas as far eastwards as the steppes of Central Asia, reaching beyond urban societies to the world of the nomads. In these days of international communications we can look back to several eras of antiquity when global exchange played a significant part in the development of arts and culture.

Course Features:

  • Lectures by leading experts and curators
  • Visits to museums and gallery


020 7898 4451