Mara Kalnins. The Ancient Amber Routes: Travels from Rīga to Byzantium

Mara Kalnins. The Ancient Amber Routes: Travels from Rīga to Byzantium
30-01-2014 A+ A-
The impulse to write this book originated in a wish to tell the story of my family’s exile from Latvia at the end of the Second World War and to discover more about the remarkable history of that small country and its people.

The narrative was shaped by the memory of two objects which had captured my imagination as a child:  the first, a large  piece of amber that my mother had found washed up on the white sands of the Baltic  coast; the second, a copy of Arnold Spekke’s classic The Ancient Amber Routes and the Geographical Discovery of the Eastern Baltic, which my father had given me on my  thirteenth birthday.  When the Baltic States regained their independence in the early 1990s I returned to Latvia to learn more about my homeland.  What I found there was to lead me on a journey that would span the entire continent and reach back in time to the Indo-European migrations of pre-history, from which the languages and peoples of modern Europe have sprung.  I gratefully acknowledge Cambridge University for granting me sabbatical leave to write the book, and the generosity and enthusiasm of the many museum curators and librarians across Europe who facilitated access to their amber collections and archives. (Mara Kalnins)

A rich treasure-trove of varied information: part travelogue, part friendly tourist guide, but mostly an excursion through many layers of cultural  history along the ancient amber routes, a vast catalogue of amber artefacts and a compendium of amber lore from many lands throughout the centuries.

Ex president of Latvia  Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga

Dr Mara Kalnins is a Fellow of Corpus Christi College and formerly University of Cambridge Reader in Modern English Literature.Latvian by origin, her latest book – ‘The Ancient Amber Routes: Travels from Rīga to Byzantium’ – explores the links between the Baltic and the cultures of the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

 „.. when the ancestors of the Latvians and Lithuanians reached the shores of the northern sea around 2500 BC, they found the source of a substance which was already a powerful symbol in their art and religion – the sun-stone, amber. In time the entire coastline stretching from the Jutland peninsula to the Gulf of Rīga became known as ‘Amberland’ and amber from these shores was carried to the great trading centres and cities of the ancient world. But long before recorded history long-distance trade routes had existed, for all peoples desired this magical stone, and archaeological evidence points to routes linking the Baltic and the Mediterranean as far back as Neolithic times and perhaps even earlier.”

(Mara Kalnins)


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