Amber Road

Trade route Biskupin Lithuania
The Amber Road (east route), as hypothesized by Polish historian Jerzy Wielowiejski, Główny szlak bursztynowy w czasach Cesarstwa Rzymskiego (Main Route of the Amber Road of the Roman Empire), 1980
The route from the Baltic Sea

The Amber Road was an ancient trade route for the transfer of amber from coastal areas of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.[1] Prehistoric trade routes between Northern and Southern Europe were defined by the amber trade.

As an important commodity, sometimes dubbed "the gold of the north", amber was transported from the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts overland by way of the Vistula and Dnieper rivers to Italy, Greece, the Black Sea, Syria and Egypt over a period of thousands of years.


From at least the 16th century BC, amber was moved from Northern Europe to the Mediterranean area.[2][3] The breast ornament of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen (c. 1333–1324 BC) contains large Baltic amber beads.[4][5][6] Heinrich Schliemann found Baltic amber beads at Mycenae, as shown by spectroscopic investigation.[7] The quantity of amber in the Royal Tomb of Qatna, Syria, is unparalleled for known second millennium BC sites in the Levant and the Ancient Near East.[8] Amber was sent from the North Sea to the temple of Apollo at Delphi as an offering. From the Black Sea, trade could continue to Asia along the Silk Road, another ancient trade route.

In Roman times, a main route ran south from the Baltic coast (modern Lithuania), the entire north–south length of modern-day Poland (likely through the Iron Age settlement of Biskupin), through the land of the Boii (modern Czech Republic and Slovakia) to the head of the Adriatic Sea (Aquileia by the modern Gulf of Venice).

The Old Prussian towns of Kaup and Truso on the Baltic were the starting points of the route to the south.[9][10] In Scandinavia the amber road probably gave rise to the thriving Nordic Bronze Age culture, bringing influences from the Mediterranean Sea to the northernmost countries of Europe.[11]

Kaliningrad Oblast is occasionally referred to in Russian as Янтарный край, which means "the amber region" (see Kaliningrad Regional Amber Museum).[12]

Overview of known amber sources in Europe

Amber deposits in Europe

Amber roads connect amber sources to customer sites in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.

Overview of known Amber Roads by country


The shortest (and possibly oldest) road avoids alpine areas and led from the Baltic coastline (nowadays Lithuania and Poland), through Biskupin, Milicz, Wrocław, the Kłodzko Valley or Moravian Gate, crossed the Danube near Carnuntum in the Noricum Province, headed southwest past Poetovio, Celeia, Emona, Nauportus, and reached Patavium and Aquileia at the Adriatic coast. One of the oldest directions of the last stage of the Amber Road to the south of the Danube, noted in the myth about the Argonauts, used the Sava and Kupa rivers, ending with a short continental road from Nauportus to Tarsatica (Trsat, Rijeka) on the coast of the Adriatic.


Amber Roads in Germany

Several roads connected the North Sea and Baltic Sea, especially the city of Hamburg to the Brenner Pass, proceeding southwards to Brindisi (nowadays Italy) and Ambracia (nowadays Greece).


The Swiss region indicates a number of alpine roads, concentrating around the capital city Bern and probably originating from the borders of the Rhône River and the Rhine.

The Netherlands

A small section, including Baarn, Barneveld, Amersfoort and Amerongen, connected the North Sea with the Lower Rhine.


A small section led southwards from Antwerp and Bruges to the towns Braine-l’Alleud and Braine-le-Comte, both originally named "Brennia-Brenna".[13] The route continued by following the Meuse River towards Bern in Switzerland.


Three routes may be identified leading from an amber finding region or delta at the mouth of the River Openia towards Bresse and Bern, crossing the Alps to Switzerland and Italy.

Southern France and Spain

Routes connected amber finding locations at Ambares (near Bordeaux), leading to Béarn and the Pyrenees. Routes connecting the amber finding locations in northern Spain and in the Pyrenees were a trading route to the Mediterranean Sea.

Modern use of "Amber Road"

There is a tourist route stretching along the Baltic coast from Kaliningrad to Latvia called "Amber Road".

"Amber Road" sites are:

In Poland a north–south motorway A1 is officially named Amber Highway.[15]


  1. ^ Graciela Gestoso Singer, "Amber in the Ancient Near East", i-Medjat No. 2 (December 2008). Papyrus Electronique des Ankou.
  2. ^ J. M. de Navarro, "Prehistoric Routes between Northern Europe and Italy Defined by the Amber Trade", The Geographical Journal, Vol. 66, No. 6 (December 1925), pp. 481–503.
  3. ^ Anthony F. Harding, "Reformation and Barbarism in Europe, 1300–600 BC", in Barry W. Cunliffe, ed., Oxford Illustrated History of Prehistoric Europe, Oxford, Oxford U. Press, 2001.
  4. ^ Reeves, C.N. The Complete Tutankhamun: the king, the tomb, the Royal Treasure. London, Thames & Hudson, 1990.
  5. ^ Serpico, M. and White, R. "Resins, amber and bitumen". in P.T. Nicholson – I. Shaw (ed.). Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000, Part. II, Chapter 18, 430–75: 451–54). Cited, Gestoso Singer.
  6. ^ Hood, S., "Amber in Egypt", in C. W. Beck & J. Bouzek (ed.) Amber in Archaeology (Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Amber in Archaeology, Liblice 1990, Institute of Archaeology): 230–35. Prague: Czech Academy of Sciences.
  7. ^ Curt W. Beck, Gretchen C. Southard, Audrey B. Adams, "Analysis and Provenience of Minoan and Mycenaean Amber, IV. Mycenae", pp. 359–85.
  8. ^ Anna J. Mukherjee, et al., "The Qatna lion: scientific confirmation of Baltic amber in late Bronze Age Syria" Antiquity 82 (2008), pp. 49–59.
  9. ^ "GPS coordinates of Truso, Poland. Latitude: 54.2667 Longitude: 19.2636"., maps, geolocated articles, latitude longitude coordinate conversion. Retrieved 2020-09-13.
  10. ^ Gwyn Jones. A History of the Vikings. Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-19-280134-1. Page 167.
  11. ^ "Connected Histories: the Dynamics of Bronze AgeInteraction and Trade 1500–1100BC". Pg 9/24
  12. ^ Billock, Jennifer. "Follow the Ancient Amber Road". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-13.
  13. ^ Northrup, Cynthia; et al. (2015). Encyclopedia of World Trade: From Ancient Times to the Present. 1. Routledge. p. 30.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Autostrada Bursztynowa A1" (in Polish). Archived from the original on 2014-09-03. Retrieved 2015-02-19.