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. 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. The breast ornament of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen (c. 1333–1324 BC) contains large Baltic amber beads. Heinrich Schliemann found Baltic amber beads at Mycenae, as shown by spectroscopic investigation. 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. 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. 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.
Overview of known amber sources 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.
A small section led southwards from Antwerp and Bruges to the towns Braine-l’Alleud and Braine-le-Comte, both originally named "Brennia-Brenna". 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"
"Amber Road" sites are:
- Mizgiris Amber Gallery-Museum in Nida;
- Amber Bay in Juodkrante;
- Lithuania Minor History Museum;
- Amber collection place in Karkle, Lithuania;
- Palanga Amber Museum in Palanga;
- Open amber workshop in Palanga;
- Amber museum in Gdańsk;
- Samogitian Alka in Sventoji.
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