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Amber Road

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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.


The oldest trade in amber started from Sicily. The Sicilian amber trade was directed to Greece, North Africa and Spain. Sicilian amber was also discovered in Mycenae by the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, and it appeared in sites in southern Spain and Portugal. Its distribution is similar to that of ivory, so it is possible that amber from Sicily reached the Iberian Peninsula through contacts with North Africa. After a decline in the consumption and trade of amber at the beginning of the Bronze Age, around 2000 BC, the influence of Baltic amber gradually took the place of Sicilian amber throughout the Iberian Peninsula from around 1000 BC. The new evidence comes from various archaeological and geological locations on the Iberian Peninsula.[citation needed]

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] 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 among 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). Other commodities were exported to the Romans along with amber, such as animal fur and skin, honey, and wax, in exchange for Roman glass, brass, gold, and non-ferrous metals such as tin and copper imported into the early Baltic region.[9] As this road was a lucrative trade route connecting the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, Roman military fortifications were constructed along the route to protect merchants and traders from Germanic raids.[10]

The Old Prussian towns of Kaup and Truso on the Baltic were the starting points of the route to the south.[11][12] 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.[13]

Kaliningrad Oblast is occasionally referred to in Russian as Янтарный край, which means "the amber region" (see Kaliningrad Regional Amber Museum).[14]

Known roads by country[edit]

Amber deposits in Europe


Old coastal Amber road route goes along E67 highway from Reiu in Häädemeeste Parish of Pärnumaa South, where it continues as 331 local road between Rannametsa and Ikla villages.


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 (less often through the 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 rivers Sava and Kupa, ending with a short continental road from Nauportus to Tarsatica in 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 banks of the Rhône and Rhine.

The Netherlands[edit]

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".[15] The route continued by following the Meuse towards Bern in Switzerland.

Southern France and Spain[edit]

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.


Sources of archaeological finds suggest that routes may also have connected Mongolia to eastern Europe during the Kitan/Liao Period.[16]

Modern usage[edit]

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

"Amber Road" sites are:

  • Mizgiris Amber Gallery-Museum in Nida;
  • Amber Bay in Juodkrantė;
  • Lithuania Minor History Museum;
  • Amber collection place in Karklė, Lithuania;
  • Palanga Amber Museum in Palanga;
  • Open amber workshop in Palanga;
  • Amber museum in Gdańsk; and
  • Samogitian Alka in Šventoji.[17]
  • Amber deposit from Partynice - Dating from the 1st century BC amber deposit found in Wrocław. It is the world's largest archaeological find of amber, estimated at 1,240–1,760 kg. Currently it is in the Archaeological Museum in Wrocław.

In Poland, the north–south motorway A1 is officially named Amber Highway.[18]

EV9 The Amber Route is a long-distance cycling route between Gdańsk, Poland and Pula, Croatia which follows the course of the Amber Road.

The modern Baltic–Adriatic Corridor connects the two seas along routes that roughly follow the Amber Road.


  1. ^ Singer, Graciela Gestoso. "Graciela Gestoso Singer, "Amber in the Ancient Near East", i-Medjat No. 2 (December 2008). Papyrus Electronique des Ankou".
  2. ^ de Navarro, J.M. (December 1925). "Prehistoric routes between northern Europe and Italy defined by the amber trade". The Geographical Journal. 66 (6): 481–503. doi:10.2307/1783003. JSTOR 1783003.
  3. ^ Harding, Anthony F. (2001). "Reformation and barbarism in Europe, 1300–600 BC". In Cunliffe, Barry W. (ed.). Oxford Illustrated History of Prehistoric Europe. Oxford, UK: Oxford U. Press. ISBN 978-0-19-285441-4 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Reeves, C.N. (1990). The Complete Tutankhamun: The king, the tomb, the royal treasure. London, UK: Thames & Hudson.
  5. ^ Serpico, M.; White, R. (2000). "Resins, amber, and bitumen". In Nicholson, P.T.; Shaw, I. (eds.). Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Part II, chapter 18, pp 430–475, esp. 451–454. as cited by Gestoso Singer
  6. ^ Hood, S. (1990). "Amber in Egypt". Written at Liblice, PL. In Beck, C.W.; Bouzek, J. (eds.). Amber in Archaeology. Second International Conference on Amber in Archaeology. Institute of Archaeology. Prague, PL: Czech Academy of Sciences. pp. 230–235.
  7. ^ Beck, Curt W.; Southard, Gretchen C.; Adams, Audrey B. (15 December 1972). "Analysis and provenience of Minoan and Mycenaean amber, [part] IV Mycenae". Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies. 13 (4): 359–385. ISSN 2159-3159. Retrieved 4 August 2023 – via Duke University.
  8. ^ Mukherjee, Anna J.; et al. (2008). "The Qatna lion: Scientific confirmation of Baltic amber in late Bronze Age Syria" (PDF). Antiquity. 82: 49–59.
  9. ^ Jovaiša, E. (2001). "The Balts and amber" (PDF). Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. 22: 149–156.
  10. ^ Schachinger, Ursula (2020). "The coin finds from the survey and the excavation in Strebersdorf (Burgenland, Austria) on the Amber Road (2008–2017)". Vjesnik Arheološkog muzeja u Zagrebu. 53 (1): 123–159. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  11. ^ "Latitude: 54°.2667N, Longitude: 19°.2636E". GPS coordinates of Truso, Poland. Latitude.to. Retrieved 2020-09-13.
  12. ^ Jones, Gwyn (2001). A History of the Vikings. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 167. ISBN 0-19-280134-1.
  13. ^ Kristiansen, Kristian; Suchowska-Ducke, Paulina (2015). "Connected Histories: The dynamics of Bronze Age interaction and trade 1500–1100 BC". Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. 81: 361–392. doi:10.1017/ppr.2015.17.
  14. ^ Billock, Jennifer (28 August 2019). "Follow the ancient Amber Road". Travel. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-13.
  15. ^ Northrup, Cynthia; et al. (2015). Encyclopedia of World Trade: From Ancient Times to the Present. Vol. 1. Routledge. p. 30.
  16. ^ Hansen, Valerie (2013). "International fifting and the Kitan world, 907–1125". Journal of Song-Yuan Studies. 43: 298–301.
  17. ^ "Amber Road Objects | Amber found at the Baltic Sea". Archived from the original on 2014-12-02.
  18. ^ "Autostrada Bursztynowa A1" (in Polish). Archived from the original on 2014-09-03. Retrieved 2015-02-19.

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