Silk RoadSilk Road - The Silk Road might be thought of as the first information superhighway in history. It sprang up as a trade route for commerce between East and West, but became an instrument for spreading ideas as well as goods. It's name was coined by a German geographer named Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877. Silk was one of the earliest and most widely traded commodities, but far from the only one. Merchants had been trading in central Asia along caravan lines as far back as the 6th century B.C., but by around 110 B.C., the trade routes had stretched all the way across the Eurasian continent reaching the two great empires at opposite ends, the Han and Rome. The Roman aristocracy had an insatiable desire for silk and China was the only place it was woven. Other popular commodities included salt and spices, gold and silver, jade and other precious stones, jewelry, incense and perfume (made from myrrh and frankincense). The Silk Road existed for centuries all the way into the late Middle Ages. After Columbus' voyage, the opening of sea routes saw the diminishment of overland trade.