caravan

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caravan,

group of travelers or merchants banded together and organized for mutual assistance and defense while traveling through unsettled or hostile country. Caravan trade is associated with the history of the Middle East as far back as the records of ancient civilizations extend and seems to have been well developed before sea commerce began. It is evident that all trade from one fertile area to another in this region had to be organized from the first, since long distances of desert trail separated settled parts and since local governments could not guarantee protection against tribes eager for loot and pillage. Such wares as jewels, spices, perfumes, dyes, metals, rare woods, ivory, oils, and textiles (chiefly silk) are associated with the trade. Camels were the main carriers from Egypt to Mesopotamia and throughout the Arabian peninsula. They were introduced into N Africa and the Sahara region in the 3d cent. A.D. Donkeys were used in Asia Minor. Trade naturally prospered in the period of the great empires, when the caravan routes could be controlled and protected; and it was to secure control of such routes that many wars were fought and conquests made in ancient times. An empire provided for the establishment of inns, or caravansaries, for the accommodation of travelers along the way. Such improvements facilitated the movement of troops to protect the routes. Cities rose and fell in ancient times in proportion to the rise and fall in the trade of the caravan routes upon which they were located. Basically the caravan system underwent little change until challenged in modern times by the motor truck and the airplane. Travelers having occasion to cross desert spaces usually joined merchant caravans. After the advent of Islam, the pilgrimage of the devout to Mecca gave rise to long pilgrim caravans that were a feature of the pilgrimage season each year. The closest approach to caravan trade in the New World was the wagon trainwagon train,
in U.S. history, a group of covered wagons used to convey people and supplies to the West before the coming of the railroad. The wagon replaced the pack, or horse, train in land commerce as soon as proper roads had been built.
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 commerce that developed over the Sante Fe Trail.
References in classic literature ?
In 1859, in the month of August, the young traveller, Roscher, from Hamburg, set out with a caravan of Arab merchants, reached Lake Nyassa, and was there assassinated while he slept.
I received several letters from him after I returned to America--in fact he took advantage of every northward-passing caravan to drop me word of some sort.
A FOGY who lived in a cave near a great caravan route returned to his home one day and saw, near by, a great concourse of men and animals, and in their midst a tower, at the foot of which something with wheels smoked and panted like an exhausted horse.
In the center of the troops following the imperial elephant marched a great caravan of slaves.
By nightfall the caravan was on the other side and the ladders were taken up.
But there was one little trifle of an incident that touched me as I passed this particular caravan.
The spoor was but a couple of days old when the two discovered it, which meant that the slow-moving caravan was but a few hours distant from them whose trained and agile muscles could carry their bodies swiftly through the branches above the tangled undergrowth which had impeded the progress of the laden carriers of the white men.
On the 24th of May, as the caravan was slowly journeying up the banks of the Nebraska, the hunters came galloping back, waving their caps, and giving the alarm cry, Indians
But you know Paris is so very amusing, and if only Harold remains good-natured about it, I shall be content to wait for the caravan (that's what he calls mamma and the children).
We jogged along peacefully over the great caravan route from Damascus to Jerusalem and Egypt, past Lubia and other Syrian hamlets, perched, in the unvarying style, upon the summit of steep mounds and hills, and fenced round about with giant cactuses, (the sign of worthless land,) with prickly pears upon them like hams, and came at last to the battle-field of Hattin.
Swinging back through the jungle in a wide circle the ape-man came to the river at another point, drank and took to the trees again and while he hunted, all oblivious of his past and careless of his future, there came through the dark jungles and the open, parklike places and across the wide meadows, where grazed the countless herbivora of the mysterious continent, a weird and terrible caravan in search of him.
For fifteen hundred miles one may trace this ghastly caravan route by these scattered remains of those who had fallen by the wayside.