In the making of connections, the role of the sea is particularly fascinating. Connections across large, mainly uninhabited, open spaces have brought together peoples in culturally stimulating ways. Sometimes this has been through individual encounters, as travellers, including pilgrims and merchants, found themselves visiting alien environments; sometimes it has been the result of mass migrations that have changed the character of regions; sometimes it has been the result as much of the movement of goods as of people, when the inhabitants of distant lands saw, admired and imported or copied large amounts of the art works of another culture, or read the literature of another culture, or were taken aback by some rare and precious item that on its own opened their eyes to the existence of another culture. Of course, such contacts were made overland and up and down river systems as well as by sea, but overland, they often were mediated by input from a great many cultures that lay along the routes being followed, whereas links across the sea could tie together very different worlds, as far apart as Portugal and Japan or Sweden and China.