The earliest written evidence regarding Baltic amber may be found in the writings of Tacitus. He notes that the Aesti are the only people who collect this treasure from the Baltic Sea and sell it to others. Along the trade routes, amber passed through the hands of several intermediaries, so the Greek and Roman descriptions of the northern lands where amber originated are inaccurate and often mystical. Much clearer than the vague mentions in written sources are the hoards of amber that mark the routes by which Baltic amber was traded to the lands of the ancient world.

Apart from the route leading from Jutland, where amber sources were used up already in the centuries before Christ, all of the later routes come only from the Baltic: the Sambian Peninsula, the Couronian Spit and the coast of Kurzeme. The eastern route (mentioned by Herodotus) led through the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea and was also used by the Near Eastern states. The Vistula-Dniester route brought amber to the borders of the Roman Empire from the east, and the so-called Moravian Gate gave access to the heart of the empire. This depression connects the upper course of the Oder (and Vistula) with the upper reaches of the Morava, extending to the Danube at Bratislava. This is called the Great Amber Route, since it was very actively used during the reign of Emperor Nero, when amber was at the height of its fashion in Rome.