Many of the world’s most useful inventions come from Central Asia: sewing, leather, cart wheels and spinning wheels, burning coal. And then also the compound and recurve bows, saddles and stirrups, and high quality steel. A lot of important knowledge comes from Central Asia too: that some diseases are contagious, what causes fevers, and astronomical observations.
The earliest invention that we know of from Central Asia was sewing. People in Central Asia probably started to sew clothes about 45,000 BC, and invented sewing needles about 40,000 BC. Probably around 5000 BC, they invented leather.
About 4000 BC, people in Central Asia domesticated the horse. Then three hundred years later, they put wheels on sledges to make carts for the horses to pull. The wheel reduced friction and helped the horses to pull heavier loads. Central Asian inventors took the idea of wheels from early pottery wheels in West Asia.
They made these first wheels out of solid wood, which may have seemed more convenient in the north where there were more trees, and on the flat grasslands where a cart could move more easily. Soon people in West Asia and China started to use wheeled carts too.
When people in Central Asia started riding horses, about 2500 BC, they also invented the compound bow, a kind of bow and arrow that was shorter, so you could shoot it while you were riding your horse. Around the same time, they also domesticated camels to ride.
By 2000 BC, the people of Central Asia could make better wheels: they invented the spoked wheel. Wheels with spokes were stronger and lighter and used less wood than solid wheels. Again, this new invention spread quickly south to China, and then with the Indo-Europeans to Greece and Italy and even further south to Egypt, West Asia, and India.
Sometime around 1000 BC, Central Asian archers invented the recurve bow. This bow was shaped like a W, and it was shorter, but it could shoot further. Recurve bows were easier to use while you were riding your horse. Then around 200 BC, people in Central Asia invented saddles and stirrups for their horse equipment. Saddles and stirrups made it much easier to ride and fight from horses. Around 800 AD, Central Asian farmers may also have invented the horse collar, so that horses could plow fields.
Once the Silk Road connected Central Asian traders with China and West Asia (and Europe), Central Asians got much richer than before – rich enough to pay for great libraries and universities. The scholars at these universities invented many new things. The most important was crucible steel, a better kind of steel, harder and more flexible. Central Asians also started manufacturing glass at Kuva (Uzbekistan).
Although many Central Asian inventions have to do with horses, by the year 1000 AD Central Asian people were also using boats, and Russian boat-builders invented an early ice-breaker boat, the koch. The koch had a rounded body under the water so it wouldn’t be wrecked if it hit ice, and also had ice-resistant wood planking at the waterline.
In the later Middle Ages, under Mongol rule, Central Asian scientists started to do a lot of good astronomical observations. In 1256 AD, Nasir al-Tusi convinced Hulegu Khan (a grandson of Genghis Khan) to build him a big observatory in Azerbaijan. That’s where al-Tusi first saw that the Milky Way was made up of thousands of stars.