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The alphabet replaces cuneiform – West Asian writing

By |2018-04-07T17:04:54+00:00September 15th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

This inscription from Kandahar, in Afghanistan, has Greek writing at the top, translated into Aramaic at the bottom. The Mauryan Indian king Ashoka put it up about 258 BC. When the Assyrian Empire collapsed in the 600s BC, the short-lived Babylonian Empire also used cuneiform writing. But when the Persians took over West Asia in 539 BC [...]

Where does Hebrew come from? Semitic languages

By |2018-04-07T17:04:54+00:00September 15th, 2017|History, West Asia|

Early alphabets and Hebrew Some time possibly around 4000 BC, as West Asian people settled down in towns and villages, each group of people began to develop their own special language. This was partly because the people of each region spoke to each other more often than they spoke to strangers, and it was partly a way [...]

Medieval School – Europe

By |2018-04-11T09:19:36+00:00August 4th, 2017|Medieval, People|

Clerks in the Manessa Codex (1300 AD) In medieval Europe, even fewer kids went to school than in the Roman Empire. People were poorer, and kids had to work in the fields weeding and harvesting and taking care of pigs and chickens. Most people never learned to read or write. Richer people often home-schooled their children, especially girls and children [...]

What is zero? Zero and place value

By |2017-07-29T17:35:52+00:00July 29th, 2017|Math|

A math problem showing place value How can you add big numbers without an abacus? You still group the sheep (or whatever) just as you did when you were using the abacus, but now you write the numbers down using place values, so that your hundreds are all underneath your other hundreds, your tens are underneath [...]

Languages and Writing

By |2018-04-23T15:33:13+00:00July 27th, 2017|Literature|

Cuneiform tablet from West Asia Most people in the ancient Mediterranean and West Asian areas spoke languages that divided into two groups. One language group is Indo-European and the other group is Semitic. In southern Africa, most people spoke either a Bantu language or a Khoisan language. Indian people spoke Dravidian languages. Central Asian people spoke variations of Turkic [...]

Ibn Rushd – Medieval Islamic Science

By |2018-04-09T23:07:34+00:00July 27th, 2017|Islam, Philosophy, Science|

Cordoba mosque Since the time of Socrates, many people have tried to figure out how science and religion can both be true at the same time. Ibn Rushd, like the earlier ibn Sina and al-Ghazali, was part of an important movement to try to combine Aristotle's scientific description of the world with religious views to create a unified [...]

Maktab – Medieval Islamic schools

By |2018-04-23T15:30:39+00:00July 26th, 2017|Islam, People|

Boys in Mauretania learning Quran verses from wooden tablets In the Islamic empire and in Africa, as in West Asia before Islam, most kids never went to school. Both girls and boys usually worked in the fields, plowing or weeding. But some boys, especially from richer families, went to a maktab (Arabic for "grade school"). Most towns had a small maktab [...]

Islamic poetry – Medieval Islam

By |2018-04-21T13:19:59+00:00July 25th, 2017|Islam, Literature|

The poet Rumi (1200s AD) Arabic poetry has a long tradition in the Arabian peninsula even before the development of Islam. People composed and recited long poems that they remembered without writing down. As soon as written Arabic became common in the 700s AD, poets began publishing in every corner of the Islamic Empire. One of the most famous of [...]

Arabic language and literature

By |2018-04-08T01:10:49+00:00July 25th, 2017|Islam, Literature|

Sabataean writing Arabic is in the Semitic language group. Semitic languages seems to have gotten started before the beginning of writing, somewhere near modern Syria. They spread from there through Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan down to the Arabian peninsula. Because the Arabian peninsula was more isolated, people there kept speaking an older version of the language. [...]

The Abbasids – Medieval Islamic history

By |2018-04-18T23:33:46+00:00July 23rd, 2017|History, Islam|

Minaret at Samarra, 847 AD In 750 AD, the Abbasid caliphs murdered all of the surviving Umayyad men but one. They took over ruling the Islamic Empire. The Abbasids were less interested in the Mediterranean coast than the Umayyads had been. So the Abbasids concentrated more on the plains of Iraq and Iran, and less on the coast: Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, [...]