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Bison history – North America

By |2019-02-14T21:24:52-07:00August 8th, 2017|Environment, North America|

Bison history: A bison losing his warm winter coat Bison or buffalo? Bison (we used to call them buffalo) are a kind of cattle, like cows. Like other cows such as the aurochs, bison came originally from Asia, and they probably travelled over a land bridge to get to North America. More about cattle And the aurochs North American [...]

Early Medieval Russia

By |2017-08-02T14:45:48-07:00August 2nd, 2017|History, Medieval|

Ukrainian landscape In 500 BC, we might have called the people living in Russia Scythians. But then between about 300 and 800 AD, a lot of people passed through Russia. Most of them were moving from Central Asia towards Europe, from east to west. One after another, the Ostrogoths, the Avars, the Huns, and the Magyars all passed through Russia. But all [...]

Huns – Central Asian history

By |2018-04-18T09:53:58-07:00August 2nd, 2017|History, Medieval|

A drawing of a Hunnic plaque The Huns probably came from western China, where they were known as the Xiong-nu. They were part of the group of Turkic people (some of whom later became the Ottomans) who gradually took over most of Asia and eastern Europe during the Middle Ages. The Huns may have lived in northern China [...]

The Avars – Early Middle Ages

By |2019-02-06T18:24:16-07:00August 2nd, 2017|History, Medieval|

Grasslands of Central Asia - the steppe homeland of the Avars Ruled by the Rouran The Avars were a mostly Turkic group of people. We first hear of them living in Central Asia under the rule of the Rouran, in the 400s AD. Who were the Rouran? The Early Middle Ages All our Central Asia articles The Chinese, [...]

Medieval Islamic science

By |2018-04-24T08:21:20-07:00July 27th, 2017|Islam, Science|

Al Tusi's diagram of linear motion from circular motion In the Early Middle Ages, before the formation of the Islamic Empire, Buddhists ran the world's biggest universities. One was in India, at Nalanda. Another was in what is now Pakistan, at Taxila. In Egypt, the University of Alexandria was still an important center of learning, too. Most serious scholars went to [...]

Medieval Islamic astronomy

By |2018-04-23T10:04:24-07:00July 27th, 2017|History, Islam, Science|

Islamic astronomers taking observations West Asian astronomers had been world leaders in astronomy for thousands of years before the Islamic conquests in the 600s AD. In the last centuries BC, West Asian astronomers had already figured out that the earth was a ball, and that the earth went around the sun, and how big the earth was, and that the moon went [...]

Medieval Islamic economy – The Silk Road

By |2017-07-23T16:24:26-07:00July 23rd, 2017|Economy, Islam|

Turkomen on the Silk Road with camels Just like under Persian or Sassanian rule, the economy of West Asia during the Islamic period depended very heavily on trade. The Silk Road ran right across the Islamic Empire. It reached east from China, to Tajikistan, to Uzbekistan, to Iran, to Iraq and Syria. Then it ran west to Lebanon, to the Byzantine Empire, and across the Mediterranean to Italy. Arab [...]

Medieval Islamic pottery – Islamic art

By |2018-04-23T15:22:28-07:00July 23rd, 2017|Art, Islam|

A tin-glazed plate Just about the time of the Arab conquests (about 600-700 AD), potters started to use metal-based glazes on their pots. So Islamic pottery looks very different from the Roman pottery that came before it. Tin-glazed bowl imitating Chinese pottery, ca. 850 AD West Asian potters invented this way of glazing pottery during the Roman Empire, [...]

Indra, god of rain – Ancient India

By |2017-07-21T09:16:14-07:00July 21st, 2017|India, Religion|

Indra, 4-5th c. AD (Mathura, India) In the earliest Hindu stories that we know of, from the Rig Veda, Indra is the ruler of the Hindu gods, the way Zeus is the ruler of the Greek gods, or Thor the ruler of the German gods. These stories probably go back at least to about 1000 BC. In the Rig Veda, Indra [...]

Who is Poseidon? Greek gods

By |2018-09-17T09:02:48-07:00July 16th, 2017|Greeks, Religion|

The god Poseidon rules the ocean Ocean god Poseidon The Greeks thought of the god Poseidon as a god of violent, unpredictable movement. He is most often the god of the ocean, which is of course the biggest, most unpredictable, and most dangerous thing around. Many Greeks spent a lot of time sailing on the ocean, and they paid [...]