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Islamic North Africa – caravans across the Sahara

By |2018-02-22T09:23:58+00:00October 3rd, 2017|Africa, History|

Islamic North Africa: Kairouan mosque (ca. 800 AD) The Eastern Roman reconquest of North Africa in the 530s AD ended the Vandal kingdom there. But trade declined until the Islamic invasions of North Africa in the 600s AD and the establishment of the Umayyad, and then the Fatimid dynasties. Fatimids Under Islamic rule, North Africa became part of a [...]

Who built Great Zimbabwe? Central African history

By |2018-04-13T01:39:20+00:00October 2nd, 2017|Africa, History|

Central Africa in the Middle Ages: Great Zimbabwe Iron comes to Central Africa Besides South Africa, central Africa is the most isolated part of Africa - for many years, the people who lived here saw almost nobody from outside their own area. So it took longer for people in Central Africa to find out [...]

Mining and miners in ancient West Asia

By |2018-04-25T23:41:46+00:00September 15th, 2017|Economy, West Asia|

Skeleton of a salt miner from Sassanid Iran Mining was a dangerous job. So most people in the ancient world didn't want to do it. This is the skeleton of a young salt miner. Very likely the miner was enslaved, so he didn't have any choice about working in the salt mine. He [...]

Galen and Roman medicine – doctors in the Roman Empire

By |2018-04-18T18:18:03+00:00September 4th, 2017|Romans, Science|

Roman medicine: Galen used surgical instruments like these Roman medicine is really West Asian and African medicine. That's because most of the great doctors of the Roman Empire lived in West Asia (in Turkey and Syria), or in Africa (in Egypt), not in Europe. These doctors started from earlier Egyptian, Indian, and Greek medical research. Like Egyptian [...]

Sodom and Gomorrah – Bible stories

By |2018-04-09T10:35:31+00:00August 25th, 2017|Religion, West Asia|

Lot's wife turns to a pillar of salt as God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah. Morgan Bible, France, 1250s AD (commissioned by Louis IX) One story from the Bible about how nomads were good and cities were bad is about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the time of Abraham, after the Jews had moved to [...]

Mississippi People – Native Americans

By |2018-04-07T17:05:36+00:00August 9th, 2017|History, Native American|

A Mississippian warrior About 800 AD, the old Hopewell people seem to have developed what we call the Mississippian culture. People living near the Mississippi river got new kinds of corn about this time. Now, instead of just building burial mounds, people built mounds with flat tops and built buildings on top of the mounds, like a Mayan temple. Some [...]

Medieval food with recipes – European food in the Middle Ages

By |2018-10-06T20:22:59+00:00August 1st, 2017|Food, Medieval|

Medieval food: A man ladles porridge from a large pot over a fire Poor people's food was boring! In the Middle Ages in Europe, what people ate depended a lot on how rich they were. Poor people (which was almost everybody) ate mainly barley, or in some places oats. What's barley like? All about the history of [...]

Parchment and the history of books

By |2018-04-21T13:19:57+00:00July 27th, 2017|Literature, West Asia|

Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarium (about 600 AD, now in Leiden) Scribes carved the first writing on wet clay tablets, but soon after that, about 3000 BC, the Egyptians invented papyrus, and by about 500 BC most people in West Asia and the Mediterranean used papyrus for writing. They couldn't make papyrus, though, because papyrus reeds wouldn't grow in their countries, and they had to buy [...]

Spices and cotton: Mughal Indian economy

By |2018-04-23T14:30:47+00:00July 19th, 2017|Economy, India|

Japanese painting of Portuguese bringing Indian cargo to Japan (1500s AD) Under the Mughal Empire, India continued to make a lot of money by trading things back and forth between East Africa and West Asia to their west, and South-East Asia and China to their east. Mostly Indian traders sold medicine and  pepper and cinnamon and other spices to West Asia. They sold glass beads and cotton cloth to [...]