Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture

By John S. Bowman | Go to book overview
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Central Asian Republics


Much of the early history of Central Asia is unknown. Because the geography of the region is not generally conducive to agriculture, the early inhabitants adopt a nomadic way of life and leave behind no written records. Various tribal confederations rise in dominance and establish an empire of sorts over the important oases and trade cities. These tribal confederations inevitably prove fragile, however, as internal strife and inadequate means of governance lead to the dissolution of power. Early examples of this sort of “nomadic empire” are the Scythians and Samartians, both of Iranian origin, and the Xiongnu, a Turkic-Mongol people who are most active in the Mongolian steppes, but who also come to control the Tarim Basin. Parthia, the great empire that was to dominate Mesopotamia in the third century B.C., had its origins on the southern steppes of present-day Turkmenistan. The Persians, the Chinese Han, the Indian king Kanishka, and the Macedonian armies of Alexander the Great all make inroads into Central Asia, contributing to the great confluence of culture still to be found in the region. However, the most significant events in terms of defining the ultimate cultural character of the region are the conquests of the Turkish khaghanate in the sixth century, and the ascendancy of Islam in the seventh through the tenth centuries.

70,000–55,000B.C.: The first settlements in Central Asia appear in the Ferghana Valley (present-day Uzbekistan) and in the Tien Shan range near Issyk-Kol.

5,000–3,000B.C.: Evidence from an archaeological site north of Ashgabat in Turkmenistan indicates that the Neolithic Jeitun civilization becomes one of the first cultures in Central Asia to make use of agriculture.

2000B.C.: Settlements typical of the Bronze Age Abdronovo appear throughout Kazakhstan. In the Amu Darya (Oxus) valley and near the Aral Sea Indo-Iranian tribes begin to settle the areas later known as Khorezm and Sogdiana.

1200B.C.: A Late Bronze Age people known as the Cimmerians settle in the Volga, the southern part of the Russian steppe.

Late 8th centuryB.C.: The Scythians supplant the Cimmerians in the Ukraine. The Scyth


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