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History

From the powerful civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Indus Valley, to the fearsome yet sophisticated society of the Vikings, the ancient world was a surprising and challenging place. Here we feature some of the most seminal and influential events and people throughout history, that have helped shape the world we know today.

Left: Pictish warrior (public domain) Right: Scythian Warrior with Axe, Bow, and Spear.

Piecing Together the Origins of Ancient Near East Names in Scotland

Thinking of Scotland, as I do from the somewhat similar mountains of northern India, which has been my home for nigh on twenty years, I do so from a rather Indian perspective; I think of families,...
A ceramic female polo player, from northern China, Tang Dynasty, first half of the 8th century, made with white slip and polychrome. From the Musée Guimet (Guimet Museum), Paris. (Public Domain) Background: ‘Xuanzong's Journey to Shu’, in the manner of the mid-8th century Tang artist Li Zhaodao, an 11th-century Song dynasty remake.

The Tang Dynasty: The Arts Flourished, Family Ties Broke, and a Concubine Became Empress

While Europe was masked in the Dark Ages, China was flourishing in the Tang Dynasty. Woodblock printing gave them books, testing made government jobs available to common citizens, paper spread...
Ching Shih – from Prostitute to Pirate Lord

Ching Shih – from Prostitute to Pirate Lord

Ching Shih (or Zheng Shi) was a Chinese prostitute who became a powerful female pirate, controlling the infamous Red Flag Fleet. The fleet grew under her command, with expanding reserves of loot, and...
Sappho and Alcaeus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1881)

Gender Equality in the Ancient World?

In discussions about gender in the ancient world, women seldom seemed to be portrayed in a good light. In Ancient Greece, women were described as dogs, demons and degenerates. Semonides of Amorgos (...
Attendant figurine (Sui Dynasty, 581 - 618) at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum - Sha Tin, Hong Kong. (CC0) Background: Votive plaque with Seated Buddha Shakyamuni, Attendant Bodhisattvas, and Monks, China, Sui dynasty, 581-618 AD, gilt bronze - Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University.

The Sui Dynasty: 37 Years, Two Emperors and One Grand Canal

The Sui Dynasty may not have existed very long, but this imperial dynasty made an impact on Chinese culture long after the memories of its rulers faded away. Peasants were both delighted with and...
The Gladiators of Rome

The Gladiators of Rome: Blood Sport in the Ancient Empire

The ancient Romans were well known for many things – their engineering marvels, their road networks, and the establishment of Roman law throughout the empire. They were, however, also renowned for...
The ‘mourning scene’ on the East wall in the Royal Tomb at El-Amarna (TA 26B - Chamber gamma). Akhenaten is shown leading the royal family in grieving the death of Princess Meketaten, their second daughter, who stands inside a pavilion associated with childbirth. Julian Tuffs.

Challenges of Infant Mortality in Ancient Egypt: Amulets, Spells and the Divine—Part II

Among all the perils that the ancient Egyptians battled through their use of religion and magic, none came close to the poignant and desperate prayers they made to save the lives of their offspring...
Detail of a figure of a Xianbei warrior. (Editor at Large/CC BY SA 2.5) Background: Filial sons and virtuous women in Chinese history, a lacquer painting over a four-panel wooden folding screen; from the tomb of Sima Jinlong in Datong, Shanxi province, dated to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534 AD)

The Xianbei: A Chinese Dynasty Emerges from Nomadic Warriors of the Steppe

The Xianbei people … invade our frontiers so frequently that hardly a year goes by in peace, and it is only when the trading season arrives that they come forward in submission. But in so doing they...
Modern representation of Sima Yan, the first emperor of the Jin Dynasty. (CC BY SA) Background: Detail of a moulded-brick mural identified as the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove and Rong Qiqi.” (Gary Lee Todd/CC BY SA 4.0)

The Jin Dynasty: The Sima Clan Fights to Hold China Together

The Jin (晉) Dynasty was an imperial dynasty that ruled China between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD. It was established following the Three Kingdoms period, during which China was fragmented into three...
Mother Love: Detail from a relief shows Pharaoh Seti I as a child sitting on the lap of goddess Isis. Her right arm is resting on his back while she gently caresses his face with her left hand. This scene can be found on the western wall of the Second Hypostyle Hall. Temple of Seti I, Abydos.

Challenges of Infant Mortality in Ancient Egypt: Disease, Death and Deliverance - Part I

Family came first in ancient Egypt. Be it the royal household or the commoner on the street, the bond between parents and their children was considered sacred. Right through the Old Kingdom period...
Re-creation of the port at the Sumerian city of Eridu.

What Was Life Like in Sumer, History’s First Civilization?

Life went through some incredible changes when the first cities were built. Up until then, nearly every person had to work as a farmer or a hunter, moving from place to place in a constant struggle...
Chinese temple on a lake

The Chinese Emperor Who Built A Lake of Wine and a Forest of Meat

The last ruler of China’s Shang Dynasty knew how to relax. When he and his Queen wanted to unwind, they would head to his pleasure palace and take a dip in their lake of wine. That wasn’t just a cute...
Abaqa On Horse, Arghun Standing, Ghazan As A Child. Mongol rulers Arghun and Abaqa were Buddhists. From the 14th century Universal History by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani.

Adapting Buddhism: Ancient Disciples of Siddhartha Gautama in Afghanistan and Iran

Buddhism, in the first few centuries following the death of the Buddha, spread from India mainly to China, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. One place where its presence is less studied, in some ways...
Slaves working in a mine. Corinthian terracotta plaque painting, 5th century BC.

Ice-Core Study Finds Evidence of Ancient European Plagues, Wars, and Imperial Expansion

To learn about the rise and fall of ancient European civilizations, researchers sometimes find clues in unlikely places: deep inside of the Greenland ice sheet, for example. Thousands of years ago,...
A seida (worshiped stone) Tromsø, Norway.

Sami Spirituality and the Cult of the Sacred Stones

The Cult of the Sacred Stones belong to the Sami people of northern Europe. The Sami (occasionally spelled Saami) live in Lapland, a part of northern Europe near Norway, Sweden and Finland, and...
Arctic Ocean Sea Water.

Did Pytheas, Ancient Navigator, Geographer and Astronomer Discover Mysterious Thule?

About 600 years BC, Greek merchants sailed west the length of the Mediterranean Sea and founded a city named Massilia. Now it's called Marseilles, France. The purpose of the new port was to control...

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