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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.

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...
Liu Xiu, Emperor Guangwu of Han, Liu Heng, Emperor Wen of Han, or Cao Pi, King of Wei. (Public Domain) Background: Dahuting tomb banquet scene, mural detail, Eastern Han Dynasty. (Public Domain)

Part II: The End Comes Slowly - The Last Han Dynasty Emperors

Read Part I Here Wang Mang’s usurpation of the throne and the establishment of the Xin Dynasty brought the Han Dynasty to a temporary end. Displeasure with the Xin Dynasty, however, caused rebellions...
The charcoal drawings found at Chauvet show a high degree of detail. Copy of the Lions Panel of the Chauvet Cave.

How Our Ancestors with Autistic Traits Led a Revolution in Ice Age Art

The ability to focus on detail, a common trait among people with autism, allowed realism to flourish in Ice Age art, according to researchers at the University of York. Around 30,000 years ago...
Belisarius by Francois-Andre Vincent 1776

Did Antonina Use Witchcraft to Enslave the Mighty Byzantine General Belisarius?

Flavius Belisarius (500 - 565 AD) personified the perfect example of what a general of a powerful empire ought to have been. He was almost invincible in battle as he restored the influence of the...
Was Wang Mang a visionary, or a murderous villain – or both? (Wang Mang art italkcafe.com, The Analects of Confucius; Deriv)

The Emperor is Dead, Let Confucianism and Chaos Reign! The Rise and Fall of Wang Mang and the Xin Dynasty

Some saw Wang Mang as an evil usurper – others a selfless visionary. Either way, an emperor lay dead, and a learned Confucian scholar sought to bring peace and harmony, but the dynasty would descend...
Maria Reiche measuring the Nazca Lines.

Maria Reiche: The Governess of Nazca

Today, the birthday of the German lady who contributed greatly to our understanding of the famous Nazca Lines in Peru, is being marked by Google Doodle and others. Maria Reiche was a talented...
Tiberius as Jupiter – II.

Was Emperor Tiberius Simply Destined to Rule?

Tiberius was a Roman emperor who ruled the empire during the first half of the 1st century AD. As he was the successor of Augustus Caesar, his adoptive father, he was the second ruler of the Roman...
A portrait painting of Emperor Gao of Han (Liu Bang), from an 18th-century Qing Dynasty album of Chinese emperors' portraits. (Public Domain) Background: A tomb painting of a late Eastern-Han period lively banquet.

A Golden Age of China, Part I: Early Han Dynasty Emperors

The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty in Chinese history. This dynasty was a long one – it was established during the 3rd century BC and lasted all the way until the 3rd century AD. It was...

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