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Why Is Ancientness So Fascinating?

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The Concubine Who Conquered China

She seduced princes, seized the imperial throne, and partied with a harem of hunky men. Meet the most powerful woman in Chinese history. An ancient Confucian saying held that a woman on the throne was as unnatural as “a hen crowing like a rooster.” And although talented women rose, at various points in China’s four-thousand-year […]

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The God Enki and the Ocean of Everywhen

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Great Empires of North America, Part 3: Citadels of Ancient Colorado

From cliffside fortresses, they controlled a sprawling trade network — and hoarded wealth beyond dreams. Meet the merchant princes of the ancient Southwest. When we hear terms like “invasion” and “first contact” in American history, we naturally think of European colonialism — and with good reason. The Spanish arrival in New Mexico  devastated indigenous populations, […]

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Great Empires of North America, Part 2: Exodus to Arizona

They raised mighty mud-brick cities, and built a trade empire spanning the Southwest. Meet Arizona’s desert lords. The people had been walking in the desert for many days. When they’d departed from northern Mexico on their great northward migration, they’d been more than a hundred strong – men, women and children, well-practiced at surviving in […]

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Great Empires of North America, Part 1: The Old World

They built astronomical observatories and innovative farming systems — and we don’t even know their names. Meet the first great civilizations of Native American history. Nearly four thousand years ago — as the city of Babylon was first growing into a metropolis and Egypt’s Middle Kingdom was in full swing — a group of hunters […]

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Great Empires of Central Asia, Part 3: Pirates on a Sea of Grass

They drank, smoked, plundered, raided and traded their way across ancient Asia. Meet the Scythians — the deadliest crew you’ve ever wanted to party with. I’ve experienced some surprisingly intimate moments at archaeological museums around the world. When I gaze into the lifelike eyes of a statue like that of Ebih-Il, or stumble upon a […]

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Great Empires of Central Asia, Part 2: Thunder on the Steppe

Long before the Huns, or the Mongols, or the Aryans, a different people ruled the Eurasian plains. Meet the inventors of thunderbolt-hurling sky gods. Imagine a time long before Asia’s vast interior was crossed by railroads or telephone lines. Thousands of years before anyone dreamed of the Silk Route; before there were friendly roads and […]

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Great Empires of Central Asia, Part 1: Primeval Beginnings

They inspired Sumerian cities, Indian trade and Persian art. Meet the most influential civilization you’ve never heard of. In the 1970s, Soviet archaeologists traveled deep into Turkmenistan’s Kara-Kum Desert, which most people can’t even point to on a map. This bleak desert might seem a strange place to seek the ruins of a lost civilization. […]

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