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Great Empires of Central Asia, Part 4: Lords of the Silk Road

They brought together the best of Asia—then improved on it. Meet the Sogdians: merchant princes of the ancient Asian steppe. In the year 36 BCE, a Han Chinese expedition marched west across the Jaxartes River, in what’s now Kazakhstan — more than 4,000 miles west of their home in China, in the heart of the […]

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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 Andronovo people — inventors of thunderbolt-hurling sky gods. Imagine, if you can, 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; […]

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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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