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Kingship, Knowledge, and the Path to Gnosis

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Great Empires of North America, Part 4: People of the Pyramid

Their culture, religion and cities welded the Southeast into a unified civilization. Meet the Mississippians — medieval America’s mightiest emperors. The Great Sun was dead. As a gray dawn broke over the city’s towering pyramids, a procession of mourning priests and nobles paraded through the courtyard, bearing gifts for their king’s tomb. A cadre of […]

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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 Puebloans: 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 […]

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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 5: The Eastern Renaissance

Their realm was the heart of civilization — until the apocalypse came. Meet the Persians: enlightened lords of Central Asia’s final golden age. If I ask you to picture “Arabian culture,” what images come to mind? Towering citadels, perhaps; adorned with domes and minarets. Flowing robes of many colors, and turbans and embroidered veils. Gardens […]

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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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The Giant-Kidnapping Prussian Emperor

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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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