Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
History of Eurasia
The history of Eurasia is the collective history of four distinct peripheral coastal regions, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe linked by the interior mass of the Eurasian steppe. While geographically on a separate continent North Africa has historically always been integrated into Eurasian history. Perhaps beginning with early Silk Road trade, the Eurasian view of history seeks establishing genetic, cultural, and linguistic links between European, African, Middle-Eastern, and Asian cultures of antiquity.
The three eastern regions developed in a similar manner with each of the three regions developing early civilizations around fertile river valleys. The civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China (both the Yellow River and the Yangtze) shared many similarities and likely exchange technologies and ideas such as mathematics, the wheel. Ancient Egypt also shared this model. Europe was different, however. It was somewhat further north and contained no river systems to support agriculture. Thus Europe remained comparatively undeveloped, with only the southern tips of the region namely Greece and Italy being able to fully borrow crops, technologies, and ideas from the Middle East and North Africa.
The steppe region had long been inhabited by mounted nomads, and from the central steppes they could reach all areas of the Asian continent. The earliest known such central expansion out of the steppe is that of the Indo-Europeans which spread their languages into the Middle East, India, Europe, and in the Tocharians to the borders of China. Throughout their history, up to the development of gunpowder all the four areas would be repeatedly menaced by the nomads from the steppe.
Another important difference between Europe and the rest of Eurasia is that each of the latter regions has few obstructions internally even though it is ringed by mountains and deserts. This meant that it was far easier to establish unified control over the entire region, and this did occur with massive empires consistently dominating the Middle East, China, and much of India. Europe, however, is riddled with internal mountain ranges: The Carpathians, the Alps, the Pyrenees and many others. Throughout its history Europe has thus usually been divided into many small states.
The Iron Age made large stands of timber essential to a nation's success because smelting iron required so much fuel, and the pinnacles of human civilizations gradually moved as forests were destroyed. In Europe the Mediterranean region was supplanted by the German and Frankish lands. In the Middle East the main power center became Anatolia with the once dominant Mesopotamia its vassal. In China, the economical, agricultural, and industrial center moved from the northern Yellow River to the southern Yangtze, though the political center remained in the north. In part this is linked to technological developments, such as the mouldboard plough, that made life in once retarded areas more bearable.
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