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2.1: Regional Configurations of Historical Territories

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    The map of contemporary Asia (2.1.1) showcases the immense size of the region, as well as the varied landscapes and nations that comprise it. Asia spans a vast territory, and each area has its unique history and culture. The historical narrative of Asia encompasses East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, parts of the Middle East, and some of the steppes of Central Asia. The great river basins in these regions were vital to the development of their communities and supported the largest populations. However, some areas, such as the mountain ranges and deserts, were relatively uninhabited.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Map of Modern Asia (JanwillemvanaalstCC BY 4.0)

    The Neolithic era marked a significant turning point in human history as it signaled a departure from traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyles. The term "Neolithic" comes from the Greek words "neo," meaning new, and "lithic," meaning relating to stone. During this time, humans began crafting more complex tools such as axes, scythes, and hoes by chipping and polishing stones. With these tools, small groups of people could settle into permanent locations, leading to the cultivation of crops and the domestication of animals becoming the norm. This shift enabled a more sedentary way of life, with the main crops being wheat and millet and the domesticated animals being goats and pigs. The practice of animal care, also known as pastoralism, became a specialized type of agriculture. Since no written documentation has been found, this period, along with the previous one, is considered "protohistoric." Historians rely on interpreting images and artifacts to document the lifestyles of different civilizations.

    The craft of pottery making has a long history in the coastal regions of Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. In Japan, this art form dates back to roughly 10500 BCE. Meanwhile, the people residing in the Yellow River Plains began cultivating millet during the period between 8000 and 6000 BCE, and the inhabitants of the Yangtze River valley started growing rice around the same time. These early agricultural practices eventually led to significant cultural and economic developments that continue to influence these regions today.

    The geological features of Asia have contributed to the creation of mountains, a favorable climate, and nutrient-rich soil, which have fostered the growth of prosperous societies.

    During the neolithic period, various cultures of early humans developed unique techniques for constructing homes using stone or mudbricks. Archaeological excavations have provided fascinating insights into their daily lives, including the discovery of basic pottery, polished stone, flint tools, and primitive jewelry. Textile technology also began to evolve, with hunter-gatherers making clothing from animal skins and farmers producing flax, cotton, or silk for clothing after the domestication of plants. The processes for processing, weaving, and developing fibers grew into small industries, with looms for weaving found in homes, likely based on earlier basket weaving technology. These advancements led to trade with nearby farming communities, setting the stage for the later Silk Road. The changes that occurred during the neolithic period transformed people's lives and represent one of the most crucial developments in history.

    Throughout the course of history, people have established agricultural communities near rivers and surrounding lands. This pattern can be seen in ancient India, where many settlements were built along the Ganges River. Farmers became skilled in the art of constructing small dams and dikes to contain water, as well as canals to irrigate their crops. Pottery is considered a significant indicator of a more settled lifestyle for archaeologists studying farming communities. The weight and size of pottery made it impractical for nomadic hunter-gatherers. Excavations have revealed that these sites comprised thatched huts supported by timber posts, along with various types of stone axes and bone tools. Interestingly, some of these villages produced colorful painted pottery, displaying their artistic prowess. Additionally, domesticated animals such as cattle and goats were kept in pens, and their dung was utilized for fertilization. The Indus Valley civilization, in contrast, boasted settlements surrounded by impressive stone walls and was considered more advanced. This level of sophistication is also evident in other sites throughout the Indus Valley. Meanwhile, along the Yellow River, different types of settlements produced unique artifacts. For instance, one site had red and orange pottery decorated with geometric lines, while another featured long-necked pottery with pointed bottoms, showcasing the creativity and dexterity of these ancient civilizations.

    The Art of Simplicity: Chinese Neolithic Pottery

    Neolithic pottery may be the most elemental medium of fine art. They are the remains of a world that no longer exists. And yet, these remnants bring us into direct contact with the shapes of the natural world thousands of years ago. The presence of sculptural forms and geometric patterns may originate in the human instinct for order, harmony, and proportion. The designs express abstract compositions, which may strike our modern eyes as distinctly contemporary in design, similar to Minimalism which is in favor of a pared-down style of purely self-referential geometric forms.


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