COSTP World History Project/Eastern Civilization and Its Impact
The history of Asia can be seen as the collective history of several distinct peripheral coastal regions, East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East linked by the interior mass of the Eurasian steppe.
The coastal periphery was the first to be home to civilization, with each of the three regions developing early civilizations around fertile river valleys. The civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China shared many similarities and likely exchanged technologies and ideas such as mathematics and the wheel. Other notions such as that of writing likely developed individually in each area. Cities, states and then empires developed in these lowlands.
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 who spread their languages into the Middle East, India, and in the Tocharians to the borders of China. The northern part of the continent, covering much of Siberia was also inaccessible to the steppe nomads due to the dense forests and the tundra. These areas were very sparsely populated.
The centre and periphery were kept separate by mountains and desserts. The Caucuses, Himalayas, Karakum Desert, Gobi Desert formed barriers that the steppe horse men could only cross with difficulty. While technologically and culturally the urban city dwellers were more advanced, they could do little militarily to defend themselves against the mounted hordes of the steppe. However, the lowlands did not have enough open grasslands to support a large horsebound force. Thus the nomads who conquered states in China, India, and the Middle East were soon forced to adapt to the local societies.