The Horse Reshaped Civilization — Without Horseback Riding

Pharaoh Tutankhamun (King Tut) fighting via chariot, 1300’s B.C.E.

You’d think horses became important when people started to ride. But actually the horse reshaped civilization long before the first cavalry charge or mounted messenger. During the centuries following 2000 B.C.E., warriors of China, India, the Fertile Crescent, and other lands began riding chariots: light-weight, two-wheeled buggies pulled by teams of horses. The chariot allowed an archer and his driver to move at the speed of a horse, scattering hapless infantrymen before thundering charges. Faster-moving armies could cover more territory, so empires replaced the little kingdoms of the early Bronze Age. Chariots also led to a feudal structure in many kingdoms, where kings outsourced the high costs of charioteers and their gear to regional lords, who fielded armies of chariots — just as Medieval Europe’s feudal dukes and barons later fielded armies of armored knights. Continue reading “The Horse Reshaped Civilization — Without Horseback Riding”

A History of Libya in 7 Bullet Points

Recent events have many of us thinking about Libya. So here’s a rundown of some of the surprises and highlights from Libyan history:

  1. Land of the Berbers: We think of the Libyans as Arabs, and that’s true for most, but it hides a more complicated picture. For all of recorded history, the bulk of Libya’s people have been Berbers, and that remains so today, though most of Libya’s Berbers also descend from Arabs. The Berbers were simple farmers during the Bronze Age, living in mountain and oasis villages across North Africa. The Egyptians referred to one of the Berber tribes as the “Levu,” and that’s probably the origin of the name “Libya.” Berbers from Libya actually conquered Egypt in 950 B.C.E., and the “Libyan dynasties” continued until about 730 B.C.E. Many Libyans still speak Berber languages and consider themselves Berbers first and foremost. And modern Libya includes several Berber tribes. Continue reading “A History of Libya in 7 Bullet Points”

The Unbelievable Duration of Egyptian Civilization

Imagine the Roman emperors still ruled today—and kept ruling until the year 3000 C.E. Imagine an American president still presides in the year 4800—governing roughly the same part of North America as today and operating under American traditions and laws, including the U.S. Constitution. In other words, imagine a government and society lasting three thousand years, with only the occasional interruption. That’s how long the Pharaohs reigned over ancient Egypt. Continue reading “The Unbelievable Duration of Egyptian Civilization”