The Lands of Central Asia: Eight Millennia of Civilisation, from the Neolithic to the Early Medieval Period
“a major source for specialists, for historians, and for the reader with an avid interest in the region. . . . impressive . . ."
This dense volume covers a lot of ground, from the Neolithic to the early medieval period across all of a vast expanse of land. The foreword spells out well the book's ambitions:
"This publication undertakes an almost-impossible task: describing the vast history of our region . . . Carefully studying numerous sources and artifacts from Uzbekistan and surrounding countries, the book presents vibrant and comprehensive research . . ."
It's definitely comprehensive, starting with the origins of prehistoric civilizations and what archeological sites reveal about them, moving on to the development of civilizations as revealed in writing: "If we consider writing to be the most important factor for the development of advanced forms of statehood, then it follows that civilisations emerge simultaneously alongside states, since writing is also one of their most important elements (albeit not the decisive one)."
Subsequent chapters describe different peoples and their movements in the region, cultural and political exchanges, the development of trade and the effects of various religious practices, including intriguing connections between Korea and Central Asia. It's an extensive catalogue, crammed full of details about specific sites and what they reveal.
As rich as all the information is, however, it feels almost like raw data. There is no "vibrant" narrative pulling it all together into a history that will be compelling to the average reader. Instead, this is a major source for specialists, for historians, and for the reader with an avid interest in the region. The inclusion of images and color plates help but aren't enough to pull in a general audience. Still, this is an area that deserves to be more widely known and better understood. This book is an excellent starting place for other stories, written more accessibly than this impressive compendium.