Central Asia

Central Asia includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and by some accounts also includes Mongolia and Afghanistan. Due to its relative aridity that is not conducive to agriculture, as well as its distance from the sea that limits trade opportunities, the ancient history and art of Central Asia is dominated by the nomadic culture of its peoples which retained a largely shamanistic culture. However, the peoples of Central Asia did achieve periods of great success through war. Due to their nomadic culture, it was necessary for all men of these societies to be extremely proficient in horse riding and use of a bow, making them possibly the most effective warriors in the world. Periods of unification of the Central Asian peoples are known as the Steppe empires and include the Huns and the Mongols. Furthermore, throughout history the Central Asian area largely evaded conquest – as a nomadic people in a large area are not forced to defend anything and so evaded any capture. Despite this, the Central Asians generally adopted Buddhism from the east and Zoroastrianism from Persia to the west, however these traditions were incorporated into native shamanic traditions. Central Asian art has its native traditions associated with nomadic cultures that typically emphasises animal forms decorating utilitarian objects, however conquest and other association led to adoption of other forms, and trade along the Silk Road influenced traditions in textiles and rugs that have become some of the most highly sought after.