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section of the Great Wall of China The continent of Asia has a history that spans thousands of years, and includes a large variety of peoples and cultures throughout its vast lands.  The world's youngest continent is also the largest, which means it has more ethnic groups than any other continent.  The two oldest cultures are India and China.  India's culture can be seen in countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal as well as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia.  China's culture, including its government, architecture, and arts and sciences has reached across to many lands and peoples in all of East Asia, the majority of Southeast Asia, and parts of Central Asia.

Islam is a third cultural influence in Asia.  Islam culture, including its writing, religion, and art, is prevalent in Southwest Asia, particularly in Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

ancient carving of two Assyrian warriors Civilization was first noted about 6,000 years ago, when the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East was initially settled and introduced agriculture to the continent.  Thanks to complicated but successful water systems, Sumer, today known as southern Iraq, was the first area in Asia to enjoy civilization.  This area is known for introducing the potter's wheel, wheeled vehicles, codes of law, and the first writing system.

Pastoral people called Aryans, or Indo-Iranians, moved into present-day Afghanistan and eastern Iran, moving steadily toward India then Western and Central Asia, during the second millennium BC.

Napier Museum, Kerala, India Because of the Silk Road, a trade route that carried goods between East Asia and the rest of the world, Central Asia has always been known for fusing various cultures.  Trade was especially robust during China's Han dynasty, Tang dynasty, and the Mongol period.

When the Trans-Siberian Railway was built between 1891 and 1905, Russians conquered and settled in Siberia, then later spread to Central Asia.  Other countries that colonized Asia include Great Britain, France, and several other European countries.  Today, while colonization has ended, war continues to threaten many regions where religion and culture clash.  India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, and Afghanistan has been home to almost continuous warfare since 1997.


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