The end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries brought to light exceedingly important discoveries by archeologists on the continent of Asia. For the first time Asia appeared to the students of the distant past as a land where complex events had occurred which were related to the beginnings of the human race and where cultures, frequently high cultures, had come into being, displaced each other, and left profound imprints on world history.
The countries in which these discoveries were made are lands related to the general concept of the Far and Near East: India, Mesopotamia, Palestine, in the west; and China, Japan, parts of Korea, Indochina, and the Malayan Archipelago in the east.
All that lay deeper within Asia, to the north and east of China and India, however, in one way or another remained outside the image of world history during its earliest stages as viewed by the majority of scholars and people in general.
History, it would seem, had actually halted before the high barriers of the mountain ranges, these grandiose mountainous structures and the lands which partitioned off the world of the high agricultural cultures of the Near and Far East as known to European scholarship. Actually, however, beyond these frontiers there existed a world of history which, although unknown, was just as great.
Even a desultory glance at a physical map of the continent of Asia allows a graphic view of this frontier, allows us to sense and realize its grandiose dimensions, hence to conceive its very real effect on the course of the historical development of those who during antiquity lived here behind these natural and historical barriers in the very depths of the continent.