Of Horses, Bows, & Fermented Milk: The Turkish Empires In 15 Objects
- Oscar Aguirre Mandujano
- College of Arts & Sciences
First-Year Seminar Grant
The empires of the Turkic and Turkish peoples have stretched across much of Eurasia since before the Common Era until the twentieth century. We first hear of them in Chinese chroniclers’ tales of a powerful people in the wilderness. Greek historians, Byzantine writers, and Arab polymaths write about the empires of the steppes. Centuries later, the heirs of the heroes of these empires move south and west, establishing empires and tribal confederations beyond the steppe, in Central Asia, Anatolia, and the Middle East. The Turkic empires seem to appear in the periphery of many civilizations, challenging and, one could say, enriching their borders. But looking at a map, is really more than a half of Eurasia a periphery? If we flip the map, could we say these historians were writing from the margins of the Turkish empires? This course introduces the student to the history of empire by following the various histories of Turkic and Turkish people through 15 objects. It discusses the questions of periphery, borders, and the divide between agrarian, pastoral, and nomadic societies. The student will learn to derive historical questions and hypothesis through the intensive study of material culture, literature, and historical writing tracing the long and diverse history of the bow, the saddle, dumplings, and fermented milk (among others) across Eurasia.