Resources - Glossary

animal husbandry
the agricultural practice of breeding and raising domestic livestock (i.e. sheep, camels and horses)



Aramaic is one of the Semitic languages, an important group of languages known almost from the beginning of human history and including also Arabic, Hebrew, Ethiopic, and Akkadian (ancient Babylonian and Assyrian). It is particularly closely related to Hebrew, and was written in a variety of alphabetic scripts.


Before the Common Era’ the notation for the period before the year 0


a company of travelers journeying together, often across a dessert or hostile territory, sometimes accompanied by camels or horses (plural: caravanserai)


'Common Era', the notation for the period after the year 0


the state of extreme dryness, or the process of losing moisture


a group of several hundred languages from Europe to Central Asia, which linguists have determined are related to one another


nomadic pastoralism
form of agriculture in which livestock are herded either seasonally or continuously in order to find fresh pastures

oasis - a fertile spot in the desert, created by the presence of water


Manicheism is a religion founded by the Parthian (Persian) Mani in the 3rd century CE.


(chin) an ancient Chinese instrument, originally with five strings, which is plucked to produce sounds


rain shadow
a dry area on the backside of a mountain, produced when a mountain or mountain rang blocks the path of a weather system which produces rain


an ancient Indo-European language still used in Indian literature, philosophy and scripture


the rearing and farming of silk worms for the production of silk


the ancient Indo-European language of the Sogdians, an ethnic group in the Tarim Basin famous for navigating caravans of goods along the Silk Road


Taklamakan desert
a large desert, comprising the majority of the Tarim Basin (tak-la-ma-KHAN)


Tarim Basin
an area situated within Xinjiang, located between the Tian Shan mountains to the north, and the Kunlun mountains to the south


language spoken by early inhabitants of the Tarim Basin, thought to be native to the area, (tock-AIR-ee-an) and not known to be spoken elsewhere


the modern capital of Xinjiang (oo-ROOM-chee)


the westernmost region of China Uyghur (WEE-gur) Autonomous Region (a.k.a. Xinjiang)


Xiaohe, also called Small River Cemetery Number 5, was active from 2000–1450 BCE. Excavations at the site yielded more than 1,000 artifacts from 167 graves, including more than 30 well-preserved mummies. There is no evidence of any settlements within several kilometers of the cemetery, raising questions about the identities and lives of the people buried there.

the Chinese name for the nomadic horsemen who lived in the Tarim Basin (shung-noo)


a portable, circular skin- or felt-covered dwelling with a collapsible wooden frame