Asia is the birthplace of all the earliest known civilizations except that of Egypt; of most of the great language families; and of all the great religions. The early inhabitants of Egypt and coastal North Africa were probably Asians, as were the ancestors of the American Indians and Eskimos. The nations of Europe were formed in large part by peoples retreating westward before ferocious Asian warriors such as the Huns, Turks, and Mongols, and by Asiatic settlers such as the Bulgars, Magyars, and Finns.

Asia's earliest civilizationsAsia's earliest civilizations The map shows the three Asian cradles of civilization—areas where important early civilizations developed during ancient times. The world's first civilization developed about 3500 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent, the region surrounding the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Southwest Asia. Another civilization began around 2500 B.C. in the Indus Valley, in what is now Pakistan and northwestern India. Other early civilizations emerged starting in the 1700's B.C. in the Huang He and Yangtze valleys in north and central China.
Important dates in Asia
c. 3500 B.C. Civilization began in Southwest Asia.
c. 2500 B.C. Civilization developed in South Asia.
1700's B.C. Civilization developed in East Asia.
c. 563 B.C. Buddha was born in what is now Nepal.
c. 551 B.C. Confucius was born in China.
Before 4 B.C. Jesus Christ was born in the town of Bethlehem in Southwest Asia.
A.D. 317 The Huns from Mongolia conquered northern China, starting a series of nomadic invasions of Asia.
c. 570 Muhammad was born in Arabia.
661-750 Arab civilization spread in Southwest Asia.
1200's The Mongols conquered much of Asia.
1500's European nations began conquests in Asia.
1526 The Mongols set up the Mughal Empire in India.
1639 Japan closed its doors to influences from Europe.
1842 After a war with the United Kingdom, China opened five ports to trade with Western nations.
1905 Japan defeated Russia and took control of Russian interests in Korea and Manchuria.
1912 The Chinese overthrew their emperor.
1931 Japan invaded and occupied Manchuria.
1937-1938 Japan invaded and occupied central China.
1941-1945 Japan fought the Allies in the Pacific area during World War II--and lost all its possessions.
1940's-1950's Most colonial Asian nations won independence.
1946-1954 Vietnamese Communists fought France for control of Vietnam and gained control of North Vietnam.
1948 Israel was established as a Jewish homeland. The Arabs and the Israelis fought the first of four wars.
1949 The Chinese Communists conquered mainland China.
1950-1953 The Korean War pitted Communists in the northern part of Korea against non-Communists in the south.
1957 The Vietnam War began as a Communist rebellion in South Vietnam.
1965 The United States began sending troops to Vietnam.
1975 The Communist North won the Vietnam War. Communists also took control of Cambodia and Laos.
1980-1988 Iran and Iraq engaged in a war.
1990-1991 Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. An international force led by the United States drove Iraq out of Kuwait.
1991 Most republics of the Soviet Union declared their independence. The Soviet Union was dissolved.
1997 Control of Hong Kong returned to China from the United Kingdom.
1999 Control of Macao returned to China from Portugal.
2000 The leaders of North and South Korea met for the first time since Korea was divided.
2001 The United States and its allies drove the ruling Taliban from power in Afghanistan.
2003 Forces led by the United States attacked Iraq and drove the Iraqi government from power.
2004 An undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a tsunami (series of huge ocean waves) that killed more than 216,000 people in coastal areas of South and Southeast Asia. However, some experts estimate the deaths at over 283,000.