How Asia’s first nomadic empire broke the rules of imperial expansion

Ancient China’s mobile neighbors built an empire that’s attracting scientific scrutiny

A painting of a group of Xiongnu herders riding horses with more livestock seen off to the side.

Xiongnu herders in what’s now Mongolia, portrayed in this painting, followed their own rules in building a multiethnic empire and advancing iron-making technology starting around 2,200 years ago, new studies indicate.

Flickr (CC0 1.0)

In an age that spawned the ancient Roman and Egyptian empires, Mongolia’s Xiongnu Empire broke the rules of imperial expansion.