As an art educator I have focused on the ancient cultures of the Meso-America and China. These two civilization have been overlooked in the general education. Both are rich in history, technology, and art. The Chinese (who invented the rudder and the compass) had an explorer, Zheng He. He traveled back forth from China to Africa 100 years before Christopher Columbus.
The Meso-Americans were studying the stars, and building empires of large populations. In the year 700 it is estimated that Xi'an, China had a million people, Teotihuacan in the year 500 had approximately 125,000 to 200,000 people. It wasn't until the year 1,000 that London had 12,000 people.
Both the Chinese & the Maya invented writing. This only happened four times in the history of people.