Exploration is the act of exploring the discovery of information or resources. Exploration happens in all non-sessile animal species, including people. In human history, its most exciting rise was during the Age of Discovery, when European explorers sailed and charted much of the world for various purposes. Following then, significant explorations after the Age of Discovery have happened for purposes mainly aimed at the learning process.
In the objective study, exploration is one of three empirical research purposes (the other two being description and explanation)—the term customarily used metaphorically. For example, an individual may speak of exploring the Internet, sexuality, etc.
The Phoenicians (1550 BCE–300 BCE) traded throughout the Mediterranean Sea and Asia Minor though many of their routes are still unknown today. The presence of tin in some Phoenician artefacts suggests that they may have travelled to Britain. According to Virgil’s Aeneid and other ancient sources, the legendary Queen Dido was a Phoenician from Tyre who sailed to North Africa and founded Carthage.
Throughout the 2nd century BC, the Han dynasty explored much of the Eastern Northern Hemisphere. Starting from 139 BC, the Han diplomat Zhang Qian travelled west in an unsuccessful attempt to secure an alliance with the Da Yuezhi against the Xiongnu (the Yuezhi had been evicted from Gansu by the Xiongnu in 177 BC); however, Zhang’s travels discovered entire countries which the Chinese were unaware of, including the remnants of the conquests of Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 BC). When Zhang returned to China in 125 BC, he reported on his visits to Dayuan (Fergana), Kangju (Sogdiana), and Daxia (Bactria, formerly the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, which had just been subjugated by the Da Yuezhi). Zhang described Dayuan and Daxia as agricultural and urban countries like China. Although he did not venture there, he told Shendu (the Indus River valley of Northwestern India) and Anxi (Arsacid territories) further west.