Disease and Africa

Another theme related to a book I am trying to write (fiction AH).

Say about 11000 years ago a civilisation on the Sunda Plain (now under water - north of Java) was destroyed and a group of survivors sailed westward via the Indian and Arabian coasts and down the east coast of Africa to settle approximately where Great Zimbabwe existed in real history. The survivors founded a new replacement civilisation which grew annd spread along the entire length of east Africa (from cape to cape) and then along the southern and eastern coasts of Arabia. This would be a 3000 year period before further expansion that I don't have to go into at this point.

They would have come from the equatorial region (post glacial) to roughly equivalent latitudes.

Would they have been more resistent to disease than Europeans?

Just how restricting was the tsetse fly for cattle farming / horse breeding, etc and thus on growth and spread of such a civilisation?

I assume that South Africa would be relavtively safe. I understand that Zimbabwe / Zambia / Tanzania / Kenya (to use current names) are more favourable to agriculture and growth than say Mozambique and certainly the Congo rainforest area. Is this true?

Just as background I have read the following books:
- Plagues and Peoples (William McNeill)
- Africa in History (Basil Davidson).

Neither provide sufficient information to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Anyone got any ideas, especially people with detailed knowledge of the tsetse fly and other diseases that have plagued African development. Also local knowledge of the areas mentioned.
 
They would have come from the equatorial region (post glacial) to roughly equivalent latitudes.

Would they have been more resistent to disease than Europeans?
Not really. Africans get sick and die from malaria and other tropical diseases just as the Whites. Africans got around this problem by having civilizations based on small villages that lived on highground away from malaria infected rivers and swamps. The trouble with Europeans was they habitually tried to settle near rivers like they did in temperate Europe. This just doesn't work unless you have DDT to kill those nasty insects.

I assume that South Africa would be relavtively safe. I understand that Zimbabwe / Zambia / Tanzania / Kenya (to use current names) are more favourable to agriculture and growth than say Mozambique and certainly the Congo rainforest area. Is this true?
If you look on a map, everything south of the Tropic of Capricorn is temperate, north of that line and you're in the tropics. The further north you go the more nasty diseases you'll run into. Tropical Africa is still a health hellhole today. The Europeans built lots of large cities near rivers over there and the Africans have a hard time with it even now. Especially since the West refuse to give them DDT.
 
Another theme related to a book I am trying to write (fiction AH).

Say about 11000 years ago a civilisation on the Sunda Plain (now under water - north of Java) was destroyed and a group of survivors sailed westward via the Indian and Arabian coasts and down the east coast of Africa to settle approximately where Great Zimbabwe existed in real history. The survivors founded a new replacement civilisation which grew annd spread along the entire length of east Africa (from cape to cape) and then along the southern and eastern coasts of Arabia. This would be a 3000 year period before further expansion that I don't have to go into at this point.

They would have come from the equatorial region (post glacial) to roughly equivalent latitudes.

Would they have been more resistent to disease than Europeans?

Just how restricting was the tsetse fly for cattle farming / horse breeding, etc and thus on growth and spread of such a civilisation?

I assume that South Africa would be relavtively safe. I understand that Zimbabwe / Zambia / Tanzania / Kenya (to use current names) are more favourable to agriculture and growth than say Mozambique and certainly the Congo rainforest area. Is this true?

.
I know little ablout African disease but If I Recall Correctly herding did not move to East/south africa until the Bantu Expansion of the 14th-16th C. When agricultural techniques and breeds of cattle allowed them to displace the hunter gatherers. I suspect any civilisation coming from the east indies that early would have to have agriculture derived (through the judicious use of handwavium) from New Guinea. The area had no indigious domesticateable animals (that I know of) so we are talking about a civilisation based on human power. They would have to get cattle from the middle east or north west india and I suspect it would not transplant to west Africa. If you need to handwave in livestock, which are probably vital for protein, I would go for pigs or chickens from China.

The result would be a strange mixture of inca technology, with new guinea agriculture plus a layer of something like polynesia to explain the sea travel.

Remember South Africa is unsuitable for such Agriculture and would remain the haunt of bushman hunter gatherers.

PS What is the correct term for Bushmen, I remember K'ung but is that right?
 
PS What is the correct term for Bushmen, I remember K'ung but is that right?
There is some controversy around that. Here in SA the politically correct term is San, but apparently the Bushmen themselves, prefer to be referred to as Bushmen. San apparently means thief or something in their language.
 
Thanks all for repying.

Seeing your comments makes me realise I haven't given enough information about the PoD.

Whilst I am deliberately being vague -referring to Country X - I have assumed a (relatively speaking) high level society, probably as advanced as the Greeks, which gets destroyed as described in my first post here. They would have been surrounded by lesser developed peoples but that doesn't mean a peaceful co-existence. The book 'Eden in the East' has been my main basis for placing the X civ in the Sunda Plain area. I suppose, thinking about it, that the true Pod is much further back in time to realise such a civilisation. I've not really given much thought to how long / dates, etc on that, merely a starting point of about 11200 years ago (BP) at the fall of the old civ.

The level of technology being transferred to East Africa would include metal working, ship building, farming, etc. The capital of this New Civ would be located roughly where Great Zimbabwe was historically. It is clear from 'Africa in History' that large towns and cities would be limited and population would tend to have to spread out with many small settlements, although I thought South Africa, particularly the Cape Provinces were of a Mediterranean type of climate and not susceptible to the problems of Tropical Africa.

I have assumed a sort of reverse Bantu migration, so that the people would arrive in the Sahara about the time of the 'wet phase' when the Sahara was largely savannah grasslands with mega lakes (Chad and 2 in the north). See http://uk.geocities.com/morris.drake@btinternet.com/ .

I have no idea what 'handwave' means.

So the new civ would be advanced iron age in type. Expansion slow because of the climate and disease problem. I'm still not sure whether my entire AG scenario is still feasible because of things like tse tse fly, sleeping sickness, etc. Hence my request.
 
Thanks all for repying.

I have no idea what 'handwave' means.
Handwavium is a term for I want to achieve/obtain x circumstance but don't know/am not going to explain how we get there. Generally used for some outcome which while not actually impossible/ASB is fairly unlikely. Can be used to concentrate attention/debate on the scenario under discussion and what develops from it rather than the author going into a lot of detail on how it happened and then possibly several pages of debate/argument over whether it was possible or not. In cerebus's example its basically a case of saying he's assuming in your scenario, as he interpreted it, the settlers from the flooded Sunda would get the core of their agricultural techniques and tools from New Guinea but wasn't going to explain how this reached Africa with them. It gets used occasionally to get around difficult or unlikely events without seeking to explain them. [Think that's a reasonably accurate description guys. Anyone disagree?]


ASB - by the way if your not met it is Alien Space-Bat. i.e. something impossible without involving some highly powerful external force there is no evidence for.



So the new civ would be advanced iron age in type. Expansion slow because of the climate and disease problem. I'm still not sure whether my entire AG scenario is still feasible because of things like tse tse fly, sleeping sickness, etc. Hence my request.
I get the feeling that the chief difficulty would be explaining why the refugees go that far and maintain their identity and knowledge. Read 'Eden in the East' a few years back and IIRC he thinks that people from Sunda formed the core of the Summer culture in southern Mesopotamia. Tempted to suspect this is a hell of a distance for them to travel without either finding a nearer refuge, or losing their cultural identity and knowledge. [Either through simply being absorbed into various other societies along the way or possibly defeated by rival groups]. As such I think that the idea of travelling a good bit further, to southern Africa would be even more unlikely.

Also, if a culture did travel that distance then it would be predominantly a maritime one I suspect. As such, depending on circumstances as to where but its main population and political centres would be along the coast of the Indian Ocean in Africa rather than somewhere like Great Zimbabwe.

Anyway, welcome to the board.

Steve
 
An early invention of mosquito nets might deal with malaria-it'd still be a problem, but no longer a deal-breaker. They'd be pretty hard to make cheaply enough for mass use with pre-industrial technology, however.
 
Handwavium is a term for I want to achieve/obtain x circumstance but don't know/am not going to explain how we get there. Generally used for some outcome which while not actually impossible/ASB is fairly unlikely. Can be used to concentrate attention/debate on the scenario under discussion and what develops from it rather than the author going into a lot of detail on how it happened and then possibly several pages of debate/argument over whether it was possible or not. In cerebus's example its basically a case of saying he's assuming in your scenario, as he interpreted it, the settlers from the flooded Sunda would get the core of their agricultural techniques and tools from New Guinea but wasn't going to explain how this reached Africa with them. It gets used occasionally to get around difficult or unlikely events without seeking to explain them. [Think that's a reasonably accurate description guys. Anyone disagree?]


ASB - by the way if your not met it is Alien Space-Bat. i.e. something impossible without involving some highly powerful external force there is no evidence for.





I get the feeling that the chief difficulty would be explaining why the refugees go that far and maintain their identity and knowledge. Read 'Eden in the East' a few years back and IIRC he thinks that people from Sunda formed the core of the Summer culture in southern Mesopotamia. Tempted to suspect this is a hell of a distance for them to travel without either finding a nearer refuge, or losing their cultural identity and knowledge. [Either through simply being absorbed into various other societies along the way or possibly defeated by rival groups]. As such I think that the idea of travelling a good bit further, to southern Africa would be even more unlikely.

Also, if a culture did travel that distance then it would be predominantly a maritime one I suspect. As such, depending on circumstances as to where but its main population and political centres would be along the coast of the Indian Ocean in Africa rather than somewhere like Great Zimbabwe.

Anyway, welcome to the board.

Steve
Thanks!

Some strange terms floating around. I'll guess these are specific to the forum???

I assumed that civ X suffered badly from the various floods (probably super tsunami would be better description) referred to in Eden in the East. The civ is essentially destroyed after the 2nd flood (2nd Dryas) and this group of survivors are led by a sailor / ship designer. I am assuming that with a Greek level of technology that suitable ships would be built that would allow this kind of journey. In fact the assumption is that at the height of civ X they have sailed the World and around most of the coasts.

The reason for Great Zimbabwe is to get away from the coast because of fear of more gigantic inundations.

Aside... We really don't know if any civs existed when global sea levels were 100 - 120m less than today. There would have been an awful lot of extra land which would have been very good agricultural land available. I hope one day people will carry out extensive underwater archaeology, but that will probably be long after I'm dead!
 
An early invention of mosquito nets might deal with malaria-it'd still be a problem, but no longer a deal-breaker. They'd be pretty hard to make cheaply enough for mass use with pre-industrial technology, however.
Is it niaeve of me to be thinking fishing net production? Production of woven material and nets is ancient. Could it be less of a production problem than you think?
 
Is it niaeve of me to be thinking fishing net production? Production of woven material and nets is ancient. Could it be less of a production problem than you think?
It's certainly possible! And I rather hope so, as I'm starting to like the idea. But I'm under the impression that fishnets have a typical gap of an inch or more, as smaller gaps don't catch any more useful, adult fish but do catch lots of babies. You need a much finer net to catch mosquitoes. Also, I'm not sure if there's a suitable source of appropriate material for weaving such a net on the subsaharan east African coast-you need a thin thread to keep from choking the person under the net. But other species seem to be being introduced anyway, so that may not be a problem.

Amusingly, I have heard of fishermen in Lake Victoria using mosquito nets as seine nets to catch fish back in the 1970s-80s, because they were cheaper than equivalent commercial fishing nets.
 
The anthro class at my school called them Dobe Ju-hoansi.

I always loved the looks when I asked how the Bushman class was going... :)
 
You need a much finer net to catch mosquitoes.

I had realised this! :) It was the principle of making nets I was considering.
 
I haven't read "Eden of the East" so I can't comment on it's influence on your selection of POD, but I do find it rather, um, incredible to have a 'Greek level' technology so far back in antiquity, especially one that has sailed all the coasts of the world (which is more of a Renaissance-level).

Regardless, as has been said, why would they go so far as SE Africa? If they followed the coasts to get there as you've written, they passed the fertile valleys of the Ganges, the Indus, Tigris/Euphrates and came darn close to the Nile. Not to mention the Mekong and Yangtze valleys, which are much closer from their flooded home. Why go so far if they were so advanced that they could have taken over any area in the vicinity? I'm assuming you postualte that any other cultures that were advanced such as civ X were destroyed in the (gradual, post-ice age) flood which is why we have no evidence of them today, and only the hunter-gatherer 'up lands' societies were left to rediscover agriculture, cities, the wheel, writing, etc. etc. from scratch?

I guess this is why some are calling for handwavium (as in abracadabra) as needed, because you haven't given us enough to understand why your POD is as 'out-there' as it is...

Welcome to the board, btw.
 
I assumed that civ X suffered badly from the various floods (probably super tsunami would be better description) referred to in Eden in the East. The civ is essentially destroyed after the 2nd flood (2nd Dryas) and this group of survivors are led by a sailor / ship designer. I am assuming that with a Greek level of technology that suitable ships would be built that would allow this kind of journey. In fact the assumption is that at the height of civ X they have sailed the World and around most of the coasts.
The problem is not with the Ships, Kon Tiki showed you can cross oceans on Rafts if wanted. It is know where you are Going.
If whe are talking established Civilization with ocean Trade routes, then the Refugees could sail across the Indian ocean to reach Mozambique.
They would know where they were going, and about how long it would take to get there.
Only problem would be Madagascar in the way.

OTOH why a Indonesian Civilization would flee west to Africa instead of South to Australia is a Mystery.
 
you haven't given us enough to understand why your POD is as 'out-there' as it is...

Welcome to the board, btw.[/quote]

Thanks.

This reply is also for DuQuense.

You have hit upon a central concern I have about how much to devulge in the forum. I would like to be able to write a book and get it published. I'll be totally open and say that I am afraid of someone thinking 'thats a good idea' and writing a book along the general lines. I am aware that Harry Turtledove is writing a book with Atlantis in mid ocean set millions of years in the past although the actual story takes place in the middle ages with the Europeans fighting over the island continent. Thats as I understand it. Check out his website.

This is why I keep referring to Country X. I need the help that all of you can give in trying to resolve different problems since I know of no one to actually discuss this with in person. Were I ever lucky enought to write the book and get it published I would put a general thank you for help received through this website.

I believe that civs more advanced than history as told could have existed but that all evidence has been substantially erased, although some might exist under the seas in the now drowned continental shelves.

Why eastern Africa? Right from the beginning I wanted to create a powerful country that could be woven into the history we know without too much distortion. South Africa and east Africa are places with plenty of valuable resources. They are also places were there are no great civs in early times. I have tried to imagine the sheer destruction that the inundations would cause and the small number of survivors have limited resources at their disposal. The leader of the group has enough knowledge to build ships, navigate and has a rough idea of the World wide voyages. He chooses eastern Africa because it is least affected by inudations - the steeper escarpments - less coastal land to be destroyed and therefore providing a safer place to start again.

Feel free to criticise. Am I creating a fantasy world instead of an AH? Can I legitimately call my project an AH? These are questions you making me think of now.

The other thing is, I try to imagine what would survive of today's civs in 10 - 15000 years time to be found by revived civs. Unless someone with knowledge of how long it takes structures and objects to decay, I have a feeling that relatively little would remain. There is also the question where to look. If a relatively advanced civ existed in the past but was limited a particular location how would we know where to start looking. Seems like the preverbial needle in a hay stack to me.

Just some thoughts generated by your useful comments.
 
Well yes if a civilization just happened to base its self on land that is going to be Atlansised then there would not be much left. However you then need to explain why the people did not expand and spread (as the Han did) until they are where they would survive the cataclysm and how they achieved such a high technological level without contact with other civilisations or barbarians who would copy them.

Then we need to think about how much of their culture would survive transplanation.

I suggested New Guinea agriculture as that would not be viable to the north and south but would funnel the refugees west and East meaning Indonesia, North Australia, Madagasca and East Africa.

Do you intend that the rest of the world is unaffected by your changes? In which case I do not think it is doable. A point of departure that early would have knock on effects that would change the other early civilisations very significantly.

For an example of a (relatively) advanced civilisation that left very few marks on the future look up the Indus civilisation which was about 5000 - 3500 years ago.
 
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