Lands of Red and Gold

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Jared, Dec 16, 2008.

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  1. Fulcrumvale Strategos ton Exkoubitores

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    At the risk of a digression, do you mind if I ask why?
     
  2. Nicksplace27 Member

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    I was thinking this too. But actually it seems like Mesoamerica would at least disprove this theory. It seems like has less of an east west axis than further up in north america and yet the olmecs developed earlier than the Haudenosaunee.

    Same with the Amazon vs. the Andes, one had more of an east-west axis and yet, the former developed faster and further than the latter.

    Unless you have another objection Jared?
     
  3. Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    Very bad. Domesticated quolls would probably run wild and do the same sorts of things to New Zealand's birds as feral cats, stoats, weasels and the like have done to it in OTL. We'd be looking at mass extinctions, really.

    I suspect not. Domesticated eagles would be a lot harder to look after than dingos, and wild ones would be seen as competition for kangaroos from human hunters, who'd rather keep them for, well, human consumption.

    It's always possible that this might be tried with quolls. Cheetahs were tamed but not domesticated in Egypt, by the way. (As they were in India.) The problem is that cheetahs really, really don't breed well in captivity. For a female to come into heat, the male has to chase her for quite a long run, several kilometres at least, and she often makes him break off the run, hunt some food for her, then keep going. This means that if you're trying to breed cheetahs, you need to have a rather large area fenced in with lots of food for them to hunt, and the cheetah you're trying to breed is now ten or twenty kilometres away.

    Yes. Semi-arid areas in the Mediterranean and elsewhere are going to become a lot more productive. So would much of the Great Plains of North America, at least below 45 degrees north. The perennial agriculture will have plants whose roots hold the soil together, which will avoid problems like the Dust Bowl.

    Not in the pre-Columbian period; the transportation period is too long. Sweet potatoes took several centuries to reach the western Pacific from South America, and there's less than two centuries from first contact between the *Aborigines and the Maori to when Columbus is going to land in the West Indies. It's by no means certain that the Maori would keep up contact with Polynesia anyway; long-range navigational skills were gradually lost after settlement in New Zealand. Of course, contact with Australia may mean that they keep up knowledge of how to construct seaworthy craft, but the navigators may learn only how to sail across the Tasman, and lose the other accumulated oral knowledge and tradition needed to navigate across the expanse of the Pacific.

    Quolls may be possible; domesticating small animals is easier than domesticating larger ones. I just haven't looked into it enough to find out whether they are domesticable, and if so, which of the several quoll species would be the most suitable for domestication.

    Camels and horses are likely to show up not long after European contact. Camels were of course used to explore the desert historically, and the Portuguese and/or the Dutch would probably have access to them. For the agricultural areas of Australia, horses would do just as well, if not better, and would have substantial effects on the cultures there. They wouldn't have quite the same effects as horses in North America, though. In North America, whole cultures abandoned maize-based agriculture in favour of horse-based nomadism where they chased the buffalo (okay, American bison, for the pedantic). This wouldn't work in Australia; perennial agriculture is less labour-intensive than maize, and in any case there's no equivalent to the buffalo. Kangaroos just wouldn't cut it; not numerous enough, not migratory enough, and so forth.

    Koalas are rather bad candidates for domestication. Domesticating animals which live primarily in trees is hard enough anyway. Koalas combine this with an extremely aggressive temperament, territorial nature, and extremely fussy dietary requirements.

    Platypuses are temperamental, burrow out of enclosures, and extremely difficult to breed in captivity. (Only a handful have been bred in captivity today). I suspect that they're simply too much trouble to domesticate, although wild ones might be harvested from the improved wetlands.

    Interesting article, although it has its own biases. I particularly like the author(s) magical ability to read the minds of the people who oppose them and know exactly what their motivations are.

    I'm not sure, but I could hazard a guess. Partly because having a pet which can take your finger off with one bite is an interesting exercise, partly because we already have cats to fill that niche (and that kind of inertia is hard to displace), but mostly because there are quite sensible laws against keeping native animals as pets. When you're dealing with a large number of species which are already threatened or endangered, the last thing you want is hundreds of collectors roaming the bush to collect wild ones to keep as exotic pets. (Especially during the early stages of any legalisation, when native pets would instantly command high prices as exotic pets.)

    True, although a large number of species were hunted out of Egypt. I don't think that domestication in itself had much to do with it.

    Diamond's argument was that having continents with a north-south alignment meant that crops would take longer to spread than they would along an east-west axis. This was supposedly due to time needed to adapt to growing seasons and the like, which meant that time was needed to breed new cultivars of domesticated crops and so on.

    The problem with this idea is that it's a load of rubbish. The time taken to spread crops is largely a result of technological level, not whether they're moving north-south or east-west. The time taken for crops to spread north from Mesoamerica into North America was no longer than it took for crops to spread east-west along Eurasia, at the times when both societies were still at a neolithic level of technology. Maize wasn't fully domesticated until around 1500 BC, and from there it spread to the northern reaches of the Mississippi by 2500 years (or less) later. Cassava had been domesticated in Brazil (or maybe Colombia) sometime earlier than that (no-one's quite sure when) and had already spread to Mesoamerica by the time when maize agriculture really got going.

    Now, Eurasian crops were first domesticated in the Middle East by, well, estimates of the dates vary, but by around 8000 BC. By 6500 BC, the first farmers had reached the Aegean. Guess how long it took to spread along the east-west axis to northwestern Europe? About 2500 years... It took even longer to penetrate east into Iran; Mesopotamia had farming by around 7000 BC at the latest, and yet central and eastern Iran, which was so much closer geographically (to the east) didn't get farming until over 3000 years later.

    What does make a difference in the spread of crops is geographical barriers, which are best overcome by technological development. Consider that California never got maize-based agriculture until European contact, even though it would have been suitable there. The problem was this thing called the Rocky Mountains, and the related desert barriers. Maize and other crops were spread to the Mississippi, probably by water, but that didn't help to cross the Rockies. Even when maize spread to the Mississippi, it still didn't go from there across the Rocky Mountains, when this was an east-west spread, where supposedly the varieties of maize being grown along the Mississippi should have adapted to the growing seasons or whatever needed to live there. Note that the reason why agriculture took so long to spread to eastern Iran/Persia was because of geographical barriers (mountains and deserts). Potatoes and sweet potatoes had trouble making it to Mexico not because of a north-south axis, but because there were mountains, jungles and deserts (Atacama) in the way.

    For the Americas, remember that Diamond talked about how it was supposedly hard for plants to adapt to different growing seasons at different latitudes. Now, what happened after Europeans showed up and could transport things quickly by water? Within a couple of hundred years, Eurasian and American crops were being grown across the length and breadth of the Americas. Of course, there are plants which just can't be grown in some latitudes (tropical crops outside of the tropics, for instance), but that's not the same thing. The speed of diffusion of crops wasn't a function of a north-south or east-west axis, but a result of technological levels and whether the crops would grow there at all. It may take plants some time to adapt to different growing latitudes, perhaps, but that wasn't a function of needing thousands of years to do it, or else Europeans wouldn't have been able to spread so many crops so quickly.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2009
  4. mojojojo Member

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    Would there be any domesticatible Australian plants that could be the equivalent of Tobacco or Coca?Plants cultivated for their mood altering effects, that would be quite popular with the outside world (with similarly interesting consequences)?
     
  5. The Sandman Purveyor of Sky Cake Banned

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    My only nitpick is that as far as the "status symbol" example, I was asking about thylacines, quolls having rather more general-purpose use. Otherwise, everything you said sounds reasonable enough.

    A question not related to the native flora or fauna, now: are any of the diamond deposits in Australia easy enough to get at that the *Aborigines might be making use of them? As ornaments would be almost a given, but as tool materials would be more interesting.
     
  6. Admiral Matt Member

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    Oh I'm not arguing cause and effect. I'm just saying that a few kings thinking some critters would make impressive pets doesn't mean they're safe from extinction. I mean, the North African and Syrian elephants were all used for war, and they were allowed to die out. Pre-industrial societies were very much not conservationists.
     
  7. Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    There are several kinds of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Australia. These might make it as magic mushrooms, although they're no more suitable than many plants elsewhere. There are a couple of native Australian plants which have high nicotine content, which might possibly be cultivated like tobacco, although again I don't think that they have any particular advantages. One of them was turned into a drug called pituri which was traded widely throughout Australia, but as far as I know it wasn't taken up on a wide scale by Europeans.

    There are various small deposits of alluvial diamonds around much of Australia, including in some of the south-eastern areas of the continent. These would probably be exploited. Most of the large diamond production in Australia is in much more arid and remote areas of the west and north-west, though.

    Oh, I agree that preindustrial societies are rarely if ever conservationists. (The Maori were, to a point, but only in terms of preserving what was left after much of the fauna had already been made extinct.) I think that attempts to tame or domesticate some wild animals would make them _more_ vulnerable to extinction, not less. Indian cheetahs were in large part wiped out because of the collection of wild animals to turn into tame cheetahs for hunting purposes, for instance.
     
  8. The Sandman Purveyor of Sky Cake Banned

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    With all of the venomous animals in Australia and the waters surrounding it, are any of those venoms psychoactive at doses that aren't automatically lethal or debilitating? And to what degree would the *Aborigines make use of all of those poisons?
     
  9. Geekhis Khan I'm Not Dead Yet...

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    On Pituri...

    I found at this site the following, which is interesting:

    Sounds like some interesting political/social/economic/geographic implications for you here, Jared. :)
     
  10. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    ummm.... Diamonds are (essentially) clear pebbles until you figure out how to facet gems. Why would they be interested in them?
     
  11. The Sandman Purveyor of Sky Cake Banned

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    As tools, perhaps? Given the properties of diamond, it would probably be very useful for metalworking.
     
  12. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    then why doesn't anyone use it for that OTL? (aside from industrial drills)
     
  13. The Sandman Purveyor of Sky Cake Banned

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    I'm pretty sure they do. Aside from drills, you can use diamond as a cutting tool, you can use it and its dust for grinding and for polishing, and there are probably other ways to make use of its extreme hardness and its resistance to heat.
     
  14. Hobelhouse The Cyberpunk Future is Now

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    Great concept, Jared! You seem to have put a hell of a lot of research into this. I will pay attention to this thread in the future.

    Some thoughts:

    The Junditmara aquaculture is interesting. Is aquaculture a suitable starting point for domesticating crops? And how common is this model of food gathering, worldwide?

    What are the predominant forms of *Australian cuisine? Do people usually bake bread with wattleseeds? Or do they eat them whole, like sunflower seeds? Or both? Do the *Australians have any spices like peppers to add distinctive flavor to their food?

    What about religion? Is their religion based on 'dreamtime' beliefs or is the POD so early it's changed the entire cosmology? I can forsee a creation myth where the first people came out of a wattle tree, or were planted in the ground like a red yam... :cool: The wattle itself will likely become a semireligious symbol similar to how buffalo did to Plains Indians.

    This is probably too early to ask this, but what about *Australian architecture? What are its distinctive motifs? Mesoamerican, Egyptian, Chinese, etc architecture is instantly recognizable through the use of common elements - what elements characterize theirs? I imagine that in a dry climate like Australia, stone would be the material of choice, as both wood and brick require water in some stages of the process. However, they do have the eternaly useful wattle trees so wood will probably feature prominently as well... Given the use of domesticated birds in *Australian culture, perhaps carved birds' heads become a motif similar to jaguars in Mesoamerican cultures...
     
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  15. eschaton Muckraker & Rabblerouser

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    What a great start by one of the masters! Bravo Jared!

    One thing I don't understand though. I'm assuming trade with the Maori becomes fairly regular. If it does, then the *Australians will get access to the Maori crop package - which include cabbage palm, taro, yam, and sweet potato. All of these should allow for agriculture to be established in Australia's north.
     
  16. Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    As far as I know, no animal venoms were used to a significant extent by Aboriginal people. They did use various plant products, though. Pituri (the drug mentioned below) was sometimes added to waterholes to produce a stupor in emus and other animals which drank there, and which made them easier to hunt.

    Interesting. I've found accounts of Aboriginal people travelling considerable distances to find the best source of pituri. According to what I can find out, though, it wasn't only made using plants from the Mulligan River area; that was just the preferred source. There were other plants used to make pituri as well, although they were probably regarded as inferior products.

    All of which suggests that some enterprising Aboriginal farmer may make a fortune if they can visit the Mulligan River area, collect some plants, and start cultivating them elsewhere...

    Gemstones of various kinds were appreciated even when people only knew how to polish them, not facet them. Diamonds may not be the most valued gemstone during pre-faceting days, but they would probably still have some value.

    I suspect that the quantity of diamonds which Aboriginal peoples will have access too (relatively limited) will mean that they are mostly used for decorative purposes. The Gunnagal and their descendants use a lot of things for mostly decorative purposes, incidentally.

    Glad you liked it. There has indeed been a small amount of research gone into this timeline.

    Some thoughts:

    This method of aquaculture is not in itself a useful starting point for domesticating crops, since there's not as much selective gathering of plants. (More emphasis is put on gathering fish for meat, I suppose.) What it is useful is being used in combination with a culture which is already at the gardening level of cultivation, since that helps to allow the establishment of permanent sedentary populations. (This is what I had the Gunnagal do.)

    Worldwide, this model of food gathering is extremely rare, if not unique. The closest equivalent that I know of was the peoples of the Pacific Northwest in North America, who had sedentary populations based on salmon farming.

    Wattleseeds can be eaten whole at need, but they are normally turned into flour, which can be used for a variety of breadmaking. This will mostly be flatbreads and the like, though, since wattleseeds don't have gluten. Yams are also used in a variety of ways; they're a lot like potatoes in some respects. Early *Australian cuisine will be covered in some detail as part of post #5, which gives a snapshot of Gunnagal life as it was in 1000 BC. This also includes several spices; Australia has an abundance of native spices, and some of them are adopted quickly by the Gunnagal. (Although a lot of others will only be available once the east coast is settled.)

    The Gunnagal religion is based on something which is meant to be resonant - for want of a better word - with Dreamtime beliefs. It's not exactly the same, but it's meant to be close. Of course, that religion will develop over time, adding new icons and symbolism, but at its origins it is based on what was believed in the Dreamtime.

    The Junditmara (and certain other peoples) will have wholly separate religious belief systems, at least to start with. Cultural contact will probably involve some transmission of religious beliefs and the like.

    Their general artwork starts out with something of a pointilistic, symbolic style not too dissimilar from contemporary Aboriginal art. It evolves in a whole new direction, though.

    The earliest Australian agriculture is by a river, so they do have some access to water for mud brick and then for a somewhat more unusual construction method. (Of which more about in post #5, too.) They do some construction in wood, too - thanks to wattle trees. Building in stone will mostly wait until they have access to bronze tools. It's by no means impossible to work construction stone with copper (or even stone) tools, but it's a sight easier once bronzeworking has been developed properly.

    Could be, could be. There are a few native animals which will be considered iconic.

    Gracias.

    The Maori crop package was rather limited. The only Polynesian crop which they used to a significant extent was the sweet potato, and even that didn't grow well in NZ. A few other Polynesian crops were used a little - taro, yams - but only in very small areas and even then, they didn't grow very well. They were such minor parts of the Maori diet that they would take a while to filter through to Australia.

    The Maori also grew a couple of native NZ plant species as crops of a sort - bracken fern and cabbage palm - but these aren't actually that useful as crops. (The main NZ species of cabbage palm isn't really a tropical plant anyway, although some of its Australian relatives are.) Bracken fern already exists in Australia, but based on its characteristics, I didn't think that it would be domesticated in any way worth mentioning - too slow growing and needs too much water, mostly.

    Of course, the sweet potato will be grown in Australia, and valued. It will take some time to be adopted, though. In the area of first contact between the Maori and *Aboriginal people - the Illawarra - that's still too far south for sweet potato to grow well. It will slowly spread north and become more useful, but this diffusion will take a century at least, more likely two or three. So sweet potato will just start having significant effects right about the time that Europeans first make contact with Australia.
     
  17. Fatal Wit Banned

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    Not under a one world government, unfortunately

    At the risk of seeming like a prick ... don't the red yams themselves stand as a counterpoint to this? In that you yourself said that these domesticated Australian crops won’t be able to grow above 45 degrees. Or am I totally misunderstanding something?
     
  18. 8Deer Well-Known Member

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    Wow, can't wait to see how this one turns out in the future! Speaking of which, how far will this timeline go? (Year wise)I would really like to see what happens when the Europeans arrive.
     
  19. Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    With any crop, it has a variety of latitudes where it won't grow, period. This depends on the qualities of the plant. Tropical plants won't grow in higher latitudes, in most cases, due to certain things they can't tolerate. (Frost is the most obvious of those). Subtropical crops may not be able to grow either in too tropical latitudes (since they lack regular growing seasons, for example), or in too high a latitude (since the growing seasons there may be too short). The red yam is limited by latitude, but that's true of a whole lot of real crops; tropical crops are limited to the tropics, temperate crops to the temperate latitudes, and so on. (Bananas don't grow in Iceland, except in greenhouses).

    That wasn't Diamond's argument, though. He argued that having a north-south geographical axis meant that crops would automatically spread more slowly than east-west, and that difference was one reason why Eurasian civilizations were more advanced than those in the Americas. In other words, he said that crops spread more quickly across Eurasia (east-west) than in the Americas (north-south), and this was one reason why Eurasia was more advanced. The problem with this argument is that when you actually look at the time it took crops to spread east-west in Eurasia after domestication, then it was actually not faster than the time it took for crops to spread north into the Americas from Mesoamerica. It took 3000+ years for agriculture to move from Mesopotamia right next door into eastern Persia, while it took at most 2500 years for fully domesticated maize to spread the much greater distance north from Mesoamerica to the River Ohio. Geographical barriers certainly affect the spread of crops (e.g. across the jungle-ridden Isthmus of Panama, or deserts in both the Old World (Persia) and New World (Texas/northern Mexico), but being north-south rather than east-west isn't that big of a deal.

    The other parts of Diamond's broad thesis are more or less correct, as far as I can tell. Having no domesticated animals does slow things down, and it took longer to domesticate crops in much of Mesoamerica or sub-Saharan Africa, and that gave Eurasia a considerable head start. But his idea about the east-west axis being an advantage over north-south was a considerable oversimplification, to say the least.

    Oh, it's definitely going to run up to European arrival and what happens for the next few years after that. The main question I'm wondering about is how far to run things after that, and how much detail to go into, particularly about the world outside Australasia. I certainly plan on keeping the main focus on Australasia. DoD got too big to handle, and I don't want to repeat that mistake. But I may provide some broad-stroke glimpses of how the rest of the world is developing, and I may subcontract part of the work if someone has a particularly detailed knowledge about other areas of the world. I'm still not sure on that point.
     
  20. mojojojo Member

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    I would love to see how your world looks by 2009:D
     
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