Lands of Red and Gold

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

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  1. nakum Dead

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    Update!!! Pleeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaase!
     
  2. Fardell Fannish

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    Jared said he is updating every 2 weeks. Be patient.
     
  3. Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    So would I. Let me know if you've figured it out...

    Indeed. LoRaG is going to have pretty much a fixed fortnightly schedule. Unlike DoD, I'm writing the posts in advance and releasing them once every couple of weeks. This is to allow myself a buffer for the times when I'm unable to write anything - sometimes work or social commitments mean that I can't really do much for weeks at a time. If I build up enough of a buffer, I may release a couple of posts more close together, but the general schedule will remain once a fortnight.
     
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  4. sprite King of the Faeries

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    If only writers of fantasy novels were that sensible.
     
  5. jmberry Well-Known Member

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    What do you mean :confused:?
     
  6. Fulcrumvale Strategos ton Exkoubitores

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    I’m guessing that you haven’t spent the last eight years waiting for George RR Martin to finish A Dance with Dragons, then?
     
  7. jmberry Well-Known Member

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    No. My sole experience with Martin was his "Hedge Knight" short story, which I found to be pretty good.
     
  8. sprite King of the Faeries

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    EXACTLY!

    Robert Jordan does it too (yeah i know he died, but c'mon)
     
  9. Threadmarks: Lands of Red and Gold #4: What Lies Beneath The Earth

    Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    Lands of Red and Gold #4: What Lies Beneath The Earth

    Archaeology, it has been said is the Peeping Tom of the sciences. It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going; they merely want to know where everyone else has been [1].

    When the time comes for future archaeologists to fossick through the buried remnants of Gunnagal culture – the Murray Valley civilization – they will discover a great many things. They will find a series of settlements, some large, some small, some ephemeral, some built to endure. They will argue over the details, placing too much emphasis on some, and disregarding others. They will understand some things correctly, and others they will misinterpret. But in time, a picture of sorts will emerge, a story complete with stratigraphy, estimated and often disputed dates, some accurate observations and some misconceptions.

    The first phase of the Murray Valley Civilization is what future archaeologists will call the Archaic Era. The dates are often contested, but most scholars date the Archaic Era from 5000 to 2500 BC. This period is a time of the first glimmerings of agriculture, of the increasing cultivation of yams as a staple part of the diet, and the first indications of semi-permanent settlements throughout the Middle Murray; some of these are large enough to contain a dozen or more families. Construction of dwellings in those settlements becomes more advanced as the Archaic Era elapses; in the early phases the dwellings were usually pit-houses dug out of the earth, by the Late Archaic timber houses were built above ground.

    The Archaic Era is the time of the development of the first arts of civilization, as those future archaeologists define it. This is the time when the cultivation of red yams spreads along the river. This is the time when the Gunnagal first discover the use of ceramics, with pottery, bowls, and other cooking and storage vessels emerging in the archaeological record. Late in the Archaic Era, archaeologists report the first evidence of loom weaving, with textiles such as blankets and clothes woven from nettle and flax fibres.

    The next phase of the Murray Valley Civilization will be called the Formative Era by most later archaeologists, and the Preclassical Era by a few holdouts. The Formative era is the first flowering of the Murray Valley civilization, the time when it the first full agriculture is developed, closely followed by the rise of the first towns and cities, and the emergence of complex hierarchical societies. This phase of the Murray Valley civilization is comparable to what later archaeologists were familiar with in the development of other ancient river valley civilizations such as the Sumerians along the Tigris and Euphrates, Predynastic Egypt along the Nile, the Harappans along the Indus, and the early Chinese along the Yellow River. While the Murray Valley civilization started later than most of those civilizations, the archaeologists will note that the emergence of large towns and cities followed much more quickly after the development of agriculture than it did in the other early river valley civilizations [2].

    The start of the Early Formative (or Early Preclassical) period is dated to 2500 BC, with the emergence of Swan Hill, the first permanent agricultural settlement to be found in the Australian archaeological record. As with most prehistoric sites around the world, the Swan Hill culture is recognised principally by the development of a new pottery style. The older Archaic pottery was usually decorated with simple patterns of lines and crosses. The pottery at Swan Hill is decorated with pointillist images, usually of animals such as kangaroos and possums, and sometimes fish. Archaeologists will argue at length about the purpose of these representations. They are not something used to depict what was stored or cooked in many of those bowls and pots, since the decorations show only animals, not the plants such as yams and wild-gathered wattle seeds and murnong which formed much of the diet, and traces of which could be found amongst pottery. Perhaps they had some ritual significance, some archaeologists argue, while others see these pottery decorations merely the surviving example of what was presumably a flourishing artistic tradition. As it happens, the latter archaeologists are correct; the early Gunnagal decorate almost everything that they use indoors. Their house walls are painted too, and most of the early Gunnagal paint their skins in ochre too, but these other artworks are not usually represented in the archaeological record.

    In Swan Hill, future archaeologists will have trouble excavating the heartland of the earliest buildings, since so much of what was built there is overlaid with the buildings of later towns. But they are able to discover that a sizable town emerged in the region by about 2400 BC, with at least five hundred people living in or near its walls. They built in wood and mud-brick, not in stone. Evidence excavated from cooking sites indicates that these early Gunnagal were not just yam farmers; they had abundant meals of fish, duck, kangaroo and emu, among other meats. They also find enough evidence to indicate that the Gunnagal had started to build channels, weirs, and other works to create the first improved wetlands. One detail which the archaeologists will get wrong is that they think that the development of a full agricultural package – yams, murnong, purslane, and wattles – is what leads to permanent settlement and the development of these wetlands. In fact, the development happened the other way around; the Gunnagal learned the practice of improved wetlands from the Junditmara far to the south, settled into a fully sedentary lifestyle, and only then started to cultivate a greater variety of plants and eventually domesticated them.

    While the archaeologists will get this detail wrong, and a few others, they will be correct in the broad picture they draw. Swan Hill is the first permanent settlement, established around 2500 BC, but it will be followed by several others. The distinctive Gunnagal style of pottery spreads along much of the Murray over the next few centuries, associated with the development of several other towns and cities. Some of the pottery itself spreads much further into Victoria and New South Wales, evidence of considerable trade routes with other peoples who are still living as hunter-gatherers, but there is no doubt that the peoples along the Murray itself are farmers. This is still a time before the development of metallurgy; apart from a few knives and axe-heads of hammered meteoric iron, the Early Formative urban centres use only stone tools.

    The end of the Early Formative period will be conventionally dated at 2000 BC. By this time, Swan Hill has turned into a burgeoning town of some five thousand people. There are four other major urban centres along the Murray during this period, and several smaller towns. They produced a variety of artworks with what will be described as “ritual significance.” The most common of these artworks are clay figurines, cast into human form but always with some aspect of their anatomy exaggerated; long legs or arms or heads. Archaeologists note that these early cities clearly had some kind of elite class; a few houses in each city are much larger than others, and some of the surviving burials show men and women interred with considerable adornment. Since there was no writing during this period, they cannot be certain, but it does not look like these early cities had a single ruler; rather, they had some kind of council or other oligarchy. As it happens, they are right in this conjecture.

    Following the Early Formative period comes an era which most archaeologists will call the Middle Formative, but a persistent minority will call the Middle Preclassical. As with most prehistoric sites, this period is recognised in the archaeological record by gradually evolving pottery styles, but it has two particularly distinguishing features: building with rammed earth, and the emergence of metallurgy with the first smelted copper tools.

    Construction in rammed earth is the most distinctive aspect of Middle and Late Formative cities. In the Early Formative, buildings were usually constructed from mud-brick prepared and dried in the sun. Mud-bricks were easy to make, but lasted only three or four decades before they crumbled. Rammed earth is a more laborious construction method, but the results are worth the effort. Gunnagal labourers gather soil which has an appropriate composition of clay, gravel and sand, moisten it, add a stabilising blend of lime and wattle-gum, then pour the mixture into a wooden frame and compress it. When the rammed earth dries, the wooden frames are removed and then left to cure for up to two years. The resulting walls are almost as strong as stone [3]. Rammed earth construction will be used in most major buildings throughout the Middle and Late Formative periods, although some smaller dwellings are still built out of timber or mud-brick.

    The Middle Formative is also the time when archaeologists will first recognise the use of copper metallurgy in the Murray Valley civilization. The first copper-working emerges not in Swan Hill, but much further to the west. Gunnagal peoples slowly moved along the length of the Murray during the Early Formative, and by 2000 BC they had established a small settlement in the region of Murray Bridge, in the lower reaches of the Murray. This is a region of moderate rainfall, barely suitable for yam farming, and less useful for wetlands, but with enough potential to allow settlement. The region of Murray Bridge includes some of the richest copper ores in Australia, including some easily accessible surface deposits, and the people of Murray Bridge are quick to discover and exploit them.

    Knowledge of copper-working spreads quickly throughout the Murray Valley during the Middle Formative, and copper tools will take their place alongside stone tools. Copper as a metal is not strong enough to replace all the uses of stone, but copper battle-axes and knives become common finds in the archaeological record from this period. Copper also becomes a valuable decorative metal; bangles, beads, pendants, earrings and other jewellery are well-represented in the archaeological record. The most abundant discovery of all is copper-tips shaped for digging, which were once attached to wooden digging sticks, but where the wood is almost always rotted away. Copper-tipped digging sticks will gradually be developed into spades during the Middle and Late Formative as copper becomes more abundant. This will greatly enhance the productivity of yam farmers, and allow a substantial growth in population during these periods.

    The Middle Formative will be conventionally dated to end in 1400 BC, although the date is largely arbitrary. The archaeological record of the Middle and Late Formative periods blends into each other in a series of smooth transitions; there are no dramatic changes in the culture. The trend throughout both periods is the same; increasing urban and rural populations, the development of commerce and more complex social organisation, increasingly impressive public architecture which would have required the mobilisation of a considerable labour force. The first evidence of proto-writing emerges during the later stages of the Middle Formative, with simple marks on large ceramic containers which are thought to depict either ownership of those containers, or their contents. These written marks develop into more complex patterns during the Late Formative, and sometimes appear on other surviving goods such as jewellery and weapons, although they remain indecipherable.

    The Late Formative period is a time of increasingly sophisticated metallurgy. Many copper ores contain arsenic as a natural impurity, including those around the Lower Murray. Smiths in Murray Bridge discover how to melt and reforge increasing concentrations of arsenic from copper ores, and produce the first arsenical bronzes. From a metallurgical perspective, arsenical bronzes are perfectly functional, and about as useful as bronzes made from the more familiar alloy of tin and copper. The toxic fumes from molten arsenic mean that many Gunnagal smiths go lame, crippled, or into early graves, but such is the price of progress. The development of arsenic bronze tools is credited with increasing stonework in the Late Formative. While rammed earth remains the main building material, statues and other decorative stone facings are added to many buildings.

    The Gunnagal also learn to work with other metals during this period. Travellers moving along the spreading trade routes reach Glen Osmond in what would have become one of the suburbs of Adelaide, where in time they discover a rich source of lead and silver ore. In keeping with their earlier traditions, the main early use which Gunnagal smiths find for these new metals is for decorative purposes; lead beads become valued adornments, and the first silversmiths discover how to fashion a variety of jewellery.

    The Late Formative also marks the time when domesticated animals become a major component of the Gunnagal diet. Domesticated dingos have long been used by the Gunnagal as hunting dogs and fireside companions of the elite, but during the Late Formative, excavation of middens reveals the first evidence of dingos consumed as meat. Artistic evidence from surviving murals, along with the same excavation of middens, reveals that domesticated ducks were also important as a source of meat, eggs and feathers [4]. Archaeologists interpret the domestication of these animals as a sign of growing sophistication amongst Gunnagal farmers. This is true to a point, but what is less easily realised from the archaeological record is that the switch to domesticated sources of meat was adopted because of growing population straining natural resources. Gunnagal peoples during earlier periods were able to support their dietary needs for meat through fishing and hunting waterfowl in their artificial wetlands, supplemented by hunting kangaroos in fire-managed rangelands further from the river. During the Late Formative, the Gunnagal have reached the limits of how many wetlands they can construct given their existing technology and scarce supply of bronze tools, and over-hunting has decimated kangaroo numbers within the rangelands.

    In the matter of Gunnagal animal domestication, as in so much else, the future archaeologists can make only limited inferences about the nature of Gunnagal society and technology. They can recognise the main urban centres, they can salvage some tools and remains of crops, they can recognise the pottery carried by trade far beyond the Murray, but so much more will be lost to the ravages of time. For instance, archaeologists will assume correctly that the Gunnagal used many more tools of wood than they did of stone or copper, but most of those wooden tools have decayed into oblivion.

    Excavators of the early Murray Valley cities cannot find the written records they would need to tell them what language these people spoke, or what they believed. Based on the languages spoken by their descendants in the Murray Valley and elsewhere, future archaeologists make the inference, correctly as it happens, that those people spoke a language which they call Proto-Gunnagal. But there is so much more which they can only guess at, such as the nature of Gunnagal religion. Archaeologists find small shrines in most well-to-do homes, but not the same large temples which were common in the comparable stages of many other early civilizations. Another question which puzzles researchers is why knowledge of domesticated crops took so long to spread beyond the Gunnagal heartlands in the Murray Valley; the Gunnagal had developed a useful agricultural package by 2000 BC, but even a thousand years later, traces of farming had scarcely spread beyond the Murray.

    Still, there is one conclusions future archaeologists will draw which is entirely correct. The Gunnagal are the first Australian civilization. In their language, their beliefs, their learning, and their social organisation, they will influence all who come after them...

    * * *

    [1] Originally said by Jim Bishop.

    [2] This is because the nature of Aboriginal permaculture (perennial agriculture) allows the accumulation of much larger food surpluses per worker than most annual forms of agriculture.

    [3] Rammed earth (or pisé de terre) is a method of construction which has been independently invented in several parts of the world, such as Mesopotamia and China. It is quite labour-intensive, but in reasonably dry climates, allows for quite long-lasting buildings. In a civilization which lacks domesticated animals or hard metal tools, it is also easier to develop strong building walls with rammed earth than it is to quarry and transport stone. (Copper is too soft to be of much use quarrying hard building stones.)

    [4] The Gunnagal have domesticated the Australian wood duck (Chenonetta jubata). This duck is an excellent candidate for domestication, since it is easily kept and bred in captivity; indeed, captive birds can raise up to three broods in a year. Wood ducks need minimal contact with the water; they spend most of their time foraging for grass, clover and other plants on land. Domesticated wood ducks are easily fed by grazing with occasional supplements of wattleseeds, and can even be used to pick out insects and other pests from crops. Domesticated wood ducks would be a valuable source of meat, eggs and feathers in a culture which otherwise lacks many domesticated animals.

    * * *

    Thoughts?
     
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  10. Fardell Fannish

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    That is a very good update. A very interesting look into the early period of this alternate Australia.
     
  11. Chargone Strange and Unusual Thing.

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    interesting reading. i like how the nature of the crops allows them to play 'catchup' with the rest of the world, despite starting so much later.

    the nice thing about this time line... is how much random stuff I'm finding out that i never would have even thought to try and find out otherwise :)

    my only wish is that the updates were longer/more frequent, but i can totally understand why they're not.

    keep up the good work :)
     
  12. Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    I was fortunate enough to avoid George RR Martin... I decided that I'd wait for him to finish the whole series before I read any of his books. (As I do with all new fantasy series these days, in fact, although I don't really read many of them any more.)

    For Robert Jordan, well... the delays for him didn't really affect me. I got so sick of his writing, padding, sniffing, and twenty-page descriptions of clothing that I stopped buying his books after #7. I have borrowed the more recent ones from friends/libraries, out of a sort of morbid fascination to see how bad the series can get, but I'm not hanging around waiting for the next book.

    Gracias.

    I thought that would make for some interesting twists. Of course, they are never going to come close to matching the technological level of the main Eurasian powers, but in some ways they'll be well ahead of, say, the Incas or Aztecs.

    A lot of the fun of writing this timeline comes from discovering such things myself. And some other random facts which I find out along the way but which aren't of any relevance to the timeline, and which thus aren't included.

    It'd be nice if updates could be more frequent, but apart from this mysterious thing called "life" getting in the way, the early parts of this timeline are very, very research-intensive to write. I need to find out quite a lot of background information before writing each post. This post, for instance, required finding out an awful lot about early Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilization, early Mesoamerican civilizations, prehistoric Korea, and various other odds and ends.
     
  13. Hendryk Banned

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    Fascinating. I'd like to know more about the Gunnagal writing system, and whether the script(s) used by later *Aboriginal cultures were directly descended from it, or whether it went the way of, say, Linear B.
     
  14. Chargone Strange and Unusual Thing.

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    fun little fact:

    apparently every writing system in the world reads in a direction which, on a map of the world, is the same direction you need to go to get from it's origin point to Israel [or was it Jerusalem?] (in a straight line that is, obviously if you're actually Going there you wander around a bit :D)

    'course, that's also the way that it needs to be written for ink not to be smeared as you write the next line, if i remember rightly, and [also if I'm remembering rightly] they're all in the northern hemisphere too.

    but if you wanted to follow the pattern, such as it is, then where English reads left to right, top to bottom, and Chinese reads top to bottom, right to left, then the Australian scripts would [probably] read bottom to top, right to left [or right to left, bottom to top]. but that would just be awkward and horrible unless they all left handed or something. allowing for the practicalities of ink and the like, it'd be more likely to be bottom to top, left to right. kinda awkward if you write with a pen or pencil, not so much with a brush. dunno about carvings.

    just random thoughts. make of it what you will, it's probably not helpful :D
     
  15. Fulcrumvale Strategos ton Exkoubitores

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    Great update. I particularly liked the “mists of time” feel, looking back knowing the big picture but not individual details or significant mysteries. This is rapidly turning into one of my favorite timelines.
     
  16. sprite King of the Faeries

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    Great work
     
  17. tormsen Well-Known Member

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    I think it's a good way to fudge some details that makes perfect sense: I don't see why discussion of alternate ancient history should be specific and exact when our own is so ambiguous.

    Great work Jared, looking forward to how things progress. I think the early stuff is a high hurdle, but a necessary one to get over (reminds me I need to do the same with my TL at some point... :rolleyes:)
     
  18. Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    What the Gunnagal have so far isn't a writing system in the true sense of the word. It's a proto-writing system, which like all historical writing systems was a necessary precursor to the development of writing itself. The symbols used in Gunnagal proto-writing do not (yet) have any particular linguistic content, rather they're indications of ownership (mostly). There will be scripts descended from the proto-writing in time, but it's not quite there yet.

    In terms of actual shape of the symbols, by the way, it's closest to cuneiform (but not the proto-writing pictographs which preceded it). Lots of straight lines, and no curves, in the case of Gunnagal script. This commonality is simply because the symbols are marked by metal tools onto clay; it's harder to draw curves that way, so they make everything straight lines or dots.

    Wasn't aware of that one, and I suspect that Gunnagal writing will break the pattern. I'm not sure that they'd be writing bottom to top; it doesn't make much logical sense unless you want your arm obscuring everything.

    I'm experimenting with different ways of telling things. Nice to know this one worked. Incidentally, this post and the next one were originally meant to be two halves of the one post, one showing what the archaeologists thought, and the other giving some information on what the Gunnagal social structure was actually like. But the second half got too long (~5000 words), and so it got split off into its own post.

    Glad you like it.

    Some parts of it will be clarified in the next post (see above), but a lot of it will remain ambiguous.

    I do my best to make the early stuff interesting. There will be a fair bit of variety in what's shown about the early stuff, and probably 10-12 posts total showing the development of early Australian civilizations. After that there will be a bit of a jump chronologically, since I'll be moving on to doing a regional overview of Australasia as it is in 1617, on the eve of Dutch contact. That will show each of the main empires/kingdoms/social polities as they exist at that point. From there, the timeline will move on to showing the early effects of European contact. I'm not sure how I'll go about showing the longer-term effects. I may do a broad-scale overview, or I may just skip forward a century or two and show what it's like now.

    I have been keeping a rough eye on your timeline, by the way, but lack of time means that I'm not really in a position to write detailed comments.
     
  19. The Sandman Purveyor of Sky Cake Banned

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    To what degree would *Aboriginal religion influence their writing system? Given that in OTL modern Australia Dreamtime-related paintings are valid for establishing ownership, it seems like the paintings of *Australia would be the most likely initial source of writing. For example, a given town has its own signature style which is used to identify their products when traded; a given craftsman has his personal mark; the painting of a house is something that would have to do with the family living within, with each new generation adding their own contribution.

    I think that any written language would be very similar to Chinese, in so far as that it's comprised of pictographs where the simpler ones obviously draw their shape from the thing they describe. I can also see a major tradition of graffiti as the *Aboriginal version of the town message board. Calligraphy would be a big thing in artwork, and new paints might well be something the *Aborigines would value highly in trade with the Europeans.

    It might also be interesting to have color be one method of coding meaning in addition to the actual words; perhaps have it be used to denote intonation and emotional shading. What colors would the *Aborigines have access to prior to European contact?
     
  20. Hobelhouse The Cyberpunk Future is Now

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    Um, I'm pretty sure that's not true. The Hindi script is written left to right, as are Thai, Cuneiform, Uighur, Armenian, and Mongol, despite being east of Jerusalem. Egyptian, Coptic, and the ancient Ethiopian alphabet aren't written bottom to top either. This sounds like an urban language.
     
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