Pecari rex, Equus regina: American Domesticates 3.0

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by twovultures, Sep 30, 2012.

  1. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    1,000,000 BC: Future paleontologists will not be able to pinpoint the exact moment that the great change which allowed the civilizations of the two continents known as the Columbias-sometimes Eurocentrically referred to as the “New World”-to gain their own equivalent of Eurasia’s major livestock. They won’t even look for it, because they won’t see it as unusual or a divergence. When permanent, lasting contact was made between the two worlds, most of the Columbias were populated by sedentary farmers who raised animals for meat, labor, milk and manure. Allohistorically, this would not be considered unusual-merely historical. But it did not have to be that way, as those familiar with our history know.

    This parallel world came to be around a million years ago, on the land bridge between the two continents known in our world as North and South America, and in this world as North and South Columbia. One organism would change, and with it would bring a cascade of changes that would alter human fate in the western hemisphere.

    This organism was the animal ancestral to the collared peccaries. Around a million years ago, it developed an elevated birth rate compared to the closely related white-lipped species. Where in our world they would give birth to 1-4 young, these allohistorical peccaries would produce litters of 2-8 young. Their higher reproduction rate would, eventually, impact both their evolution and the evolution of animals sharing their territory. Ultimately, though, the collared peccary would still be recognizable in this world

    500,000 BC: A half a million years of divergent evolution after the initial mutation, and the world of the collared peccary was changing.

    The most obvious changes were to the collared peccary itself. Where in the world we know they would only establish temporary, transient populations north of what we would call the Rio Grande, the allohistorical peccaries would develop a northern subspecies, ranging as far north as what would never be the southern border of Virginia. The northern subspecies was larger and hairier than the more familiar southern peccaries, better able to withstand the temperate (though relatively mild) winters of southeastern North Columbia. A more universal change in the species would come not as physical appearance, but as behavior.

    The higher birthrate had created Malthusian situations in some areas where the peccary sounders started to exhaust the environment’s capacity to support them. In some areas, their population had collapsed as they ran out of food and starved or migrated elsewhere. In other areas, however, the peccaries had managed to survive by developing dominance behaviors. Sounders where dominant sows controlled access to food by bullying family members into a hierarchy where the top females got access to prime foraging ground until they had their fill were less likely to starve out, if only because the largest and strongest (and therefore healthiest) females would be likely to survive a drought at the expense of the lower ranking members. Sounders where dominant boars kept lower ranking boars from reproducing were less likely to over breed, ensuring the population did not overgrow the local food level.

    Once these behaviors became established among peccaries, they spread very quickly. The more aggressive dominant individuals were more likely to successfully compete for food and mates, while the social cohesion of dominance based sounders allowed them to better compete with rival, non-dominant sounders and face predators more effectively. Over the next half a million years, these dominance behaviors would be selected for the whole species.


    Of course, other species would be affected by sudden growth in peccary population. The faster breeding collared peccaries had the nasty habit of becoming invasive, edging out species that competed for food, space, and water. In tropical South Columbia there was enough resources to share with other animals including their white lipped and scrub brethren, but in North Columbia collared peccaries drove out their long nosed and flat headed competitors from much of their shared range, as well as other animals that competed with them for food or, more crucially in their desert habitats, for water.

    As sheep migrated southward, spreading from the land bridge that would also bring humans to the Columbias, down the spine of the Yut [OTL: Rocky] mountains, they ran into a major obstacle in the form of these peccaries. In the deserts of the southwest, they drove away sheep from watering holes, preventing them from establishing a population there. In this world, the desert subspecies of sheep would never exist, and their biomass would instead be taken up by grazing horses.

    Standing outside of this world, the result is remarkable. We know that in a world without these mutant peccaries, the horse would have gone extinct. And the difference in the presence of horses, as well as the difference in peccary behavior, would dramatically alter the fate of human societies.

    12,000 BC: The end of the ice ages and the beginning of the Holocene were disastrous for many species, many of which had already been going in a downward spiral in terms of population and health as the climate rapidly cooled, warmed, and re-cooled over the previous thousands of years. Combined with human hunters, this new warming period and the environmental change it brought was the final death blow for many species. North Columbian camels, shrub-ox, mastodons, mammoths, saber-tooths, dire wolves, and many other creatures died off under pressure from human hunters and changing environments.

    Horses were among the megafauna species to survive the extinction in North Columbia, although they were extirpated from much of their range. Two landraces would survive in southwestern and central North Columbia.

    On the Great Plains, a single herd would survive on the edge of the Yut [OTL: Rocky] mountains. Although nearing extinction at this time, migrants from the deserts would provide this group with enough genetic diversity to survive and to eventually recolonize the Great Plains alongside vast herds of bison. These horses were more similar to the steppe horses of Eurasia, adapted for a cool environment that required growing thick winter coats, as well as great level of endurance to move between far-flung sources of water.

    In the southwestern deserts that separated North from Middle Columbia, the horses that would survive that seemed in some ways to be almost a separate species from their close relatives in the Plains. They had short, glossy fur that had a bright sheen to it, making them appear almost metallic. They did not grow winter coats, as the mild weather of the deserts did not require it and growing too much fur during the hot summers was a sure way to die. They had a dense network of veins on the surface of their skin, which served to cool them off in the scorching desert heat.


    They were not perfectly adapted. The vein network meant that, when cut, they bled pretty profusely (somewhat like a human getting cut on the head), and they had a metabolism that was as rapid as their plains brethren. This meant that they grew and reproduced as fast as the horses of the Old World, but it also made them more vulnerable to heat stroke. But what’s bad for the individual is not always bad for the species, and these maladaptive traits did contribute to their survival-as well as eventually making them especially useful to the humans, the great predators that had almost destroyed them but would eventually become their greatest protectors. A fast metabolism meant milk production, and profuse bleeding made it easy to harvest blood from horses, gaining protein from them without killing them. These foodstuffs would be difference between life for death for the early pastoralists of the Columbias.

    Peccaries had done quite well for themselves at this point in time, as their species was one of the most widespread in the Columbias. Even with their habit of standing and facing predators, which made them vulnerable to human predation, their high birthrate ensured that they would survive and even thrive. The northern peccaries maintained a broken range from the Martial [OTL: Pacific] coast to the Atlantic, across mountains, deserts, and swamps while the southern population had a single, unbroken range from the deserts of Middle Columbia down to the temperate plains of South Columbia.
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  2. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    Yeah, I've decided to move this to pre-1900. This timeline belongs next to Lands of Ice and Mice and Red and Gold, not next to What If's about Snape teaming up with Optimus Prime.
  3. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    The Archaic Age
    8,000 BC-5,500 BC

    As the world’s climate stabilized and the ice receded, the now widespread human race found itself facing some pretty large food shortages. The extinction of many of the large animals that provided vital protein, fat and vitamins for hunting societies were now gone, and the radical advance and shrinkage of certain habitats had altered the available food plants.

    These changes did bring some opportunity. The more stable weather could create more reliable harvests of wild plants, and the need to work for alternate sources of protein in small animals and seafood prompted new innovations in lifestyle and technology, which over a long time would allow the development of the great civilizations of the Columbias.

    For most of the Archaic age, these civilizations would seem like an impossible dream rather than an inevitable future. Even as they began to harvest the plants that would fuel their rise to civilization, the native Columbians did not even settle into villages, let alone build cities or monuments. Unlike the wheat, barley, rice and teff of the contemporaneous Old World, the starchy crops of the Old World were either too small to support sedentary villages or required too much preparation to be a useful staple crop. The Columbian people would instead wander in bands of extended families, in some places even splitting further into ‘micro-bands’ of nuclear families to ease the pressure of feeding a large groups. Contrary to the portrayal of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle as a healthful utopia, it was a constant struggle to find food. Even the rich life of rainforests provided very little usable calories to humans, most of which was flung over ranges of hundreds of miles. The Archaic Age was a constant struggle for survival.

    To Settlement
    5,500-4,500 BC
    The creation of pottery in the southern region of what we would call the Amazon marked new social developments in the Columbias. It showed that people were becoming less mobile, and staying in one place long enough to work on light crafts, even if they did not stay in any place permanently. The ability to do this was brought about by the earliest domestication of plants-cassava and chili. In their earliest forms, these plants did not provide enough calories or nutrients to allow the people that grew them to form permanent villages, but they did grow the plants in seasonal gardens while settling down to work on pottery.

    It was in these gardens that our old friends the peccaries re-appeared. Drawn by easy food, they were a constant nuisance to these early farmers, albeit a nuisance that could provide easy meat if caught. It was probably from such thieving peccaries that these proto-farmers first caught some babies from a litter, and decided to try raising them with the dogs instead of eating them then and there, investing in their catch in order to get a little more meat in the future just as they invested in their gardens to supplement their otherwise wild diet.

    Small peccaries adopted this way still followed their dominance instinct, but misdirected it to dogs and humans. As they grew older, they would follow the humans and dogs instead of running away and their acceptance of the larger humans as leaders made them less dangerous, as they were loathe to challenge what they saw as the head boars and sows of their sounders. The humans who tamed peccaries this way spread the practice as a way of getting emergency meat, keeping these captured peccaries for longer and longer periods. As they developed and refined their practice of taming the wild baby peccaries they captured, they created a cultural knowledge that they would pass on to their successors and neighbors, paving the way for true domestication.

    In the deserts of southwestern North Columbia, a similar development was occurring without domestic plants. Without gardens to attract peccaries, these animals remained something to be incidentally hunted, and the first steps to domestication did not take place with them.

    Horses were much more interesting to the desert peoples. They gave a greater payback in terms of meat, they did not compete with people for rare but valuable foods like cactus fruits, and their territoriality and hierarchy made them easy to manage. Hunters following a herd could pick off the low-ranking individuals that always walked at the back, allowing the fitter individuals at the front of the herd to survive and keep reproducing. Horse herds could be tracked and followed, unlike the constantly shifting and far wandering bison herds of the nearby plains. This had contributed to their destruction throughout the Columbias, but now that humans were managing their environments it helped protect them. Human hunters following the herd would not allow wolves or rival humans to harm ‘their’ herds, and would drive these rivals away.

    As the hunters became more and more co-dependent on their prey, they developed a closer and closer relationship. Eventually, they would even exploit horse social structures by capturing foals and breaking them in. By forcing these horses to accept humans as the dominant herd members, they could keep these young horses close by for years, letting them grow to full size before eating them.

    In the Kechay (OTL: Andes) Mountains, an almost identical experiment was occurring with the local camelids. Their herd structure and territoriality made them much easier to manage than the other source meat, deer, and in the harsh environment of the high mountains any food source that could be protected and cultivated was very valuable. This mirror experiment would eventually produce two domestic animals, the sturdy pack-carrying llama and the smaller, woollier vicuna.

    3,500 BC

    It was along the southern edge of the great rainforest that we would call the Amazon that peccaries went from a tamed wild animal to a domestic animal. After millennia of eating tame peccaries, the farmers of the savannahs and forests began to pen the peccaries into mixed gender groups, castrating males they deemed small or overly-aggressive to keep the peccaries with the traits they liked breeding. These penned peccaries could be released into the wild to forage every day and be expected to return by nightfall, meaning that the farmers could have a supply of meat in one area all year long. This allowed the semi-nomadic peoples of South Columbia to become fully sedentary.

    Although sedentism has been blamed for a wide variety of physical and social ills by social commentators looking admiringly at what they think the hunter-gatherer life is, it allowed for a great degree of stability in people’s lives. Sedentary farmers no longer had to worry about were their next meal was coming from, and could focus on new ways to improve their lives, such as creating new technologies (easier done, now that material goods could be accumulated without thought for how transportable it was).

    Domestic peccaries spread very rapidly in tropical South Columbia. At this point in time, farming was widespread in South Columbia, just as in our world. And just as in our world, by 3,500 BC most farming did not support sedentary people outside of a few fishing villages. The peccary proved to be the missing link-an excellent source of protein to combat what would otherwise be a major dietary deficiency among people dependent on cassava for food.

    In the deserts between North and Middle Columbia, the horse hunters were taking their relationship with their prey to a new level. They were holding and taming multiple horses in their settlements, allowing them to breed where they could be kept safe from other predators and give easy access to blood, milk, and dung as well as meat and hide. These herds allowed the villages to become sedentary, their source of meat so secure that they no longer had to chase wild herds over the deserts and plains.

    It was not always an easy life. The desert people would leave graves filled with skeletons whose bones were shattered by hooves or whose spines deformed by tuberculosis contracted by drinking milk. But the food security these horses provided would keep their use and push the human-animal relationship further.

    2,500 B.C.

    A thousand years from the creation of permanent settlements, horse herders were struggling. There was not that much pastureland in the deserts, and their herds were growing too large to control very effectively. They had to control their breeding through castration and selective slaughter. Horses were now fully domesticated, as even their breeding was controlled by their human masters.

    Some of the pastoralists were abandoning sedentism, moving their herds so as to avoid overgrazing pastures. In doing so, they surrendered the mental and physical security of the village for the riskier camps. These nomads became more and more reliant on riding, using it to chase down escaped horses or track prey over long distances. As romantic as the image of the confident equestrian Columbian twisting in his saddle to shoot a bison or lasso a feral horse is, this was not the method of these people. They rode bareback or used a simple blanket or pad to protect themselves from the horse’s bones, and always dismounted to do anything that required being steady such as shooting arrows or lassoing escaped livestock. These early faltering steps would create the art of horseback riding in the Columbias and transform the horse from a mere beast of burden to a major weapon of war.

    Although the horse was domesticated largely simultaneously in Eurasia and the Columbias, it was spreading much more slowly in the latter. Eurasia had pastoralist societies in place to accept and start breeding horses imported from their point of original domestication in the steppes. In North Columbia no such society existed, and the early horse pastoralists had to move into a near vacuum. In addition, the original domestic horses were landraces adapted for a sub-tropical environment. It was only now that the slow process of breeding tropical horses with the cold-tolerant herds in the mid and northern plains could begin to produce breeds adopted for northern areas. Nonetheless the open plains and deserts threw little barriers in the way of the domestic horse, unlike some other animals.

    By this time, the camelid herds in the Kechay Mountains had also undergone domestication. Although the ancient and modern herders of the Kechay Mountains generally eschew castration in controlling their herds, this time marked the transition to a society based on herding livestock full-time rather than controlling wild animals part-time. Llamas and vicunas were now, like horses and peccaries, fully domesticated. Unlike the peccaries and horses, the mountain camelids would spread slowly. The steep mountains, lack of established agriculture in their homeland, and their inability to establish themselves in the tropical land to their east all combined to restrict their spread.

    In South Columbia, farming communities stretched from the Atlantic to the Martial Ocean, from desert rivers to savannahs to tropical rainforests, all made possible by the use of peccaries as livestock. The peccary performed a role somewhere between that of the pig and the goat of the Old World, eating waste in the villages and fruits and nuts in the forest like a pig, but also exploited grass seeds and soft-bodied plants like a goat. The ability of the peccary to exploit plants that were useless to humans and tolerate heat and arid conditions meant that they were somewhat more efficient to raise than the Old World’s pigs, despite their smaller size and slower reproductive rate.

    On the equatorial coast of the Martial Ocean, the people that in our world are known as the Valdivia culture were undergoing a transformation. They had arrived to sedentism separately from the inland farmers, using protein gained from seafood rather than livestock to support a sedentary lifestyle. The appearance of peccaries gave these fishermen more flexibility in their diet, as they could switch to eating meat when fish ran out. Now less dependent on fish, they could use their boats for trade rather than fishing, sailing along the Martial coast to trade shells and leather in exchange for cotton fabrics. This extra trade combined with the extra work population (and subsequent workforce) created by peccary husbandry would trigger greater innovations in navigation and boat building. A similar change was developing on the shores of the Antilles Sea (OTL: Caribbean) as farmers reached the water’s edge and merged with the pre-existing fishing communities.
    Changes like these represented the shift towards civilization in the Columbias. The ingredients were now all falling into place and the Columbian people would soon put them together to create cities and empires rivaling those of the older Eurasian civilizations.

    Blank Columbias.png
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  4. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    The spread of the horse in North and Middle Columbia is intertwined with the spread of maize. They affected each-other’s fate, and both radically altered the lives of the peoples who adopted them.

    By 2,000 BC, not only was maize established in North Columbia but horse-based trade had carried it farther and faster than OTL, to the coast of the Martial Ocean and forests of the east. It joined meadow barley and goosefoot as a dietary supplement of the local peoples, grown in seasonal gardens. It was especially important in the east, where a cultural mosaic was developing with horse pastoralists taking grazing land and driving hunters into swamps and dense woodlands. Under pressure from the pastoralists, the hunters were forced to change and adopt the new crop their rivals had introduced, looking for new food sources to supplement their lifestyle as their hunting range shrunk.

    Horses did have their limitations in North Columbia, as the desert horses were poorly adapted to cold winters. By 1500 BC, mares from the Great Plains landrace had been bred with the domestic desert horses, creating a new breed that could withstand the harsh winters of the north. The early breeders favored spotted horses for unknown reasons-perhaps they saw that pattern as exotic when compared to the unicolor desert horses. Most of the temperate-climate domestic horses of the Columbias are still spotted, a color scheme that remains prized by Columbian breeders.

    These spotted horses would colonize the mid-to northern plains, where they were adopted by local hunting peoples to hunt bison and wild horses. They would cross the northern Yut Mountains to the northwestern Martial Coast, moving south to the warm, arid southwestern coasts were desert horses were already being herded. They also spread eastward into the Old Copper Complex, connecting the copper tool making peoples to a wide trade network.

    Copper tools fascinated the pastoralists, but the most useful tools-bits for horses and pins for reigns were not manufactured by the Old Copper Complex. The desire to create more appropriate tools for their lifestyle inspired a new innovation in the use of copper. When the pastoralists bought fishhooks or jewelry, they would reforge the tools into something more useful, melting them in camp fires to completely recast them. This was the beginning of smelting, although a true copper age had not yet developed. The peoples of North Columbia did not mine or smelt copper ore-they just worked and re-cast native copper, copper so pure that it did not need to be smelted to form into tools.

    Around 1000 BC, new cultivars of temperate-adapted maize were developed in the southeast. These new cultivars allowed maize farmers to live in permanent, settled villages. The previous patchwork of hunter-farmers and pastoralists disappeared in the east, replaced by sedentary villages that both pastured horses and practiced large-scale farming. These peoples spoke the Timetic languages, a branch of the larger language family descended from the original pastoralists who had blitzed their way eastward, although the presence of ‘alien’ nouns from unrelated languages persisting in their language and the continued tradition of creating earthwork monuments showed that the settlement of the horse cultures resulted ultimately in absorption and fusion, not destruction and erasure. The slower spread of horses to the north had allowed the preservation of a greater diversity of languages, such as the Awey and Katshunva language families. These would create their own corn-fed civilizations, modeled after the mound-building civilizations of the south.

    The new civilizations created a great leap forward in Columbian technology when they began to mine and smelt copper ore, completing the transition to a copper age started in the previous half a millenium. There was no native copper in the southeast, but demand for copper tools and jewelry only increased with the growth of cities. Copper smelting developed to fulfill the massive demand that the horseback trade routes had created.

    The same horse-based trade added another animal to the Columbian pet menagerie at this time. In the Great Plains, horse pastoralists had discovered a novel method for clearing out prairie dogs, whose burrows were a major risk to their precious horses. They would capture ferrets, bring them to the burrows, and use them to flush out the prairie dogs before filling the burrows in. Between prairie dog colonies, the nomads would carry the ferrets with them, feeding them bits of meat to sustain them.

    These ferrets were among the commodities traded eastward in exchange for copper tools. Once in the woodlands, ferrets were deprived of their main source of food, and turned instead to hunting voles and mice. When permanent villages with granaries vulnerable to vermin began to spring up, the ferrets being traded in from the plains found a new use as verminators. Deprived of their main source of food, they became dependent on human villages to act as a lure for their replacement diet. The human-dependent ferrets selected relatively quickly for domestication. Those that did excessive damage to property or children were evicted from the villages and died. The more affectionate ones would survive, even getting an edge in survival as they were more likely to be allowed indoors (and away from dogs or other predators) and fed table scraps.
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  5. altwere Well-Known Member

    Jan 12, 2010
    Shelburne Vt and Titusville Fl
    Very nice.
  6. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    The Last Man in the World

    When dawn came, the dog was gone. The man was surprised, and more than a little dismayed. In the weeks and months since his world had been obliterated, the dog had been his only friend and companion.

    He had found it in the village nearby, when he had braved a journey of several days to look for other true humans. It was abandoned except for hastily dug shallow graves, just like his own, as well as a pack of feral dogs. He had killed most of them, since they were digging at the graves to eat the corpses within, but he had found one that was sniffing in the untended gardens at the edge of the village. It had been happy to see him, and followed him back home. Like him, it was the only remainder in a village abandoned by the fearful living. He liked to think that the dog had stayed out of loyalty to a now dead master, just as he had stayed to tend to his last child while the others had gone. Now, their respective loved ones gone, all they had was each-other.

    Its companionship was necessary for the man’s survival. He knew that now. In the long nights since the disaster, the dead had risen up and taunted him, calling him to come out of his small hut, out of the shelter that protected him so that they could feed on his life. Once, he had left. He had given up all hope of survival, and walked out so that the plague dead could end his misery. But when he did so, there was nothing-just the dancing shadows of branches in the night, and the whispers of the dead on the breeze, mocking him and taunting him.

    After he found it, the dog had given him new hope, that there were others alive in the world, and that he had something to live for. He couldn't find them, though. The dead were constantly on his back, called to him from darkness, and waited to catch and kill him. He would have to bide his time for a chance to make a longer search over many days for other living humans to ally against the wicked dead.

    He walked into the sun, sure in the daylight that he was safe from the dead-though he carried his bow and arrow, for fear of less friendly feral dogs or the jaguars that had begun to slink into the edge of the abandoned village. He whistled for the dog instead of calling its name as he had not given it a name, just as he had forsaken all names for himself. Anyway, his throat was hoarse due to the coughing fits he suffered. Had he stopped to think about it, perhaps it should have worried him that they were becoming more and more frequent, and that he had started to cough up blood, but the only concern he had was finding other humans-and re-finding his dog. He walked and whistled through the village, until he heard the dog bark. Excited, he ran towards where it was, but stopped when he heard voices.

    He hid, creeping between the abandoned houses and overgrown corn fields towards the sound, making sure not to be seen. He tried to make no noise, but his heart sounded like thunder in his chest. Could this be what he was looking for? Fellow humans, fellow living, who would finally ease his mind against the voices of the dead that tormented him every night?

    When he saw the others surrounding his dog, a smile broke out on his face. They looked like people, and the dog had gone to them just as it had gone with him. Yes, they must be people. He stood up and called out to them, half-remembered words from the language he spoke before the plague. They called back to him, their words accented but recognizable. He could not remember ever having been so happy. He had almost reached them when he noticed the pockmark scars on their faces.

    His heart fell. Those scars were the mark of the plague that had emptied his village and all the neighboring ones. These people were touched by death, and therefore dead. In that instance he knew, just like he knew that the sun rose in the sky and that water flowed downhill, that these were not mortal men. There was no hope. There was no life. The dog was a cruel hoax, their servant sent to inflate his hopes and crush them before bringing him to them, to suffer agonizing death and become one of their number.

    With a strangled cry, he fired his bow at them.

    Given that I just moved this from ASB, I should probably state explicitly that the living dead in this story are entirely within the Last Man's head. If it's not obvious, he has unfortunately gone quite mad.
  7. Boristus Supporter of weird timelines

    Jan 21, 2010
    Pining for the Green Mountains
    Ah, yes. Where domestication comes, disease follows.
  8. DValdron Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2009
    I laughed out loud here. Thanks.
  9. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    Civilization and Plague in Middle Columbia

    The immediate predecessors to the great civilizations of Middle Columbia began to settle permanently in villages around 2,000 BC, as the maize they been cultivating for thousands of years finally began to yield large, easy to harvest seeds. It was around this time that horses began arriving from the border deserts, to be eagerly adopted by farmers without livestock. Around 1500 BC, the earliest cities sprang up, fed by the most productive grain ever cultivated by humans as well as the milk and meat of horses and recently introduced peccaries. These new cities created works of art that were beautiful but, to the eyes of future European visitors, bizarre. Large, stylized heads guarded the city walls, while inside anatomically correct statues catalogued fetuses and a wide range of deformities.

    The most sinister of these early statues were referred to as ‘the lepers’ among intellectual circles when they were first catalogued by archaeologists. These statues appeared as people covered in spots and writhing in pain, crushed under foot by a great beast. What exactly these statues are depicting is not known for sure, but they do appear to be the earliest record of epidemic disease in the Columbias. The possible inspirations are as follows:

    Black Spot is a disease which acts similarly to typhus. It is a bacterial disease spread by insect bite and especially dangerous to people under stressful, crowded, and unsanitary conditions-conditions which may have been commonplace in these early settlements, as people crowded together in densities and numbers they had never before experienced. Black spot’s wild ancestor entered human huts through domestic peccaries which carried the disease in ticks. This was not a very useful way for the bacteria to transfer to its unintended hosts. The ticks had to bite the humans for a very long time to cause an infection, and once transferred the primitive spotted fevers killed too quickly to be spread usefully. Eventually, however, the constant contact with humans gave an opportunity for the bacteria to mutate and adapt to a new carrier-the human louse, carried to the Columbias from Asia via the High Arctic. In its new carrier, the disease spread quickly among human populations.

    The Tick
    The Louse

    Another possibility is that these are a record the earliest viral crowd epidemics in the Columbias. The two possible candidates are outwardly very similar, although one is a distant cousin of rabies and the other is a close relative of smallpox. The former was dubbed Baba by the first Europeans to suffer from it. Baba causes sores on the tongue, lips, and extremities as well as fevers and excessive salivation, which is the easiest way for laymen to distinguish it from smallpox. It is a potentially dangerous disease, but nothing like tuberculosis which was the greatest killer in the pre-contact Columbias [1]. The latter is commonly known as Red Pox. Although it’s 1% kill rate has led some historians to dismiss it as the inspiration for the striking ‘lepers’ statue, even such minor diseases can have a dramatic psychological impact when causing an epidemic in virgin populations. Baba could have been picked up from either horses or peccaries, and is related to a mild disease that still infects livestock in the Columbias. Red pox was almost certainly picked up from peccaries that probably contracted it from eating some unfortunate voles or raccoons in North Columbia.

    An image portraying the salivation of early onset baba, caused by contact with victims during an epidemic.

    Whatever actually inspired the leper’s statue, they represented the consequences of animal domestication and the greater populations and population interactions those caused. None of them matched the Old World’s Smallpox or Measles for lethality, but they could all still be quite deadly.

    Dandy Fever exacerbated their potential lethality in the tropics. This mosquito-borne disease was in itself not that dangerous. It had 4% lethality, with most of the infected being asymptomatic. Even in these asymptomatic people, however, it could cause a low blood cell count thus depressing the body’s immune system. In most tropical and subtropical areas where it was present year-round, this was not an issue. People would become infected and then immune as children and would be exposed to diseases at a different point in time when their immune system had recovered. During warm years, however, the disease could spread out of its normal range and strike as an epidemic. If combined with an outbreak of another disease, it could make an epidemic far more lethal than normal.

    When it did cause fatalities, dandy fever could be quite dramatic. Fever and muscle pain of the symptomatic disease would give way, more rarely, to seizures, delirium, and mood disorders reminiscent of spiritual possession, but actually symptoms of encephalitis. Once in this phase, the disease was almost always fatal although the tremors and pain could be treated with the bark of South Columbian fever trees. Their use as a medicine would rise due to the widespread presence of dandy fever.

    Ultimately there were fewer diseases in the Columbias than the Old World-the above list is about it for diseases that would affect the Old World. The smaller number of domesticated animals and their later dates of domestication meant that diseases had less opportunity to jump to humans, and so the Columbias had fewer epidemic diseases that affected humans despite having no shortage of candidate germs that could have become lethal diseases.

    The hemorrhagic fevers of South Columbia required dust-bowl conditions to spread, which Columbian agriculture normally prevented from forming by heavy use of soil-enriching legumes. Of the several protean and bacterial parasites in ticks, only one jumped to the much more suitable louse vector. Combined with the cross-reactivity to Old World diseases that occurred in some Columbian diseases, this world would ultimately not be worse off than our world when the disease exchange finally occurred-though it would not be better off, either. Disease casualties would merely be differently distributed. Perhaps there is a world, unknown to either us or the inhabitants of this world, where a much earlier domestication of animals in the Western Hemisphere produced a cornucopia of lethal diseases. When the parallel worlds crossed paths, the resulting disease exchange could have ultimately destroyed civilization in all continents.

    [1] Given his symptoms, our unfortunate friend The Last Man seems to have had this disease. Perhaps his village faced a combination epidemic of tuberculosis and baba.
  10. Chris Triangle I want to be angry

    Jul 29, 2011
    North Carolina
    This is fantastic. You're dealing with all aspects of civilizational development, everything is logical, and you're not going overboard with technological progress. It must have taken you a lot of work to do this.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2012
  11. Delvestius Banned

    Nov 16, 2010
    The Pitt
    This is rad my man.
  12. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    Oh, yes. I have written, deleted, and re-written a whole lot to get to this point (which still isn't perfect-I need to be producing a lot more detail on cultures). As my dad says, to create is to destroy and recreate.

    Thank you!
  13. Timmy811 Member

    Apr 15, 2005
    Loving this time line, it's just great and deserves more recognition. :)
  14. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    I agree entirely, but then again I'm not an unbiased observer.
  15. Sven My mommy is so proud!

    Jul 5, 2011
    You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
    You're doing a terrific job with this timeline, and I've been following along silently.

    I do want to point out one thing here. I worked on a prairie dog project as a summer job several years ago, and I was pretty well-read on all the data about prairie dogs. The thing about livestock breaking legs in prairie dog burrows is almost certainly an urban (rural?) legend: as far as I'm aware, there's never been a verified report of it (and claims are always secondhand).

    Certainly, it's a theoretical possibility for horses to be injured on prairie dog burrows, but, even if it does happen, the evidence suggests that it doesn't happen enough to justify domesticating ferrets to prevent it.
  16. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    Besides which, there are far, far more gophers spread over a much larger geographical expanse than there are prairie dogs.

    Edit. And black-footed ferrets prey only on prairie dogs, not on gophers. Iotl, anyway, afaik.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2012
  17. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    Perhaps one tribe believed they did, much like Western ranchers did IOTL. It wouldn't be the strangest belief about an animal held by people. Might as well turn the myth to the ferret's advantage ITTL.

    Some of the black-footed ferrets imported to the east could very well start to take on gophers-but they're already competing with the local predators. The ferrets who stick to the villages and hunt vermin in the granaries are protected from competitor predators, as the villagers aren't going to be letting coyotes and badgers near their homes. Black-footed ferrets do naturally hunt mice and voles in some areas when prairie dogs are not available.
  18. twovultures Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2010
    South Columbia was home to some of the oldest cities of the world, which had arisen independently of peccary domestication. The urban centers of Caral had developed around 3,000 BC on the arid coasts south of the equator, fed like their northern Valdivia neighbors on seafood and crops like chili. Like everywhere else, the introduction of domestic peccaries had changed the Caral civilization. With a new source of proteins, new towns and cities sprang upriver of the coastal cities, no longer dependent on fish. The environmental situation of the coastal cities degraded, as they were now downstream of polluting urban areas which siphoned off their water.

    Where ecology could not sustain them, economics could. The Valdivian fleet was plying the seas in greater force than OTL, selling peccary leather (which they could make on a greater scale, as unlike the desert cities their herds were not limited to just eating garbage), seashells and food items in exchange for the textiles produced by the Caral civilization. The contact between the two disparate cultures stimulated new changes. The Valdivian people constructed newer and better boats, capable of ferrying larger loads over longer distances. The coastal Caral people began to create a proto-writing system to keep track of the goods the Valdivian people brought in, tying knotted strings together to act as a memnotic device to record the dates and contents of cargoes.


    Although during the formative period commerce and sailing were at their peak in the cities of Caral, other areas of South Columbia were seeing advances in maritime technology. The farmers of South Columbia had shifted to sedentism much faster in this world, and their change in lifestyle was starting to change human destiny. In 2,000 BC, farmers on the northern shores of the Antilles Sea [OTL: Caribbean] began to set out onto the small island chains, hopping from virgin island to virgin island with their crops and livestock. Where in our world these islands were first colonized by small hunter-gatherer communities and did not develop farming until 500 BC, in this world farming would get a very long head start in the Antilles Sea. These farming communities created another base in which maritime knowledge could accumulate, develop, and grow.

    Elsewhere in South Columbia, peccary farming hit its limits even as it helped advance civilization. Although the peccaries did range a little into the temperate plains, the crop package of lowland South Columbia-chilis, manioc, sweet potato, and various fruits-could not survive outside of tropical or subtropical areas. Without the crops vital to farming, domestic peccaries could not leave the warm areas of South Columbia.

    Even within the tropical areas, their usefulness could be severely limited by the environment. Seasonally flooded areas where villages had to move made it more difficult to keep peccaries. Rainforest areas with extremely poor soil that provided little undergrowth for peccaries to forage in also made them less efficient domestic animals. Within a millennium the farmers had bound themselves to the protein provided by livestock, but found that said livestock was having trouble meeting their needs. They needed more domesticates, but no other mammal quite cut it as an addition to the peccary. Deer and tapyrs were too solitary, capybaras too finicky in their diet to serve as efficient livestock, monkeys too difficult to keep contained, the other more specialized peccary species were too aggressive, dogs too inefficient to raise for food and small rodents too small.


    Luckily for these farmers, the choices for livestock did not end in mammals. Farmers had other options to try alongside peccaries, and eventually among the many wild beasts that they kept penned next to the peccaries, they would find a worthy addition to their menagerie. Thus the orthodox schools of history and archaeology of this world teach, that it was frustration with raising peccaries in marginal environments that led to the domestication of the Columbian duck. Those who disagree are laughed out of the academies-for of course, without the peccary to form a basis of knowledge in raising livestock, how would the Native Columbians have ever thought of using ducks for food? Regardless of its origins the duck, along with the turkey and the ferret would join the minor domesticates of the Columbias. These animals were not game changers, but they would enrich the lives of the Columbian farmers who used them.
  19. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    Actually, don't forget the OTL Guinea Pig, used as a food source through much of OTL's south america. Your comment about small mammals being too small didn't work out OTL.
  20. Sven My mommy is so proud!

    Jul 5, 2011
    You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
    I guess it's technically possible, but I'm a skeptic, personally. Cultural beliefs don't seem like very good motivation for animal domestication, in my mind: I think you'd need the animal to fill an important niche (food, clothing, transportation, etc) and demonstrate a real, lasting benefit for it to really catch on and spread.

    If you could make the ferrets into all-purpose verminators, like cats, or even hunting companions, like European ferrets, maybe that would be useful enough to justify it. But, I'm skeptical of the possibilities here, too. But, it's your timeline, and you know what you're doing; so, I won't press the issue anymore.

    Quipu! I wish more people would do stuff with quipu: it's such an interesting and unique thing to consider. Do you think it could be developed into a true "written" language?