Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Cultures: The Long Heads


Tanah Sunda is home to many amicable people willing to trade with fairness, eager to exchange knowledge and even provide aid to strangers in times of need. But there are also those that are aggressive and warlike in their disposition. Non more than the Long Head people named for the result of the skull binding they practice on their newborn. 
They call themselves the Ngawar and it is said they practice binding in order to attune their minds better to the communications from their gods. Their deities must be filled with bloodlust because it seems that the Long Heads live only for war and conquest. 
The stories of their assaults on peaceful people are countless and so are the rumours of the grizzly consequences for the prisoners of war they capture. Of course one can not be sure of their truthfulness since so few ever manage to escape their clutches. Slavery and human sacrifice are just the beginning of the horrors they are said to inflict on their victims. I will not repeat what else I have heard of their acts as I feel merely uttering the details somehow defiles my very being.
It is said that they once managed to organise themselves under a great leader and conquered many lands before finally being defeated by a great army of allies. Since then they have mostly been confined to more remote areas of Tanah Sunda often quarrelling amongst themselves. Although not a generation goes by without some warlord gathering a large enough army to lay waste to various nearby cities. The potential for them to organise on a larger scale once again is always present and must surely be prepared for, lest the worst happen again.
In battle they favour no particular weapons, short swords, spears, bows and slings are all used by them. Tactics vary from group to group however it can be said that often individuals chase personal glory even at the expense of their fellows. One characteristic that is quite pervasive is the use of various plant derived medicines to alleviate pain and increase bravery and bloodlust in battle.
They are not entirely devoid of culture but most of their efforts in building monuments and temples are rather crude compared to what is found amongst other peoples. Often they are content to repurpose what they capture from others. Like most in Tanah Sunda they have a keen interest in the motions of the stars, although they are not the most sophisticated in their knowledge of the heavens and ultimately it is just another tool to be used for control of the population by the shamans, priests and warlords.  
- An Account of Tanah Sunda by Rishasingra 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Trade: Jade and goods from Sahul

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In those days Tanah Sunda was a centre for commerce thanks to an abundance of commodities and skilled craftsmen. A thousand ships set out from the harbours of the cities powered by oar and sail to bring hard woods, animal hides, metal ore, jewellery and more to any that could afford them. They sailed up the East coast even as far as the land of the Yellow river and returned with jade, precious metals and stones, soft fabrics and exotic animals. A network of commerce spread through the hinterlands through the rivers and roads and many people benefitted from increased demand and industry. - An Account of Tanah Sunda by Rishasingra
No setting is complete without considering what kinds of commodities are traded between cultures. It seems there is a long history of trade in Jade from Taiwan down the coast (it was more valuable than gold and silver in ancient China) so that creates a good reason for sea based trading routes to exist along the East side of Sundaland in our setting.

Perhaps there are pirates lying in wait amongst the thousands of islands of what we now call the Philippines and Sulawesi? Perhaps there are kingdoms and city-states on those islands that extract a tax in exchange for escorts and safe passage? They might also be hubs of trade for commodities from Sahul (the ancient Australia - Papua New Guinea continent) which has been split from Asia for so long (50 million years) that it developed a very different ecosystem.

For example Eucalyptus (Wikipedia: Eucalyptus cultivation and uses) trees are not found on the Asian side of the line, neither are Marsupials and Monotremes. All of these might be of interest to traders.

Wikipedia: Jade in Southeast Asia
Wikipedia: Sahul Shelf
Wikipedia: Wallace Line

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Cultural Archetypes: The World of Xoth

Some scholars claimed that many cities, kingdoms and empires had come and gone in their land, that the history of Tanah Sunda stretched back thousands of years with cultures climbing up from barbarity reaching pinnacles of culture and sophistication before falling in to ruin, whether through war, internal strife, pestilence or other disasters. Perhaps even as punishment from their gods for their arrogance. Across the land one could see the ruins of bygone ages and even how new cities, temples and palaces were built upon the ruins of the old. 
- An Account of Tanah Sunda by Rishasingra
I want to incorporate a bit of Sword & Sorcery flavour into my conception of Sundaland and when researching various settings I discovered an RPG setting called The World of Xoth.

In the free 60 page player's guide which you can download from the site I found six cultural archetypes which can be used to inform the background of your characters. These fit perfectly with my conception of the types of cultures found in Sundaland. See pages 21 to 23 of The Player's Guide to World of Xoth. I wonder if these were inspired by the essay about the The Hyborian Age by the creator of Conan the Barbarian; Robert E. Howard.

If you are at all interested in a coherent and well put together Sword & Sorcery setting I highly recommend checking it out. The black and white artwork alone is very evocative.

I will use these categories to to label various civilisations, cultures and societies in Sundaland.

As an aside, historically the S&S genre sometimes contains veiled or explicit racist ideas. While I don't want to shy away from the ugly side of humanity, in my version of this setting that's something I exclude.

The text below is a direct quote from the Player's Guide to to the World of Xoth. I'm not implying the writer had any kind of racist ideas in mind but I just want to be clear where I stand. The details are adjusted to my conception of the setting.
Savage
Savages include warriors from the frozen north and witch-doctors from the snake-infested jungles of the south. Savages tend to have a close connection with nature, but remain ignorant of many developments that more civilized people take for granted.

Nomadic
Nomads roam the empty wastes beyond the civilized cities; quick to strike and bound by no laws. Nomads live with their animals and usually ride into battle with them; they feel ill at ease without them.  
Civilized
Savages and nomads eventually gather together to cultivate the land, build great cities, develop trade, and study medicine, mathematics and languages. In the civilized lands dwell noble knights, wise kings, and learned sages — as well as greedy merchants and cunning thieves.  
Enlightened
A few great civilizations rise above others and gain half-mythical status. Learned beyond normal men, people of enlightened cultures are builders of cyclopean pyramids and towers that pierce the skies. Their magnificent buildings can last forever, and likewise the flesh of the enlightened ones can withstand the passage of time like no other mortals.  
Decadent
Great civilizations reach their peak and eventually start to decline. Such fallen empires are ruled by jaded nobles, corrupt priests and wicked slave-traders. Demon-worship, human sacrifice and drug abuse is all too common in these cultures. 
Degenerate;
The last survivors of decadent civilizations start to feud over dwindling resources, or are driven away by stronger cultures. Fleeing into the wilderness, or deep underground beneath their ruins, they start to inbreed and devolve into something no longer entirely human. Degenerates may outwardly resemble savages, but they carry the evil taint of fallen empires.

Beasts and Monsters: Cave Hyena



Though many of the great beasts of Tanah Sunda had been slain when the first people conquered the land there are still and abundance of dangerous creatures stalking the land. On the grassy plains and in the lightly forested hills there dwell packs of large Hyenas. They come to waist height of a grown man and are aggressive when disturbed eating or protecting their young. - An Account of Tanah Sunda by Rishasingra

The Cave Hyena can be found on the savannah and in the sparser forests of Sundaland. It lives in caves or in crevices of rocky outcrops or digs dens if there are no natural homes. It lives in loose groups of up to 50 individuals called clans but may go out hunting and foraging as individuals or in smaller groups.

The Cave Hyena is aggressive when disturbed during feeding or when protecting its home and young.

Behaviour Description

Likely to attack aggressively when surprised, especially when disturbed during feeding or when defending its home or young.
25% chance encountered alone
25% chance encountered in a small group of up to 5
50% chance encountered in a group of up to 50

Various articles and images

Wikipedia: Cave Hyena

Wikipedia: Spotted Hyena Insight into the behaviour of modern Hyenas.

Prehistoric Wildlife: Cave Hyena Includes a size comparison to a human.

Cave Hyena: Photorealistic artist impression

Monday, November 12, 2018

Inspiration - Documentary: America before Columbus

Tanah Sunda is a land so vast that one cannot generalise about the living circumstances of its peoples. Some live amongst the deep forests, tending it as a bountiful garden. Others in hive or warren like constructs of stone or clay bricks, sometimes hewn into the rocks while their food sources are various animals and plants they have tamed or keep nearby. - An Account of Tanah Sunda by Rishasingra

Here's a National Geographic documentary that's partly about the people living in America before the arrival of Columbus and the other Europeans.


I took some screenshots from the documentary. These are artists impression of an Amazonian village in a cleared area and an Anasazi town (based on real ruins) in New Mexico. I imagine these are some of the types of societies that exist away from the more developed cultures that build large town and cities.







Thursday, November 8, 2018

Transport in Sundaland

The rivers of Tanah Sunda provide one of the most reliable form of transport especially in the central plains and lowlands. At higher elevations they are not as navigable due to rapids, waterfalls and dense vegetation. There are some paved roads, especially between large towns and cities, but not all of them are well maintained. Some are more than a thousand years old, laid down by kingdoms that had an abundance of labour and resources. Others are merely frequently travelled trails where the vegetation and earth has been worn down over the years. - An Account of Tanah Sunda by Rishasingra
This will probably be my last post detailing the foundations of the Sundaland setting. While I could discuss things like religion, architecture and various cultural practices at a high level I think those are best generated for specific campaigns and adventures or perhaps in collaboration with players in a game. Of course if any of those topics interest you and you're interested in say detailing the cast system of the Classical period in South Tanah Sunda then get in touch!

There are couple of ways people can get around in Sundaland: walking, riding an elephant or having one pull a cart, carried in a Litter (Wikipedia: Litter) or on the water using rafts, canoes and boats powered by paddles, oars and sails.

I think paved roads should be rare especially in the Early period and in mountainous or forested areas. They can be more widespread in the later Classic period in centralised states or large towns and cities, especially in lowland areas.

I've found several maps depicting what the rivers looked like in the area during the last ice age and the consensus seems to me that there are four major networks and watersheds (five if you count the Mekong in Vietnam). The Siam, Malacca, North and East Sunda Systems. I imagine that the smaller tributaries won't be as navigable due to rapids and waterfalls and that traffic in certain areas will be confined to stretches of the rivers. The large rivers in lowlands will have more traffic. Keep in mind that it's significantly harder to travel against the current than down stream.




I found a great website which allows you to find out roughly how long it took to travel around the Roman empire with various means of transport (by foot, horse, by sea, as part of an army etc.) It could be useful to calculate travel times around states and empires in Tanah Sunda:

ORBISThe Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World

I thought there would be many of charts, tables and calculators for transport times online but I only found this one: One Ring RPG: The One Ring: Journeys

Here's a discussion of travel times in pre-industrial worlds: Good Resources For Travel Times

If you know of any, please share them with me, especially anything that includes elephants.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wild Cattle in Sundaland

It seems I have justification for cattle in ancient Sundaland you have it here.

This article reports that a cave painting of a Banteng (wild cattle) is 40,000 years old.

The Wikipedia entry for the animal: Banteng

And an article that goes in to a bit more depth about the animal: 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

No Rice? So what are the food staples?

You never know what kind of topics you'll end up researching when you start world-building. I started wondering if Sundaland had rice paddies and before I knew it I was researching whether cotton grew there. After that my mind returned to whether I should include domesticated animals in my version of the setting.

These questions have far reaching impacts, such as on the size of sustainable city populations and standing armies. Not that I'll be making exact calculations of those but I'd like a rough idea as to whether a city of 10's of thousands of people could even exist and if organised professional armies and centralised states would be possible.

As I was researching these topics I learned that there is a difference between a cultivated food source one that domesticated. Cultivation is the deliberate attempt to sow and manage wild plants. Domestication is when people experiment and consciously select the right seeds to grow for various conditions. You could apply this to animals as well. Creating circumstances to attract certain animals to a place and managing them vs capturing them and selectively breeding them. I've decided that cultivation, besides hunting, foraging and fishing what sustained the Early period which then resulted in domestication and the emergence of the Middle period.

No Rice?

The scientific consensus is that rice was first domesticated in China 8000 to 13,500 years ago: Rice - Asia This lines up roughly with the time period that the floods in Southeast Asia happened. This gives us some wiggle room for our setting. We can imagine rice was domesticated in Sundaland and was then brought by the survivors to China after the floods.

No Cotton

As an aside the earliest use of cotton is dated to 5000 BCE in the Indus valley: Cotton - History. People in Sundaland will have to make their clothing out of other materials such as animal hides. I will do more research into this topic in the future.

What are the staples?

I imagine for carbs people would have to rely on wild growing plants. Things like Lotus RhizomeSagoBananasYamsTaro

As mentioned in other articles the other food sources will be hunting, gathering and fishing. The central savannah and grasslands could provide an interesting setting for the large scale hunting of herbivore while overexploitation of resources around growing cities could provide for interesting plot points in the Classical period. Think of the hypothesis that Mayan societies or those one Easter island collapsed because they overexploited the resources around them.

Pinterest Inspiration Board

Here's an inspiration board where I collect images that evoke some of the aesthetics of Tanah Sunda, places and people.

I'm imagining cultures that are a mixture of Pre-Columbian America, ancient Mesopotamia, India, South-East Asia and Egypt. In a way I'm trying to reverse engineer the progenitors of those cultures.

Tanah Sunda Inspiration Board

What does this land and its people look like in your imagination?

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Fauna and Megafauna of Sundaland

South-East Asia and the Indonesian archipelago have long been some of the most biodiverse regions on the planet so there are plenty of animals to populate Sundaland with. In this article I'll give a brief overview of some interesting species as well as speculate on which ancient megafauna could still have existed when humans lived on the continent.

Obviously since this whole project is an exercise in speculative fiction there's nothing stopping you or I from deciding that the land is filled with unicorns and talking polar bears. But as you can tell by now my preference is for a somewhat realistic approach (realistic enough for me to have fun). I also think that by constraining myself in this way I'll be forced to be more creative and side-step falling on old fantasy tropes and expectations too quickly. I hope the end result will feel realistic but different.

Domesticated Animals

The time period that I'm placing Sundaland in is well before most scientists believe humans started domesticating animals. Cows, goats and sheep were perhaps domesticated at the earliest 7,000 BC. It seems Sundaland will have to do without those staples and rely on wild animals.

There are at the moment only two animal that I can justify as having the potential for being domesticated in this setting. The first is the Banteng (wild cow), more details here: Wild Cattle in Sundaland

The second is Dogs, usually thought to have been domesticated 15,000 years ago but this article says there is now evidence that it happened as early as 36,000 years ago and several times with several different dog and wolf like species: The Origins of Dogs. Update: Here's an article about evidence for dog domestication in Southeast Asia 33,000 years ago: New study places origin of dogs in Southeast Asia. I imagine them being short haired, perhaps looking like the Dingo.



Fauna

Examples of animals Wild Pigs, Wild Water Buffalo, Deer, Monkeys, Tigers, Snakes, Tapir, Crocodiles, the Javan Rhinoceros, Komodo Dragons and the only non-human primate the Orangutan. Here's a great site with an overview of the animals in Southeast Asia: Ecology Asia.

I think the elephant is a particularly interesting animal in a context where few or no animals are domesticated. Elephants can be captured and tamed, to be used as a beast of burden, for transport and for war. Elephants are a revered animal across India and South-East Asia and feature in the religions of the area and I think I'll explore that in the cultures I create for Sundaland.

The area is also known for various kinds of pygmy animals that evolved on small islands. An example is the Pygmy Elephant

In my last post we saw that there was a substantial amount of savannah and tropical grasslands so it may be the case that there were large herds of roaming herbivores and predators similar to what exists in Africa.

Megafauna

Megafauna are large animals and the term is most often associated with the animals that existed during the last ice-age. This was the time of the wooly mammoths in the Northern hemisphere but large animals existed all over the earth. The possible causes of their eventual extinction are climate change, disease and human hunting. I think this mostly happened before the Early period of the setting but I think there's room for the last remnants of these species to be living in remote jungles and mountain areas.

Some interesting species to include:

Striped Hyena
Homotherium: Scimitar-toothed cat
Smilodon: Sabre-toothed cat
Stegodon: Looks like a tusked Elephant
Gigantopithecus: This is an outlier as it went extinct 100,000 years ago, but very interesting.
It was an ape that was possibly 3m tall.

Hominids

Homo Floresiensis could have lived in the area up to 50,000 years ago. The remains of an individual that was 1.1m / 3.7ft tall were found alongside stone tools. And new research shows substantial mingling of Denisovans with Homo Sapiens Sapiens happened perhaps as recently as 15,000 years ago in what is now Papua New Guinea: We may have bred with Denisovans much more recently than we thought.

Biomes of Sundaland

During the last ice age the world was dryer as much of the water was locked up in ice-sheets. Sundaland had a range of biomes, from mountain jungles to swamps and tropical shrub and grasslands.

Here's a vegetation map from WikiPedia of the world during the last ice age. Click the image for a bigger view so you can read the legend.

Ice Age vegetation map




Ice Age vegetation map Eurasia and Africa


Sundaland vegetation map

From a research paper:

Sundaland ecosystem map


The results indicate that central Sundaland, exposed because of lower sea levels at glacial maxima, harbored suitable environmental conditions for Dipterocarpaceae and was probably covered by rainforest

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Name suggestion: Tanah Sunda

User BaronBart suggested the name Tanah Sunda (Sundaland in Idonesian) as the name for the setting.

See: BaronBart: Tanah Sunda

Location: Temple and the surrounding village




Period: Early
Realism Level: Realistic to Low Magic

I'd like to work on this project simultaneously from both the top down and bottom up directions. That way I can quickly generate usable content and allow for players and a degree of randomness to help generate the world. I can keep certain aspects vague and flesh them out later. Here's a location that can provide a springboard into the Sundaland setting. I'll describe it from the perspective of a local.

This is temple of my people, the centre of our world. My parents tell me that it was built over many generations and one of our most important duties is to see that it is maintained and passed on to our children as it was to us. 

Usually it is only the priests and the elders that are allowed to ascend it, in order to carry out rituals and dream quests so that they may communicate with our ancestors and the gods. Often the priests will go up in the middle of the night to watch the stars. They say that knowledge of the past and future is written in them.

We live in the surrounding area of the forest, our homes built to stand away from the ground, to keep us dry when the rains come. The forest provides us with all that we need, the materials to build our homes and tools, the plants to eat and animals to hunt. There are also dangers to watch out for, ferocious animals that will pull a grown man in to the undergrowth never to be seen again. Some say there are also other dangers, immaterial things from the dream world that will drive a person insane.

I've been told by some of the elders that there are other peoples living as we do, they are several days walk away from us. In the past they made war with us and so we are taught to be weary of any one that doesn't wear the clothing and markings of our people. So far I've never encountered any of these strangers but I will make sure never to leave my spear at home in case they dare come back.

This culture lives in the forested highlands of Sundaland, close to deep jungles. The weather is warm and humid the year round. There are roughly 1500 people living in the forest around the temple subsisting on hunting, foraging, fishing and garden cultivation.

The people are lightly dressed but use special headdresses and bodypainting to distinguish their social position and during cultural events. They have basic technology such as clay pottery and basket weaving. Most tools are made from bone or stone but in the past couple of generations they've acquired basic metallurgy skills (it's not clear if they learned themselves or were taught from outside) and are starting to make metal tools and weapons such as spear points and daggers. There is a shallow open pit mine in one of the nearby hills.

The society is somewhat stratified with elders and priests at the top and the best hunters and fighters having an honoured position as well. There are many cultural events that cover spiritual and communal matters as well as for entertainment and educational purposes.

There is no artisan class but the people make wooden and stone carvings and statues at the request of the elders and priests as well as for their own use. Storytelling and singing is an important part of the culture, a way to pass on knowledge from generation to generation. Some of the priests and elders can write and read symbolic writing system but it is a guarded secret and only taught to those deemed worthy.

Inspiration:

Wikipedia: Olmecs
Wikipedia: Maya Civilization
National Geographic: Amazon Jungle Once Home to Millions More Than Previously Thought
Amazon rainforest was shaped by an ancient hunger for fruits and nuts
Hunter-gatherer populations show humans are hardwired for density

Introduction: What and where is Sundaland?

I have travelled to Tanah Sunda many times as an envoy and trader but I am afraid there are not enough life times for me to explore all of its wonders and beauty. It is a land of art, technology and culture the likes of which none has ever existed or ever will. Yet it is also the place of turmoil and war, where various peoples chance at clambering up to heights of power and wealth through diplomacy or violence. Some succeed, many fail. The successful build monuments to commemorate their victories while the vanquished are forgotten in the deep mists of time. In any case, I am sure that this land will shine until the last days as a beacon for all that wish to rise up from our animal states and take our place as people of words and deeds when the final stories of the world are recounted. - An Account of Tanah Sunda by Rishasingra
Sundaland is the name for the Southeast Asian subcontinent that lay between current day Java, Sumatra, Thailand, Malaysia and Borneo. This area was flooded between 20,000 to 5000 BCE* as the last ice age came to an end. In some of my fiction I call this area Tanah Sunda: Name Suggestion: Tanah Sunda.

Archeologists and historians working outside or on the fringes of mainstream academia hypothesise that this area could have been an early cradle of civilisation and perhaps even the real location of the fabled Atlantis.

Imagine a setting where the ancestors of the Egyptians, Sumerians, Harappan as well as the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec came from.

Think of city states in jungles or along rivers, forest gardens and early agriculture, towering temples that priests use to track the motions of the stars and planets.

Economies are simple, based on trading commodities, tools and artefacts, perhaps early forms of currency. Most people are illiterate, literacy is reserved for a select group.

No horses! The main beast of burden is the Elephant. There are hundreds if not thousands of rivers that are traversed with canoes, boats and ships. The people of this land were the ancestors of the great Polynesian navigators who colonised the Pacific all the way to Hawaii and Easter Island.

Religions are polytheistic and regional. Priests and shamans take consciousness altering substances in order to enter trace states and communicate with spirits and gods.

Societies rise and fall within hundreds of years, cities are swallowed up by the jungle then built on top of by their successors. Cities allow for specialisation and division of labour but also lead to decadence, overextension and overuse of resources.

A touch of Sword & Sorcery. If the gods are real they are capricious and need to be appeased. There's no good or evil as we know it today. Might usually makes right. If magic exists it's mysterious and hard to control. There are possibly monsters or the last remnants of ice-age animals in the deep jungles and high mountains. And perhaps strange ancient races of humans or even non-human sentient species.

This blog is a place for me to collect fictional content for entertainment purposes, mainly role-playing games, using accurate and real information about this time and place for inspiration. However it's not my intent to present an archeological or anthropological investigation. Where I see fit I will set aside reality if it gets in the way of my fun. I do however present many scientific resources because truth is often stranger than fiction and there is a lot of evidence pointing towards this part of the world being important in the history of our species.

It is also not my intention to recreate or be in any way faithful to any of the cultures or civilisations that existed in the area in recorded history. Though I do look to them for inspiration (see the blogroll for links). The people that lived in this area during the 15th century need not have any more in common with people living during the last ice age than we do with with the people that lived in our home town 15,000 years ago.

Needless to say I think this sunken sub-continent could be a great setting for RPGs. A time and place that will make a refreshing change from the standard Northern European fantasy tropes.

I also take a lot of inspiration from the OSR community in that I'm not looking to fill in all the blanks. Because I don't want to make people feel like they have to read up on lore and history in order to use what I've created. Instead I want to create a framework and tools that will leave people feeling empowered to create their own version of this setting.



I'll assume that anatomically modern humans inhabited the area from around 70,000 BCE (Wikipedia: Peopling of Southeast Asia) and that advanced civilisations developed and existed up until around 14,000 BCE when the sea level first began rising. That's around 56,000 years for civilisations to develop, rise and fall perhaps culminating with a technology level similar to classical Greece and Rome and perhaps with even further developments in certain domains, an Atlantis type of civilisation. Remember, unlike in many fantasy worlds with histories spanning tens of thousands of years, in real life great empires rose and fell in the span of a couple of hundred years.

I imagine there being six different periods but there's nothing to say that this cycle didn't happen several times over. Between the time of the Egyptian pyramids and the present day is 'only' a span of 5000 years after all.

1. Optional pre-human period. The time of elder gods and species.

2. Stone Age: Humans move in to the area (Homo Sapiens Sapiens and perhaps Denisovans as well?)

3. Early Period: Early civilisations. City-states and small nations similar to the Bronze and Iron Age societies. Think of Sumer, ancient Egypt, Harappan and Minoan civilisations. These are sustained by basic horticulture and agriculture and have early forms of centralised government or palace economies, bureaucracy, religion and trade between cultures. Perhaps an early golden age.

4. Middle Period: Period of alternate stability and turmoil after the early golden age. Wars, famine, ecological collapse, abandoned cities but also the birth of new societies and cultures built on the remnants of the past. Some rise and fall with a couple of hundred years, others last one or two millennia. Think of how Mesopotamian and central American civilisations rapidly followed each other. Lots of changes, lots of opportunity.

I think this potentially the most interesting period as a player and a creator. There is a lot of scope for societies with different levels of technology and cultural sophistication, there are many mysteries to investigate and challenging circumstances to deal with.

5. Classical Period: The height of the civilisation before the big floods. Perhaps there are nation states and empires, standing armies, a layered bureaucracy, intricate trade networks, complex government and religious institutions.

Societies that would lay the foundation for the Atlantis myths right before the big floods sweep everything away and the survivors scatter around the globe to China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, North and South America.

I think of this as the most stable period. Perhaps there is an empire or state that spans the whole continent, or there are a set of large states that engage in occasional warfare. On the whole there is enough peace and stability to allow culture and technology to flourish.

6. Apocalypse Period: The floods begin and civilisations and societies start to descend into aggressive competition and wars. It's an apocalyptic period where civilisations are under extreme stress, sometimes even collapse with consequences similar to what brought an end to the golden age. However this time the subcontinent is submerged under water due to a series of floods that last from around 15,000 BCE to 5,000 BCE*. Finally many inhabitants flee the area to seed civilisation across the world.


To provide another layer of structure and guidance my content will fit in one of three magic / fantastical levels.

1. 'Realistic'

Content that tries to be historically realistic but adjusting things where necessary to make a fun environment. No magic, no mystical species (no elves, orcs and dwarves but perhaps some early human species), appropriate technology levels. If I need to fudge some aspects to make the environment more fun and engaging then I will.

2. Low Magic and Fantasy

A magic and fantastical level equivalent to a Swords and Sorcery setting such as Conan the Barbarian. There is magic in the world but it is rare and dangerous. There are monsters and demons but they are unique and not something commonly encountered in day to day life.

3. High Magic and Fantasy

Magic is more common in the world, gods are real and present in people's lives. Perhaps there are fantastical species (but still no Elves, Orcs, Dwarves or Dragons) and numerous monsters. Technology levels might reach the level of renaissance or early steam technology.

My current preference for this blog is to explore the Middle period with low magic and fantasy elements.

Some resources that first inspired me to create this setting

Atlantis in the Java Sea: A great overview of the Sundaland civilisation hypothesis (10 - 15 minute read)

Eden in the East: Drowned Continent of South East Asia: Comprehensive overview of the hypothesis that in particular explores genetic and linguistic evidence.

Magicians of the Gods: The Forgotten Wisdom of Earth's Lost Civilisation: I first encountered Sundaland in this book. It's principally about the proposition that civilisation began much earlier than mainstream academia believes and how there is evidence around the world of a cataclysm that destroyed it scattering its people across the globe. Sundaland doesn't feature heavily but is more focused on the background and surrounding evidence.

*The dates for when the floods first started are different from source to source, some say 20,000 years ago, some say 16,000. They're mostly consistent in that that there are considered to be several sea level rises over the course of a couple of thousands years. Read more here: Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis