The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

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Yagia1
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The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

Post by Yagia1 »

This here is a map of Werra.

Werra is a relatively small continent, surrounded by oceans in the southern hemisphere of the planet Tolouga.
And here ends all similarity with Australia. Werra is unique because a humanoid race survived here that drifted apart some 100.000 years ago. Only in modern times, precisely 598 years back in history, Werra was rediscovered by the 'Seafaring Folk'. It was so hideously different from the world they knew, that they cursed it.
Since then, it was often called 'the coasts of horror'. It was off-limits, taboo. No man ever penetrated in the inland. Those who did, fell prey to unknown diseases for which there was no cure.

Werra is a weird world in itself. Imagine Neanderthal people not extinct, but still living in some corner of the earth, without any contact ever established.

How would the evolution of the Werra people have diverted from the humans elsewhere?
Would it be possible for Werra people to mate with humans, or not?
How would culture and languages develop? What kind of cultures, societies would have originated in isolation?
What would the future bring for the Werra people?
War? Extinction? Or ...

who has an idea?
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Torco
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Re: The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

Post by Torco »

werra looks big enough, so... any kind of culture you want could evolve in it, I think. Okay, not *any*, you're not gonna have a transatlantic slave trade in a single island, but other than that...

the interesting question, methinks, is what kind of humans the werra are, and which of the things we understand to be innate and "species essence" of humans are not present in them. this is an interesting question to explore, but little enough is known about it that there's no strong bounds given by the state of the art in science, say. we don't know in which ways neanderthals (or homo warraiensis) would be different from sapiens, but i can think of a few things.

* apparently a lot of us have neanderthal genes, so warrans might also be somewhat interfertile with regular sapiens. maybe it only goes one way, or it goes different ways depending on the father species, like horses and donkeys.
* even people with big genetic divergences (like a whole extra chromosome, or one fewer) have very similar basic emotional experiences as we: in my highschool class there were two girls with downs (dawns? i always forget) and as far as I could say they got angry, horny, scared, ashamed and sad at much the same things as you and I did. hell, we empathize with entirely other species, like horses, relatively well (or, at least, people who spend a lot of time with them and work with them and have good animal handling skills do), so 'humans but without anger' or something seems unlikely.
* however, even amongst sapiens cognitive predispositions and skills, not to mention scores in multiple intelligences tests, these things all seem to have a big genetic component, so it's not unthinkable that werreans might, say, be much better at spatial reasoning, or have stupidly good reflexes, or all be very strong, like chimpanzees, on account of a different muscular makeout, or maybe they're all in ketosis all the time and don't -or can't- process starches and sugars (this could be if they come from carnivorous chimps, which is the kind of niche shift that happens in isolated islands or after ecological bottlenecks.)
* maybe their minds all are as different as, say, people with deep autism, or with bipolars, or with borderline, or with ADHD, or something? what if they all have amnesia, and their societies are just one big memento fanfic?
* maybe they lack a sense or basic human faculty? like, the isle of the mutes or something. that'd be cool.
* maybe they have different physical needs: this would impact society deeply in some cases: for example, we humans are excellent at dealing with heat and exhaustion but quite bad at dealing with cold while naked, so we have clothes and also extensive systems of social control designed to make us work as much as we physically can. apes that don't come from persistence hunters stock would probably not be able to deal with long hours of physical labour in the same way as we, horses and dogs do, which deeply affects the way society develops: maybe farming is the kind of thing only endurance mammals can get away with, and other humanoids simply don't have it in them to exert their bodies for long periods of time in that way, and so they don't build or farm, and instead do something else: maybe they wouldn't domesticate other endurance mammals, but rather things like birds more readily, who knows.
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Re: The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

Post by Salmoneus »

Yagia1 wrote: 18 Nov 2021 22:35 This here is a map of Werra.

Werra is a relatively small continent, surrounded by oceans in the southern hemisphere of the planet Tolouga.
And here ends all similarity with Australia. Werra is unique because a humanoid race survived here that drifted apart some 100.000 years ago. Only in modern times, precisely 598 years back in history, Werra was rediscovered by the 'Seafaring Folk'. It was so hideously different from the world they knew, that they cursed it.
Since then, it was often called 'the coasts of horror'. It was off-limits, taboo. No man ever penetrated in the inland. Those who did, fell prey to unknown diseases for which there was no cure.
This is still just Australia!

The ancestors of Australians broke away from the rest of humanity somewhere between 50-70k years ago. More generally, modern humans all descend from common ancestors somewhere between 100-500kya (our most recent common grandfather was probably long before our most recent common grandmothers); our closest relatives who are not homo sapiens branched off around 600-800kya.

Australians are basically people, and so are other relatively divergent groups. Indeed, so far as we can tell, non-human people seem pretty much just to have been people too. They made art, they had economies, they almost certainly spoke to one another. Indeed, they were human enough that humans seem to have had sex with them all the time. Well, that's not saying much - the default state of humans is seemingly to have sex with any species that isn't fast enough to run away in time - but they were human enough that their mixed-species offspring weren't killed en masse or kept shunned in their own lazaretti. Which makes sense: compared to people at the dawn of what we might consider modern culture, Neanderthals and Denisovans would only have been slightly more distantly related to human people than the most distantly related humans today are to one another.
Werra is a weird world in itself. Imagine Neanderthal people not extinct, but still living in some corner of the earth, without any contact ever established.

How would the evolution of the Werra people have diverted from the humans elsewhere?
Would it be possible for Werra people to mate with humans, or not?
Again, the Werra people would be far closer to other humans than neanderthals would be; they'd be as close to other humans as some humans today are to one another. In any case, Neanderthals (and other near-human species) could indeed mate with humans, and did so frequently.
How would culture and languages develop? What kind of cultures, societies would have originated in isolation?
The same as anywhere else. 'Isolation' isn't an objective thing, it's only relative to some other group, so it can't affect internal development. Small population size can, but you're talking about a whole continent and 100,000 years to people it, so they would just be the same as the people anywhere else.
Yagia1
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Re: The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

Post by Yagia1 »

Salmoneus said:
the default state of humans is seemingly to have sex with any species that isn't fast enough to run away in time
this might be true (LOL)
Thank you for some useful commentary on my ideas.
So, I gather, IYO it would most likely be the natural course of things for human populations to converge rather than diverge. Yet, the challenge that I wanted to start a discussion about, would be whether or not humans or humanoids would adapt to their respective environment in such divergent ways that it would be impossible in the end to 'bridge the gap': physically or culturally.

Like, for instance, resistance to diseases or adapting one's digestion (in a way that some fruits, plants etc would be edible for one, but sickening or even poisonous to another).

I wonder if there are any ideas about this
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Re: The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

Post by Salmoneus »

Yagia1 wrote: 22 Nov 2021 22:38 So, I gather, IYO it would most likely be the natural course of things for human populations to converge rather than diverge.
No, populations absolutely do diverge, and have done. It's just that it takes a very, very long time for that divergence to be more than cosmetic.
Yet, the challenge that I wanted to start a discussion about, would be whether or not humans or humanoids would adapt to their respective environment in such divergent ways that it would be impossible in the end to 'bridge the gap': physically or culturally.
Yes, that happens; we call it 'evolution'. The problem is, most evolution happens over a far longer time-span than human history!
Like, for instance, resistance to diseases or adapting one's digestion (in a way that some fruits, plants etc would be edible for one, but sickening or even poisonous to another).
Despite what I've said above, relatively small changes like this can happen within human timescales, yes - and have. In terms of digestion, the two famous examples are:

- that descendents of certain pastoralist populations - particularly of proto-indo-europeans - have evolved a genetic abnormality in which the adult human retains the ability to digest milk relatively effectively. This isn't absolute - some individuals in the 'lactose tolerant' genetic group fail to be tolerant, and many have at least some problems with digesting it - and of course the key thing that has allowed this change to be fast-tracked is that babies all (well, not all, but theoretically) have this ability, and evolution has simply selected its retention; this is much easier than evolving a new tolerance from scratch;

- that descendents of early civilised groups, particularly those descending from neolithic agriculturalists of the middle east and europe, have evolved a partial tolerance for high concentrations of alcohol. As a result, these groups can imbibe higher levels of alcohol before becoming intoxicated, and are less prone to developing alcoholism; conversely, the groups that have been most isolated from alcohol-producing agriculturalism (native australians and native americans) are least able to process alcohol. However, this evolution is only partial: alcohol is still deadly poisonous to everybody, it's just that some are able to survive higher doses than others.

In terms of disease, the three most famous examples are probably:

- descendents of people of the easten baltic have evolved abnormally pale skin, in order to counteract vitamin deficiencies stemming from inadequate sunlight combined poor diet (i.e. cereal-based agriculture).

- descendents of people of tropical Africa (and a few other populations either by convergent evolution or by ancestry from early africans, I'm not sure which) have evolved abnormally dark skin, in order to counteract skin cancer risks stemming from excess sunlight, as well as probably the risk of mosquito-borne diseases

- many descendents of people of tropical East Africa have evolved improved resistence to blood-borne infections, particularly malaria, even though this adaptation also increases the risk of anaemia.


And of course more generally the descendents of specific infectious disease survivors often carry superior immune responses to those diseases - this is why measles is much less dangerous today than HIV, even though they have similar effects on the body, and even though historically measles has killed unimaginable numbers.
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Re: The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

Post by Torco »

Yeah, and this extends to some very particular physical capabilites as well: nilotes are pretty tall and lanky, which is good for some sports, ethiopians (and probably just a specific group of ethiopians, i don't know which) seem to be really good at marathons. certain germanic peoples seem to be very tall and burly, and certain west africans seem to have a great capacity to grow into sprinters. these are minor things, but they're examples of what different "fantasy races" <eek!> could differ on.
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Re: The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

Post by Yagia1 »

Thank you Salmoneus and Torco; your comments leave me with some things to ponder upon. Will be continued.
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Re: The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

Post by Salmoneus »

Torco wrote: 29 Nov 2021 22:31 Yeah, and this extends to some very particular physical capabilites as well: nilotes are pretty tall and lanky, which is good for some sports, ethiopians (and probably just a specific group of ethiopians, i don't know which) seem to be really good at marathons.
It's mostly the Oromo, and primarily those from the Arsi province. A lot of the talent is even more specific than that: Derartu Tulu and Tirunesh Dibaba are cousins, and grew up in the same village as Kenenisa Bekele. Although some Oromo runners are from other parts of Oromia. Some of them are also claimed by the Amhara, which should be no surprise - for a long time, wealthy Oromo could become Amhara, while conversely Amhara settlers moved into Oromo lands. Haile Gebrselassie, for example, had an Amhara ancestor 150 years ago (leading to businesses he owned being razed in the anti-non-Oromo riots a few years ago).
That said, there's clearly a broader pool of talent across the region. Zersenay Tadese is from Eritrea; Mo Farah is ethnically Somali. This is more noticeable for women (probably because women's racing is less institutionalised, so talent scouting is more sporadic) - of the three fastest female 10k runners of all time, only one is Oromo (one's from Tigray, and one from the northwest).

Meanwhile, their big rivals are the Kalenjin. Almost all Kenyan and Ugandan long-distance runners are Kalenjin, mostly from the slopes of Mount Elgon. Although the Oromo and the Kalenjin are both east african long-distance runners, they don't physically look closely related. [Kalenjin are Nilotic; Oromo are Cushitic]

There are a handful of other hotspots for long-distance running: Morocco/Spain; Japan/Korea/Northeast China; Mexico; Finland (to a lesser extent the rest of Scandinavia and Britain). Scandinavians/Britons tend more on the middle-distance side; Japanese and Mexicans actually tend to be better at ultra-marathon distances: if our races were long enough, 90% of the winners would be from a particular area of Mexico, instead of particular areas of Kenya and Ethiopia.
certain germanic peoples seem to be very tall and burly
We're not necessarily THAT tall - among the taller groups, yes, but not the tallest (there are also very tall people in northern china, and in both east and west africa). Slavs, meanwhile, are probably burlier, as as some Turks, and of course Polynesians. However, germanic people are unusual in the combination of height, burly strength, AND stamina.

Polynesians, meanwhile, are supernaturally good at rugby, due to their combination of size, strength, and explosive running speed. Although the Fijians are the best at Rugby Sevens. [Fijians have more melanesian heritage than polynesians do; they tend not to be as big or as strong, but to be faster]
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Re: The Werra challenge: questions, questions ...

Post by Torco »

Ooooh, cool. it makes sense, I suppose, that the fields covered by 'what particular ethnic groups seem to be very good at' and 'what sports there are in the 21th century' line up rather randomly, and so some ethnicities are good at marathons while not being the absolute best endurance runners simply cause we don't have a popular sport that's about running 200 kilometers or something.

Also totally true that some germanic peoples are rather normal with regards to height and burl, at least compared to other europeans: britons are no taller than the afrodescendant population of the united states, and they don't have much of a reputation for being large and strong either: I was mostly thinking about the dutch, icelanders and swedes tbh, which are amongst the tallest groups and also well represented amongst powerlifters and strongmen. the polynesians indeed are quite burly, and seem optimized for strenght rather than agility or endurance: iirc they even have some genetic disadvantage with regards to cardiac health. the mapuche here have a bit of a reputation for being not especially strong or tall, but for being extremely hardy to blows and strikes and whatnot, and it seems to be true (though scientific inquiry into this field is of course totally unethical to conduct, what are you going to do, hit people with a robotic stick and measure how hurt they get?)

alas its hard to find good sources on this kind of thing, i tried googling ethnic group and athletic ability and a vast majority of results were about this unscientific category of 'race'.
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