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Fantasy timelines and 1500 years

James Nicoll recently seemed to recommend Tekumel. I've known of this for a long time, but never gotten into it. Someone linked to tekumel.com and I started reading its history... then stopped, it wasn't that exciting to me. But it's got the common huuuuuge numbers. The world was settled 60,000 years after our present, time passed, disasters happened, now the 'currently' oldest written records are 25,000 years old. I read something about how some century was full of specified events, then the next 500 years were full of petty infighting.

Not unique to Tekumel. Game of Thrones has 12,000 years of alleged history. Eberron has hundreds of thousands of years, maybe millions. Dragaera has 250,000 years.

On the one hand I would like to believe in the longevity of intelligent beings, so at some point you 'need' deep timelines, but I feel they also fit science fiction and far speculation better, rather than fantasy stasis. And either way, authors will have trouble filling the time plausibly.

Tolkien's comparatively modest, with 6500 years since the Noldor returned to Middle Earth, and 1400 years for the Shire. Exalted has 5000 years since the Primordial War, and only about 750 since almost everyone died and half the world dissolved into chaos.

Then there's Glorantha, which in the RuneQuest III box set, is introduced at the end of its Third Age, 1500 years after the invention of Time itself. There's overlapping and contradictory myth stuff 'before' that, but actual history is 1500 years. (I'm assuming they started with writing, from the myth/hero age.) No wonder they're still using bronze! I don't know that much about the history, but the second age was dominated by two magically powerful empires, that lasted for some centuries. And not millennia.

In the real world, the oldest written symbols are from about 3500 BC, but the oldest coherent texts from 2600. Those are about earlier times, somewhat, so let's say history starts around 3000 BC. What does 1500 years get us?

In Mesopotamia, the Sumerians have come and gone (though Sumerian remains a literary language, alongside daily Akkadian), and Hammurabi of Babylon was a few centuries ago. Iron and the Bronze Age collapse are a few centuries in the future.

In Egypt, both the Old and Middle Kingdoms have passed. The pyramids are ancient history to Egyptians.

I don't know anyone else for that period. Advancing to the 'historical' eras of other places: 1500 BC to 1 BC in Greece gets you the high Bronze Age and Myceneans, Bronze Age Collapse, dark age, whatever happened that became the Trojan War stories, Homer, weird art most people don't know about, the Classical period, the Hellenistic Age, and conquest by Rome.

Rome itself only starts around 750 BC, 1500 years takes us to 750 AD. So kingdom, Republic, Empire, fall in the west and displacement to the east, the rise of Christianity, the advance of Islamic Arab armies. Dark Ages and Charlemagne in the West, well past Justinian in the east.

In China, 1600-100 BC covers the Shang, Zhou, Warring States, Confucius and other philosophers, Qin, and Han. Okay, so most of us probably don't much about those periods beyond museum pieces, still the names suggest change. 100 BC to 1400 AD covers the Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, and Ming, and the invention of much of what we consider "Chinese": civil service exams, porcelain, paper, gunpowder, the compass, printing...

The history of England is about 1500 years if you count from when Roman support left and the Anglo-Saxons showed up. From 1066, not quite 1000 years.

Japan barely even *has* 1500 years of written history; we can go back to some Chinese mentions in the 200s, or spotty Kofun era records before 500.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/454488.html#comments


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 19th, 2016 07:38 pm (UTC)
Game of Thrones
In GoT/SoIF, it isn't clear if the old age is actually accurate. In the later books, hey mention explicitly that their massive gaps in the histories about the Wall. It isn't clear if Martin planned this out from the beginning or if he just realized midway through writing that the age wasn't plausible.

Also, from a historical standpoint, we did have periods of hundreds of thousands of years of near stasis, but once we got agriculture things started speeding up, and once we got to the bronze age things really started speeding up. The real problem isn't stasis but stasis in comparatively high technology levels.

Incidentally, have you read the Schooled in Magic series? There's a relevant bit about this but the payoff takes 10 books to get to.
Sep. 19th, 2016 07:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Game of Thrones
Yeah, I've heard of Martin's potential retcon there. OTOH I have the impression that the Long Night is attested as 8,000 years ago in both Westeros and Wessos. Could be wrong.

And yeah, Paleolithic human hunter-gatherers are like 100,000 years or more, but most timelines aren't including that. Or at least, do include similar times of much busier societies, as you say.

I haven't heard of that.
Sep. 19th, 2016 08:51 pm (UTC)
having just done the DNA test, our modern humans can only go back about 100,000 years in some lines.

I have also noted that they are counting cave art as written records since it took thought and motivation to do it.
Sep. 20th, 2016 07:52 pm (UTC)
Indus valley civilization has come and gone btwn ca. 3500 and ca. 1400 bce. still can't read the script, if it is one.

Neval Cori and Gobekli Tepe had been lost to time more than 3000 yrs before 3000 bce. but no script to even puzzle over.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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