Lost Civilizations of the Greater Continent
The Greater Continent on Aren, and the surrounding land masses, are home to many strange and enigmatic ruins. Among them, many distinct lost civilizations have been identified, about which virtually nothing is none. This section will document a few of them. All of these civilizations are known or thought to pre-date the Dynastic Period, and many are known to have been wiped out by the Marcon Alliance.
- 1 Direct Evidence
- 1.1 Canton H Culture, Iami
- 1.2 Fluted Colonnade Culture, Iami
- 1.3 Standing Column Culture, Geth
- 1.4 The Works of the Old Masons, Greater Continent
- 1.5 The Builders of Roads
- 1.6 Sunken Cities of The Blue Sea
- 1.7 The Old Miners
- 2 Discovered in Secondary Sources
- 3 See Also
Canton H Culture, Iami
In Iami, spread across the Maze grasslands and the Highlands, exist traces of an ancient civilization dubbed "Canton H" for the large earthwork-structures that define the ruins. The name derives from the first undisturbed site excavated, the 8th such berm documented during initial surveys. Canton H is especially strange because, while thought to have existed during the First Chaotic Period, the earthworks they left behind show no signs of defensive purpose.
Rather, they would build long, wide berms, usually straight but sometimes in the shape of a capital T. There are signs that the berms were at the center of villages, and some indication that wattle and daub round houses were built around and on top of them. It is thought the berms formed some ceremonial purpose, but no concrete evidence of the culture survives. Very few artifacts have been found, displaying unusually primitive workmanship when compared to the scale of the earthworks (which are sometimes miles long, thousands of feet wide, and perfectly flat and straight). No traces of metal tools have been found at all, nor any signs of agriculture. The denizens of Canton H. used flint and stone tools.
However, they were highly organized and in possession of a widespread, unified culture. The most curious aspect of the Canton H sites is the lack of any evidence for warfare. At all of the sites examined, no sign has been found of spearheads, sling shot, or defensive fortifications. Small arrowheads, as would be suitable for hunting small game, as well as flint knives, have been discovered, but no evidence for weapons.
The exact age of Canton H. is difficult to determine, but thought to be during the Age of Darkness. The more telling aspect is the way in which it relates to the other ancient civilization in Iami. The funerary practices of Canton H were the use of urn burials and stone cairns, some of which can still be seen today. Curiously, they did not appear to build cemeteries, making it uncommon to find any more than a few burials in a large area.
Fluted Colonnade Culture, Iami
Beside, and sometimes on top of Canton H is the Fluted Colonnade Culture, so named for the distinctive fluted stone columns found at many of the sites. This culture is perhaps even more enigmatic that Canton H. While the nature and purpose of the ruins left behind is far easier to discern, it is the lack of accompanying evidence which makes the remains so puzzling. Several concourses of colonnades have been found all over the continent in a distinct and well-developed style, but no record of their builders. No villages or structures of the same style; indeed no sign habitation for miles around any of the sites, at least none that can be conclusively dated to the same timeframe as the colonnades. Radiocarbon dating seems to show that all of the colonnade sites were constructed within a relatively short time frame somewhere between 3300 and 3600 B.G.A..
In stark contrast, all of the sites attributed to Canton H were abandoned by 3700 B.G.A., and no sign of a transition has ever been found. The Colonnade sites are religious or ritualistic in nature, with some theorizing they may have magic properties. Unfortunately auramancers studying the sites have not been able to find anything.
Standing Column Culture, Geth
In Geth there exist hundreds of sites defined by free-standing stone columns. Many outline buildings that have since collapsed, or are partially buried. The layout and size of the columns indicate a cohesive culture builting in the same style, and based on maps of some of the sites they likely held a ritual signficance. Unfortunately, no systematic investigation has ever been published, and may of the better-preserves sites were destroyed during Geth's tumultuous history. Several statues of a strange fishlike idol have surfaced in the hands of private collectors over the years, all claimed to have been bought on the black market and looted from illegal excavations on Geth. The Marcon Alliance also left its mark on the island nation, so without serious examination it is impossible to piece together anything about this mysterious culture.
The Works of the Old Masons, Greater Continent
In the region north of High Mountain, a great many curious stone works have been discovered in most unusual places. Of course given the highly complex history of the region, it is impossible to attribute all of these to some lost progenitor race, but there are a few particularly enigmatic points.
Finds described as the "Works of the Old Masons" are defined by unusually high quality, displaying a degree of precision very difficult to replicate without advanced tools, and found in places where either no culture with these capabilities is known to have existed, or were never inhabited at all.
Another peculiar point, aside from the high quality, is the purpose for which they were used. One enigmatic example shows very high-quality stonework around a well, which indicates a high and well-developed culture. The amount of work needed to create such a construction would not have been wasted on a well, unless much greater works existed in the area which have not survived.
Greater Continent Megaliths
Possibly created by the same hand are numerous megalithic sites dotted all over the continent but most frequently found north of High Mountain. Often mistaken for standing stones, these are carefully hewn statues forty to eighty feet in height, always carved from a single stone. On occasion, signs of the block having been quarried nearby can be identified, but as often as not the origins remain a mystery.
Of particular difficulty is the weathering of the stones. Many primary and secondary sources from the First Chaotic Period tell of the statues appearing old, but still bearing clearly recognizable features. They were all of armored knights, most carrying weapons; and some accounts tell of astonishing levels of detail. However, by the Golden Age many of the best examples had been destroyed or were otherwise located in now remote and inaccessible regions.
Further still was the mythology surrounding them. While clearly ancient in origin, many had become the subject of local folklore which, when mixed with actual events, provided credible stories about their origins. This led to the few megaliths located in easy-to-reach places to be dismissed or wrongly attributed to Dynastic civilizations until long after the most important details had faded away.
It was not until the publication of the Accepted Histories and the wide scale tabulation of ancient written records that the pattern emerged, and over 100 megaliths predating the dynastic era were identified. Of them, only 40 still existed, and of these few features were still evident. Dozens more would eventually be discovered, but the information was simply lost. The largest unanswered question was whether or not the megaliths showed a preponderance of form, or were copied from each other and adapted to the local style. The direction the statues are facing could also have been useful, but aside from rough guesses about front and back no information is known.
While the megalithic soldiers have been positively identified as artificial in origin, many theorists speculate a connection to the more controversial Doldrome Heads found in the same region.
The Builders of Roads
Several long and well-constructed stone roads have been discovered across the Agras Plains. Some link modern and ancient settlements, but others do not. These are all built in a similar style and made to last for ages, but no cohesive civilization ever covered the entirety of the region in which they were found. The roads are also described in many surviving accounts from the First Chaotic Period, indicating they are far older than the other civilizations in the region.
Sunken Cities of The Blue Sea
In the shallow waters of the The Blue Sea region near Narano, thousands of submerged ruins have been discovered, including over a hundred cities and a network of roads. Some are at depths of over two thousand feet. Artifacts recovered from the various ruins indicate there may have been as many as three distinct cultures. While some stones and statues with inscriptions have been discovered, they have not yielded enough to provide a successful translation. No large quantities of writing widely-disseminated writing has been found that could shed light on who lived there.
Some similarities have been observed between the Fluted Colonnade Culture in Iami and the Square Circle Temple Culture found beneath the Blue sea. However, mainstream researchers state that the sunken ruins are too badly weathered to provide more than a very rough match. The layout of the Colonnades is simply not distinctive enough to prove any more than coincidental similarities. The Square Circle Temple Culture may be the oldest of the three distinct groups, as its ruins, largely exposed on the sea floor, show significant signs of weathering both before and after being submerged.
The Pyramid 7 culture, so named for one of the submerged pyramids, has better preserved ruins. However much of the layout and patterns of their cities has been derived from sonar scans of the areas around the preserved ruins. The real state of preservation is unknown due to the depth and difficulty of underwater archeology.
The ruins of the unimaginatively named Round House Culture are much more difficult to examine, and many researchers have suggested these were merely the minor outlying agricultural regions of the other two cultures. The Round Houses used waddle and dab construction and all remnants are in a very poor state of preservation. However dozens of sites have been identified by the terminus of roads. Dredging at the site has brought back fragments of pottery and stone artifacts. It is believed however the over-all state of technology may have been more advanced, with metal tools simply not surviving.
Dating and Origin of the Ruins
No written record of the region being above water exists. The earliest known accounts, found in the history of Zathra indicate the region had been floored at least by the establishment of High Tower. Nothing in the mytho-history or oral traditions of Zathra or the Narano indicates there was ever a well-developed culture there. Inded, the entire history of the Narano focuses on the Solollo River and Nara River basins.
Scientific dating based on radiometric decay has also been attempted, but has yielded wildly different results. Despite rigid experimental protocols, suitable samples obtained from well-established sites have failed to produce any sort of acceptable date. In the Second Age, one particular test was preformed on pieces of wood recovered from what was believed to be a tomb located in one of the pyramids from the Pyramid 7 Culture. All 5 fragments were believed to be from a lacquered sarcophagus. Two yielded a radiometric dates of less than 500 years old, two more came back with dates 3,000 years apart but from a time when the temple was known to be underwater, and the fifth returned a result that would indicate it was from the future. Other tests came back with dates tens of thousands of years old, of band for the testing methods being used. One study found evidence of vitrification, or sustained high heat, on some of the submerged structures, which could indicate the use of atomic weapons at some point in the region's long history. This would also throw off any attempts at radiometric dating. Enough information to produce a reliable test simply does not exist.
The origins are an even greater problem. While the Blue Sea has a relatively shallow mean depth of around 300 feet, with the deapest points dropping off to as much as 5,000; once one reaches the edge of the continental shelf which forms the boarder with the great Northeastern Sea, the drop off is rapid and substantial. Average depth of the Northeastern Sea, with no islands between the Blue Sea and Yanomano. There is no evidence for any sort of natural barrier that may once have held back and the sea, and no indication anywhere else that the sea level may once have been low enough for this region to be above water. Of course unknown magical means could have existed, but where and when is a mystery.
The Deep Blue Library Incident
There was one major opportunity to solve the mysteries of the sunken cities. In A.Y. 2402, marine archeologists discovered at a depth of nearly 500 feet, the well-preserved ruins of an ancient library. This library contained tens of thousands of tablets, made from fired clay, stone, and even metal. It was reported to be 'The Find of the Age' and was thought that it would soon solve the riddle of the Blue Sea.
The archaeological team involved made the find at the end of summer, and were not able to recover any of the tablets. Some managed to be photographed, but the negatives were stolen. When the team returned the following season, no trace of the ruins could be found. The entire site - a well-known and well-established one - was now just a sandy sea bed.
That same winter, hundreds of wet-navy ships of the Crimson Blade were sites in the region, many more than were usually present(as the Foundation had no bases and no influence in Narano. Along with it were several mobile drilling rigs. The Foundation claimed the mission was for oil and natural gas exploration in the area (already well-known to be practically devoid of fossil fuels). While the fleet was spread out, other boats were prohibited. However, civilian flyovers did report significant activity at the site of the library find.
The Foundation never admitted culpability, but made numerous donations all over the region. While no proof has ever been found, it seems clear the Foundation took the library and associated ruins. Many attempts have been made to force them to admit to this, but the official line remains the same. However, a leaked white paper circulated around a thousand years after the event which hinted at the language having been deciphered.
At the time of the initial discovery of the library, researchers who saw the tablets claimed the script on them was similar to that of the Ancients, which was not deciphered until the Sixth Age. This contradicts the white paper, as well-established sources state the Foundation could not translate Ancient during the Third Age.
The Old Miners
In the mid Golden Age, prospectors exploring a remote section of the Barrier Range not known to have ever been inhabited, chanced upon a rich gold seam and began mineral exploitation. What they found, however, defied all explanation or logic.
Mining technology of the time was still fairly primitive and the region remote, so a great deal of effort had to be undertaken in order to begin extracting the ore. A railway was constructed and a town built, and hard rock miners began tunneling into the seam. It was expected at the time to yield a considerable load, just the exposed portions indicated a very sizable discovery had been made.
However, the first tunnel penetrated just a few hundred feet into the cliff-side before breaking through into a pre-existing (and abandoned) mine. The workings antedated any sort of modern technology, having been dug entirely by hand and apparently with stone and wooden tools. Extensive bracing as well as ingenious mining equipment (such as contra-rotating reverse-waterwheels to drain flooded sections). The workers mapped over a hundred miles of tunnels, some extending thousands of feet underground.
Tailings and surface entrances were eventually located, but no signs of settlement. A mine of that size would have needed a labor force in the tens of thousands, in turn requiring a very large population to support, no trace of which was ever found. The spoils piles were examined, and found that the gold was extracted from them by an unknown yet highly efficient method.
Discovered in Secondary Sources
No direct evidence exists for these civilizations, but they are described in writings. In most cases, only the location is unknown, but the general region might be.
Described as being "to the northwest of Sindall", Cadolonima was said to be a powerful coalition of city states, with Mage Towers and a standing army that fought many campaigns across the lowland regions. Numerous accounts survive most especially in the histories of Rowen. Most historians place Cadolonima in modern-day Korrinth, but Rowen sources indicate it was further south, though that would place it in either Sindall or the Brutish Sea.
Cadolonima is unique because, unlike many of the other lost civilizations, there are some direct sources. Thousands of documents bound into folios were found in the Library of Arindell proport to be from Cadolonima, and tell of a rich culture that may have been one of the earliest constitutional monarchies.
The Sea People
In the records of Sun's Beacon (the best-preserved ancient documents outside of Arindell) tells of a group called only "the sea people" who carried out raids on coastal settlements up and down the Sword Coast. Their origins and home are unknown, but was not any of the islands that today dot the Brutish Sea. It would be easy to write them off as simple pirates, but the records talk about them as a distinct culture, and draw a distinction between normal pirates and those belonging to the Sea People. Accounts describe them using well-built ships in an established style, indicating they had a home somewhere. Many theories have been put forth as to where they originated.