ME races and anthropology

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Kortoso
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ME races and anthropology

Postby Kortoso » Wed Oct 19, 2016 6:29 pm

Trying my hand at founding a new discussion.
This is an old one for LOTR fans, but I think would be entertaining here.
This can start it off:
The Lost World of Neanderthals, Hobbits, and Other Hominins
Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo erectus, Homo floresiensis, all living side by side. Is this familiar to LOTR fans? :mrgreen:
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Elleth » Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:10 am

ha!

Honestly, I think there's room for a great epic set in that time. The pre-historical era of Europe sounds fascinating. As much as I enjoy Udwins theory that LOTR is essentially that with medievalish set dressing, a straight telling would be grand.
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Mirimaran » Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:17 am

I wonder if Gobekli Tepe would be Rivendell then :)

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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Kortoso » Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:34 pm

I'm pretty sure we would regard a tribe of Homo erectus as an army of orcs.
Image
That's an actual reconstruction.
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Udwin » Fri Oct 21, 2016 1:15 am

Is this our fellowship?
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby SierraStrider » Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:18 pm

I've actually speculated about this a lot--probably too much. I've always come at it from sort of the other direction, envisioning a naturalistic origin story for the races of Middle Earth.

First, we have the mortal men, doomed to die. Homo sapiens mortalus is a bit grim, so perhaps Homo sapiens procerus, the tall man.

Evidently the most closely related species to man appears to be their gracile cousins, Homo sapiens aetheriensis. Indeed, as the two species names imply, they're not truly distinct species but rather sub-species of Homo sapiens, since they can produce viable offspring (Elrond Halfelven sired Arwen, proving that he was not a sterile hybrid). There is a huge amount of species dimorphism here, not so much in physical appearance, but in longevity and psychology. I've always thought the closest naturalistic explanation for elves would be something like humanoid cetaceans, with their longevity, complex songs and apparent lack of need for sleep.

It is difficult to say whether hobbits would be a third subspecies of Homo sapiens or a distinct species of their own; while the lore of Middle Earth says that halflings are relatively close kin to men, there seems to be little to no interbreeding. An appropriate scientific name would be homo dimidius, the Half-Man. If they are indeed a subspecies, it might be the half-wise man, Homo sapiens semis, which plays satisfyingly into semi-wise, or in Tolkien's Old English wordplay, Samwise.

In nature, we often witness speciation into "gracile" and "robust" varieties, and the Men of Middle Earth are no different. The robust and bearded Homo troglodytes, Cave Man, is evidently a distinct species from Homo sapiens. They live largely underground and consequently have very compact frames and impressive strength. Their reproductive habits are a pure mystery. Though I can't imagine it's what Tolkien intended, I've often thought that it would be interesting if Dwarves' commonly alluded to lack of sexual dimorphism went so far that Dwarvish lacked gendered pronouns, and that even dwarves who refer to themselves as male in the Westron tongue might be anatomically female. If an indeterminate number of Thorin's company weren't actually male in the human sense, I think it would make for a much more interesting feminist angle on The Hobbit than the Tauriel romance did.

Moving on from that digression, we now leave the hominid races and look at the hominins in the story.

Lupites lupites, the true goblin, is a mostly subterranean species. I like to envision them as eusocial like ants or naked mole rats, with male and/or sterile female "workers" making up the majority of a goblin host and a hidden reproductive caste of queens hidden from view.

Lupites bellator, or the common orc, differs from their gracile cousin in that they are predomenantly superterranean, though still nocturnal.

There is also the extremely large Lupites praegrandis, or troll.

It may seem improper to place the goblinoids in their own genus since there are noted examples and possible examples of hybridization between these species and men in the books. However, we have no indication that these examples are reproductively viable, and there are extant examples of hybridization between disparate genera in real life (sheep and goats).



Obviously there's a lot of room for differing interpretation here. Other possible organizations that would fit would be placing dwarves in the same genus as goblins, given their similar anatomy and lifestyle--indeed, I've always thought the description of orcs seemed like a propaganda cartoon version of dwarves. Alternatively, elves and goblinoids could share a common lineage distinct from the hominid races, which would fit the legend that Melkor made orcs as twisted versions of elves--though the reproductive viability of elves and men wouldn't fit this. The way it's described in the books makes no sense from a naturalistic perspective, anyway.

As for the idea that the Third Age is a neolithic setting with medieval set dressing, I find it interesting and broadly plausible--but not necessarily in Europe. The cities are the problem. You don't get a Minas Tirith in neolithic Europe prior to metallurgy, but you do in the Americas...
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Elleth » Fri Oct 21, 2016 3:04 pm

Oh, those cities are under water now. ;)
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby SierraStrider » Fri Oct 21, 2016 5:19 pm

Elleth wrote:Oh, those cities are under water now.


Could be. It occurs to me that there would be some serious issues with Middle Earth being in the Americas--for example, no horses. Though of course, "horse" could be a poor transliteration. I kind of dig the idea of Olmec Gandalf galloping across the plains of Mesoamerica on Shadowfax, llord of all llamas.
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Udwin » Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:28 pm

SierraStrider wrote:As for the idea that the Third Age is a neolithic setting with medieval set dressing, I find it interesting and broadly plausible--but not necessarily in Europe. The cities are the problem. You don't get a Minas Tirith in neolithic Europe prior to metallurgy, but you do in the Americas...


...except for the many, many references throughout Letters to Middle-earth being a fundamentally European story. This, especially:
In any case if you want to write a tale of this sort you must consult your roots, and a man of the North-west of the Old World will set his heart and the action of his tale in an imaginary world of that air, and that situation: with the Shoreless Sea of his innumerable ancestors to the West, and the endless lands (out of which enemies mostly come) to the East. Though, in addition, his heart may remember, even if he has been cut off from all oral tradition, the rumour all along the coasts of the Men out of the Sea.” (No. 163)


The next-to-last-point is simply due to the geographical fact of the Eurasian landmass. You can't really do that in the Americas (I have a pet theory on the cognitive dissonance in Euro-Americans caused by the East-to-West movement of the American frontier conflicting with a Western-European cultural headspace in which the Enemy comes from the East...unrelated to present topic however).
Also there's the fact that as far as we currently (and are likely to) know, the Americas have only ever been home to one species of the genus Homo.
As for a Neolithic MT, yes, we can't have one as it is described in the books (or in the neolithic of actual history), but as an exaggerated proto-hillfort I think it works quite well...perhaps it only had three walls and gates instead of seven?
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Kortoso » Mon Oct 24, 2016 8:18 pm

Interesting!

For what it's worth, science is still divided on whether Neanderthals should be counted as a separate species or as a sub-species, since there was obviously successful interbreeding.
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby caedmon » Fri Oct 28, 2016 9:44 pm

Obviously, proof of a lost Numenorean Outpost.

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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby caedmon » Fri Mar 20, 2020 4:53 pm

And more information on the Mythic Neolithic. Here's a neolithic Meduseld.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/60-mammoths-house-russia-180974426
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Iodo » Fri Mar 20, 2020 6:02 pm

Interesting, thanks for the link :P
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Will o’ the Wild » Sun Mar 22, 2020 3:36 am

This is great stuff! Has anybody ever read the Harry Turtledove trilogy the Opening of the World? In the general area of the subject, but more like “fictional Iron Age empire along with sort of Neolithic hunters meet mammoth riding badasses and their sorcerer pals” or something like that.
I would love to read epic fiction about the world the Taklimakan mummies inhabited. And what about all the places Tamerlane just wiped off the map? Anything could have been happening there and we wouldn’t know it now. And all those folks that streamed west til they slammed into the British Isles, what were they running from? (I know it’s likely they were just doing what people always have-taking over what they could. But I like to imagine there was a zombie/demon outbreak in Eastern Europe/Western Asia)
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Re: ME races and anthropology

Postby Udwin » Sun Mar 22, 2020 1:28 pm

I
Will o’ the Wild wrote:I would love to read epic fiction about the world the Taklimakan mummies inhabited.


Oh absolutely. I find the Tarim Basin mummies SOOOooooo intriguing. IndoEuropean (Tocharian) speakers in western China?? So many questions! And from what I've found (probably because they're in China), nobody has done a detailed reconstruction of them and their culture. Argghh!
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