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 Post subject: On creating a timeline
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:15 am 
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Traditionally I have done only the bare minimum when it comes to conworlding; I have always pursued conlanging like a miner pursues gold; if there was something glittery in the world of language I had to find it and make it my own. But a conworld was just the necessary showcase I felt like I had to make to show off my language.
That being said, in the past two months I have embraced conworlding with a vigor rivaling any that I've had for conlanging. Being systematic, I am building my conworld from the ground up, rather than from the top down. I already have quite a good start.

Starting with a map of the super-continent which split off into the present day continents, like the Pangaea of Earth's prehistory, I made a series of maps showing continental drift in 10,000 year increments leading up to the present. I have already worked out migrations of early man from their "point of origin" outward, and documented how early tribes were separated by changes in climate and geography(mostly due to continental drift). In an effort to stay true to how early peoples would have dealt with their environments, I have found myself researching anthropological and archaeological finds like Ötzi the Iceman, which shows, at least in our world, what a man of the Bronze Age might have worn and hunted with.

I hope that by using this method of tracing history from year 1 till present, I will be able to explain anything and everything of consequence that has ever happened in this entire world, at least from a high point looking down. While this sounds like a very lofty goal, consider that I am keeping heavy notes of human migration and how the slowly changing climate affected the direction each group took in search of greener pastures to settle in, as well as when and where groups encountered other[now long-sundered] peoples and how they interacted with each other - be it via trade, war, integration or what have you. This will help me devise realistic language families as well :)

By the time I finish tracing history to the present, I will hopefully be able to accurately explain why the different peoples are the way they are - as well as why the are where they are, and how they are(often distantly) related to each other. This will be important when I shift from conworlding to conculturing. For example, I will know what their oral traditions will tell them about their past; hence I will have a firm foundation from which to derive their mythology. I'll also know what groups have had time to sit twiddling their thumbs and invent writing, and which ones had to break their backs all day long to wrest a living from a harsh environment(thus not caring about writing).

So far I have made it from Year One(about 150,000 years before present) to about year 50,000(one hundred millenia before present). I have refused to make early man 'cavemen', instead asserting that from the beginning they were thoroughly modern humans.

I have run into the problem of keeping a large number of notes organized, which I hope to remedy by keeping a master timeline showing references to more detailed notes kept in a large three-ring binder. This reference book will be necessary to keep the increasingly dynamic history of tribal(eventually national) interactions organized. The timeline by itself would be of little value without the reference. An example of its use: if you run your finger along the timeline to year 35,000 you will find that six main offshoots of the proto-people can be found across two of the three continents*. However, in order that the timeline remain uncluttered, nothing more specific about these groups can be written on it save six reference notes showing you to the sections dealing with those six individual groups in the master reference.

*It will be another few thousand years before the third continent is migrated to

Lacking the experience that something like this obviously requires(for instance, I do not know how to go about naming the different groups, who come and go pretty quickly over 150,000 years - should they be referred to by the names they would have for themselves, or would it need to be a 'Group A1, Group A2, Group B' scheme?), I am plagued by the thought that my method might be flawed in a way that I won't realize until I am neck deep into the project. This would mean amending a lot of writing. So I hope this thread will reveal problems while i am at a fairly early stage.
Have you any thoughts, good or bad, about the way that I am going about this? Maybe you've tried something like this and found it insufficient. Or maybe you've done it another way and would suggest that method? Hopefully you can help me find any oversights that I have made in developing this process for creating a world, or have a real-world example of this kind of timeline to refer me to.

Thanks in advance guys

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 3:00 pm 
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If you know the names, you should already put the names, but if not, just do whatever you have in mind.

My humble advice is not to worry too much about order; just as much as necessary. I mean, being ordered is good and can motivate you - a minimum is required -, but being excessively worried about it may prevent spontaneous, chaotic creativity that is precisely what creativity usually is (at least for me). So whenever you have an idea, just puke it out and you'll have the time to clean the mess up later. Don't be scared to have to review things; following a very strict order has sometimes made me lose interest in some projects. Just think about it, you'll probably change your mind sometime about minor details, and you'll want to review things.

Anyway, as far as you have described it, I think the method is good. Good luck with that! If you feel you have a lot of interest in a special area, don't refrain from writing it just because you feel like you need to do something before; just do it and try to find the connections later. This may even give you the impression you're "discovering" how your world is rather than simply inventing it, which I think enhances creativity too.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 10:21 pm 
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Actually that's some pretty good advice. I'll try to keep it in mind.
As for the names of the people and places, they can by no means be static, at least over such a long period of time. In 150,000 years, the very continents themselves can come and go. So a native name becomes outdated quickly. What I have decided to do is give them all anglicized names for everything but papers I write dealing with them specifically(yes, I write 'papers' about my con-stuff. It's how I roll 8) ) since it'll be easier for me to pronounce and will give more of a 'feel' of a place or group of people. Tolkien did this with his maps, to very good effect.
For instance, I have an island natively called Merø, which I have anglicized as Merrow. Since it's a mysterious place you can only get to by sailing from the mainland, the reference to mermaids in Irish folklore makes a lot of sense. Not to mention it sounds almost the same(but with a rounded o instead of the unrounded one) and inquisitive people looking at my map will feel more at home looking at a place called Merrow than a place called Merø.

I have decided that years will go backward, like our B.C. years. Only I call them B.P. - Before Present. My history goes up to the 'present', never into the future. So it makes sense. Plus the years leading up to the present will have smaller numbers which are less mind-boggling.

I have made a series of four half-assed maps detailing continental drift and how landmasses separated from the proto-continent. They show 35,500 year increments leading up to the present(4 x 35.5k = 150k). Doing so has allowed me to see, for instance, that the very large dry desert that I put near the sea had to have been densely vegetated many thousands of years ago, while it was still part of the supercontinent[the large body of water formed by continents moving apart made thermal exchange(that is, cooling off) really slow, drying out nearby landmasses and creating deserts]. This is really important for my purposes, but I wouldn't have known it otherwise.
Next project; the who, what, where, when and why of early man's exploration of their world.
Later; man's advance from the stone age at around 40,000 B.P. and me shitting myself

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 2:09 am 
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After quite a bit of searching the internet for a good real world example of the kind of timeline I have been describing, I have found this animation which shows EXACTLY what I'm doing, except mine is a series of drawings with notes instead of an animation with notes - which, by the way, are the same level of specificity as the ones I'm writing up. This was a good find because it covers the migration of early man of 160,000 years ago until present, which is only 10,000 years[small potatoes] different than my own timeline.

One thing I noticed is that man apparently migrated along coastlines more often than straight through the middle of a continent.
According to this wikipedia article, in a lot of the new territory reached by early man, much of the animal life was unused to efficient predators like humans, and were easily hunted - even to extinction. The article also says that it took some 15,000 years to colonize all of Europe. This is a good reference to have, since I have a roughly Europe-sized continent, though I will have to take into account some differences in climate which would surely have an effect on how quickly people moved from place to place. I'm pretty sure I'm going to give them about 25,000 years, mainly because it will fit more easily into my scheme of notation.

I have often wondered what such a long period of time(fifteen hundred millenia) should be broken up into, but today I found out a little about the units geological time is broken up into: the largest defined unit of time is the supereon, composed of eons. Eons are divided into eras, which are in turn divided into periods, epochs and ages.
However, I am not bound by geologists' terms for the passage of time. Upon further surfing, I found that the words era and epoch can be fairly short when applied to something cultural(as opposed to geological). For instance, the Victorian Era wasn't all that long.
I now have my 150,000 year history broken up into four 35,500 year eras. Mostly because I don't like the sound of the word Epoch. I have avoided the temptation of using the Tolkienian term Age to refer to the time between significant events in human(or in his case, Elven) history.
In practice, though, I will probably use the terms age, era and period interchangeably - any better suggestions for usage of these terms to refer to long periods of time in ancient conhistory? What terms do you use for this?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:55 am 
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I don't feel qualified to give advice or suggestions, but I will offer a thought.

You're using external dates and names; they're for our benefit, not names or dates your conpeoples actually used. An alternative is to pick a dominant conpeoples from the "present" and use their language and dating system. This would add flavor to your conworld, and be keeping with its similarity to Earth (scientists world-round today use the Gregorian dating system and publish papers in English).


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 4:02 pm 
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blank stare II wrote:
I now have my 150,000 year history broken up into four 35,500 year eras. Mostly because I don't like the sound of the word Epoch. I have avoided the temptation of using the Tolkienian term Age to refer to the time between significant events in human(or in his case, Elven) history.
In practice, though, I will probably use the terms age, era and period interchangeably - any better suggestions for usage of these terms to refer to long periods of time in ancient conhistory? What terms do you use for this?


Just a note, the term you use in English is not that important, at least in the sense you're describing of "avoiding", say, Tolkenian notation. As Observer has pointed out, if you have external rather than internal dating and naming, you can later justify them internally. And so you could use age in English for a term that, in one of your conlangs, designates a Tolkenian age (which, in this sense, has nothing Tolkenian, since the concept of "period of time between important sentient-race affairs" is not Tolkien's property!). If you feel your conculture's historicians would have different concepts and that these would be better translated if you made use of three different words, then you have a reason to have age, era and period well-differentiated. If not, then it doesn't matter that much and you can pick the one you like the most or transmits better the feeling you want to transmit.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 5:08 pm 
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it seems like a great project, one worth following. just one quibble:

blank stare II wrote:
Actually that's some pretty good advice. I'll try to keep it in mind.
As for the names of the people and places, they can by no means be static, at least over such a long period of time. In 150,000 years, the very continents themselves can come and go.


um, either you've got exceedingly long years, or the plate tectonics are hyperactive.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:34 pm 
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Observer wrote:
You're using external dates and names; they're for our benefit, not names or dates your conpeoples actually used. An alternative is to pick a dominant conpeoples from the "present" and use their language and dating system. This would add flavor to your conworld, and be keeping with its similarity to Earth (scientists world-round today use the Gregorian dating system and publish papers in English).


As much as I've thought about it, I never looked at it quite that way. I guess in order to make it look scientific, I forgot to make it practical. The last part of your post, the part which I enlarged, made me look at it from a different angle than I had before. Namely, that any record of ancient history would have to be translated into a modern tongue(or else remain forever unread), which would of course be the tongue of political power, as English is to the scientific community today. This means that maps would be labeled in the modern language despite never being called by those names until recently. For instance, the area we now call Winchester was for a long time called Camelot, but to label it Camelot on a map would just cause confusion[though still be historically accurate].

Quote:
the concept of "period of time between important sentient-race affairs" is not Tolkien's property!


Yeah, up yours, Tolkien! You don't have a monopoly on words!

rodlox wrote:
blank stare wrote:
In 150,000 years, the very continents themselves can come and go.


um, either you've got exceedingly long years, or the plate tectonics are hyperactive.


Does it sound possible for a pretty much Europe-sized continent to spread into three landmasses in 150,000 years? If hyperactive plate tectonics are a good excuse to keep the timeframe unchanged if the answer is "barely", then I can live with that. I'd have to make frequent earthquakes a part of the equation, wouldn't I?

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 10:22 pm 
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Sounds very ambitious, and I wish you good luck on it.

Personally for me I would still have at least a very vague outline of what happens in the future; for me, I wouldn't feel comfortable going blindly forward without having at least a bit of an idea where things could lead. That's not to say that there has to be only one possibility forward - there could be many, or, rather, there could be many ways towards one end. I think an important thing to realize is that history is not one thing after another, or at least it doesn't work so simply.

Still, it's a matter of personal preference how you want to go about it, of course, and if your way works out fine, then all the better. However, one thing I think you will encounter is when you develop some event or trend or historical personality etc. etc. etc. and then realize that you have to fix something from the past in order to make the present/future make sense.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 10:52 pm 
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Quote:
However, one thing I think you will encounter is when you develop some event or trend or historical personality (...) and then realize that you have to fix something from the past in order to make the present/future make sense.


That's what I'm hoping to avoid by going in order. I am counting on ideas presenting themselves to me as I go along. Though as you said, if only it were that simple.

Update - I now have genetic distribution mapped out across all (presently)inhabited landmasses. In simpler terms, I have a chart showing which races are related to which. It also implies which ones share (a) common ancestor(s).

*important question:*
Do any of you know a reason I couldn't make freshwater the rule rather than the exception? Like, freshwater seas/oceans and saltwater only occuring in Dead Sea-like circumstances? I suspect this would change the climate, which I'm trying to keep pretty close to our own climate. I'm gonna kick Nature's ass if it keeps me from using this idea.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:06 pm 
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blank stare II wrote:
*important question:*
Do any of you know a reason I couldn't make freshwater the rule rather than the exception? Like, freshwater seas/oceans and saltwater only occurring in Dead Sea-like circumstances? I suspect this would change the climate, which I'm trying to keep pretty close to our own climate. I'm gonna kick Nature's ass if it keeps me from using this idea.

If I remember correctly, the saltiness of the ocean is caused by the erosion of salt-containing rocks by the water, with the salt then leached into the water. I would think that if you change the composition of rocks, freshwater would be perfectly plausible. This would mean, I think, that there would be very little naturally occurring salt, so it would probably not be used biologically (e.g. as a foodstuff). As to climate, I don't see that it would be significantly affected. Rain is distilled seawater, so it already contains no salt. The ocean water would be a bit less dense, which might make storms easier and hence more frequent, but that can be a plot point. Culturally, seawater would be (somewhat) drinkable, and so encourage coastal cities even not near rivers.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:10 pm 
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blank stare II wrote:
Does it sound possible for a pretty much Europe-sized continent to spread into three landmasses in 150,000 years? If hyperactive plate tectonics are a good excuse to keep the timeframe unchanged if the answer is "barely", then I can live with that. I'd have to make frequent earthquakes a part of the equation, wouldn't I?


On Earth, no. Considering that plate tectonics since Humans came onto the scene haven't really changed much; the rate of movement is on average between 0-100 mm per year. So at maximally recorded speed, that's 10 cm per year, times 150k years is 15 km, or nine miles. That gets you about the distance of the Strait of Gibraltar. It would take plate tectonics more unstable than imaginable for humanoids to survive to create such separation so quickly.

As to saltwater, Maharba has the answer, but the oceans would still be much saltier than rivers or (most) lakes because no matter how little salt enters the system, if it doesn't leave the system, it will become saltier until it reaches saturation/equilibrium. Remember that the process of adding salt to the ocean occurs over the enter history of the planet.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:21 pm 
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Those were really helpful answers, guys. Exactly the kind of eclectic knowledge I come here for.

I wonder if there could be another explanation for changing the position of the continents. I'm looking to tear a big 'ol landmass into three pieces and separate them by a good stretch in way too short of a time. Stranger conworld things have been explained away by members of this board. Hopefully y'all can help me brainstorm here. I guess earthquakes could have an effect similar to that of continental drift, some natural disasters like a meteor impact might change landmasses, thawing of glaciers would also have an effect. Am I missing any, even(especially) far-fetched ideas?

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:27 pm 
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Magic.

Well, if this conworld has magic, that is.

Or aliens.

But those would be the only (far-fetched) ideas I can think of.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 12:12 am 
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:idea: Wait, I got it. It's a mystery. Ok go with me on this. Lets say all the folktales hint at an ill-defined cataclysm in the very ancient past, something of Biblical proportions. It would be on the level of the Flood myths around the world. Almost every culture speaks of the Flood(it's not just in the Bible, folks - not by a long shot) though most of the details are long since forgotten. Most cultures vaguely remember it but they don't remember who did it or why.
Perhaps there was a Tower of Babel type of event circa 150,000 years ago when mankind pissed off the powers that be who put mankind in their place by pulling the rug, I mean continent, out from under them.* Instead of conflicting their tongues in order to scatter the people abroad, they used a more direct approach. The mystery part is, was it God? Or was it aliens? Or even magic?
I would have to make this a very prominent part of the mythology. In fact, I would have to make a slightly(even very) distinct version of it for each culture. An anthropologist would be able to write books upon books about these indigenous people somehow having a rudimentary grasp of the fact that their continents are drifting(rather, powerswimming) apart. Let alone a geologist trying to explain the apparently supernatural goings-on beneath the crust which somehow cause the plates to slide around rapidly(compared to earth) without destroying all land life.

*this lends itself well to Atlantean and Avalonian type myths - my favorite :mrgreen:

Any other, more scientific explanations for all this? It would save me some work. Or would the idea I described above, if well written, be better?

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 2:48 pm 
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Take the Mediterranean as an example. Some couple million years ago or sometime it dried up mostly or completely as it wasn't being replenished by the Atlantic, then it flooded when the connection opened back up. This was caused by fluctuation of sea level. The flooding would have occurred over a very short time, less than a half-century for sure, perhaps within a decade or less the whole region would have been covered. On a smaller scale, this may have happened with the Black Sea within the human time span. The sea was much smaller then flooded after a connection to the Mediterranean was opened up.

Similarly, the Columbia River Valley shows large ripples from a pre-historic ice dam breaking and releasing immense amounts of water.

Basically, you can get something going by large-scale flooding with the right prerequisites.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:03 pm 
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On a more extreme note, an impact from a sufficiently large meteor could cause a chain of other natural disasters, which would in turn wreak havok on the environment and certainly modify the landscape.
It can also be used as a catalyst for religions (Gods' wrath from the heavens! Worship them!) to develop, or to act as the beginning of a later calendar (eg: This is the year 300 P.M.)
EDIT: Of course, this is assuming intelligent life survives the impact and consequent chaos... :(


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 5:53 pm 
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An impact large enough to affect tectonic structure will probably kill 99.99%, if not 100%, of life forms, certainly macrobiotic life. Considering that the largest impact during the Phanerozoic Eon was at Chicxulub, and that didn't affect the plate tectonics appreciably, if at all.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:52 pm 
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Another major geological event that could happen is something like the Siberian Traps, where a huge upwelling of magma breaks to the surface, and released 1 to 4 million km³ of lava. This is believed to have caused the "Great Dying" (or one among several causes, including an impact event) in which up to 96 percent of marine species on the planet were wiped out. (possibly due to deoxygenation of the oceans, anoxia).

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 7:12 pm 
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Sometimes pockets of gas under the earth's surface fall into themselves and cause sinkholes. I wonder if one could be big enough that, when it collapses, ocean water rushes in and separates parts of the landmass from the rest of the continent.

Quote:
This was caused by fluctuation of sea level. The flooding would have occurred over a very short time, less than a half-century for sure, perhaps within a decade or less the whole region would have been covered.


Glaciers melting could do this too. Perhaps an earthquake causes a rift to open up mid-continent, which weakens the earth covering a sinkhole nearby. When this collapses, seawater fills it and you have the continent split in two - and continental drift didn't even play a part. Is glacial melting a natural phenomenon, in other words would it be possible for quick melting without an industrial revolution dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:49 am 
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How big is the original continent? (the size of Africa, Europe, Asia?)

I'm thinking that you need something like a shallow sea that is separated from the ocean, dries up, then is reconnected to the ocean. By comparison, I think if the Greenland Ice Cap melted into a basin the size of the Mediterranean, it might fill half way at most, but I have't done any calculations.

If you are trying to go for reasonably plausible, earthquakes and sinkholes are basically out except possibly, they might begin the reconnection to the sea, maybe.

As for glacial melting, better is to have a meltwater lake rupture an ice dam and flood as here.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:59 pm 
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CaesarVincens wrote:
How big is the original continent? (the size of Africa, Europe, Asia?)


I think I have the same problem as a lot of other conworlders here, in that I don't know how to find this out. I have several maps drawn, the main one is of the whole world and everything is shown to scale. http://img11.imageshack.us/img11/8900/1020961.jpg
Is there a good way of finding out the answer to your question?

caesar wrote:
I'm thinking that you need something like a shallow sea that is separated from the ocean, dries up, then is reconnected to the ocean.


Does it even need to dry up? A good sized inland sea, connected to the ocean by a large crack caused by an earthquake could separate a large part of the land - though it wouldn't have the same effect as continental drift.

Quote:
the Columbia River Valley shows large ripples from a pre-historic ice dam breaking and releasing immense amounts of water.


Glaciers melt quickly in our modern world because the temperature keeps going up, but in a world where the industrial revolution hasn't happened, would the ice melt fast enough to change landmasses' forms in less than a quarter million years? (that question assumes the C02 from industry causes global warming)
Also, if there were never an ice age, there would be no glaciers - right?

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Last edited by blank stare II on Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:05 pm 
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blank stare II wrote:
I made a series of maps showing continental drift in 10,000 year increments leading up to the present.


10,000 years doesn't make any noticeable difference in continental drift. Average continental drift rate is 10 cm/year, so 10,000 years would move your continents about 1 kilometer.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:09 pm 
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I had originally hoped to have the proto continent populated by early people, then have it split up, thus sundering them. I'm thinking about simply changing the time frame. Off the top of your head, what sounds like a reasonable number of millions of years for a europe[?] sized continent to split into thirds? Under five million? More?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:02 pm 
Avisaru
Avisaru

Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 2:58 pm
Posts: 807
blank stare II wrote:
I had originally hoped to have the proto continent populated by early people, then have it split up, thus sundering them. I'm thinking about simply changing the time frame. Off the top of your head, what sounds like a reasonable number of millions of years for a europe[?] sized continent to split into thirds? Under five million? More?

In Real Life:
Continental drift, and mountain-building, happens on a time-scale closer to tens of millions to hundreds of millions of years.
But Ice Ages, and rising and falling sea-levels, and desertification and the greening of deserts, and deforestation and the return of forests, and such things, happen on scales of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. They can happen in just-longer-than-historical timescales.
Smaller-scale changes, such as changes in the coastlines of the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea or Boston Harbor, can actually happen in historical times.

You might want your conworld's changes to go faster (say in megayears instead of in tens or hundreds of megayears), and your conculture's history to change slower (so their history is in myriayears instead of millenia, and their archaeology in hundreds of millenia instead of in myriayears). That's probably OK; especially if you note the fact.


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