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If is plausible, what are the most reasonable factors to bring to bear?

I have a large continent where a number of races/cultures are present in the present day, but I want the one in the south to have arrived a number of centuries ago after a cataclysm destroyed their homeland. This southern area has some desert and is quite temperate compared to the rest of the continent north of it, but I need a plausible reason to keep the other races/cultures from having expanded down there.

They are all humanoid races, somewhat like standard Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Celts etc... but they are all far more "human" than any of those stereotypes such that their cultures are largely what separate them, though they do have some slight physiological differences.

I don't want a major conflict in the south when this new race/culture arrives because there were only a limited number of ships that escaped their homeland and they were sailing for long enough that their supplies were stretched to the point of breaking and they were extremely lucky to stumble across the land they did. They do encounter the race/culture to the west but the language barrier and the lack of anything much to trade means they leave pretty much empty handed and largely un-harrassed. Scout ships find uninhabited, suitable lands to the south and then they split off into different groups forming their own colonies across the southern part of the continent and eventually become an empire of different states ruled centrally from the imperial capital.

I'm happy with all of it bar the fact that it seems way too convenient that the southern lands are uninhabited and they can just waltz in and start setting up their new empire. I've thought about having a precursor race/culture that dies out leaving small clusters of survivors that become the races/cultures of the present day and either fear, tradition, superstition or risk of disease keep them from venturing too far south. E.g. Perhaps the source of their downfall was in the south, but I'm not sure if that makes any sense or if I'm just throwing additional complexity in where it isn't needed.

Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

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    $\begingroup$ I can safely assure you that the Celts were fully human. Most people in Ireland, Wales, and Brittany are of Celtic descent, as are many people in England, Scotland and the rest of France. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 13 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP I'm wondering if OP meant "Centaurs" but it got auto-corrected? $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Oct 13 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Hailing from and living in Ireland myself, I can assure you I was already aware of that, plus I have looked into Celt history a lot as inspiration for the Celt-inspired people I spoke of. As I mentioned in the question, my races/cultures are all largely human, though I'm uncertain for now just how much so I guess some of that uncertainty bled into the question, but that is why I used the phrase "races/cultures" since you could arguably call them different cultures of the same human-like species. Apologies for the confusion! $\endgroup$ – AsDuskFalls Oct 13 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure there was a recent question on another Stack site that mentioned (coincidently) parts of the modern Irish countryside going unpopulated because people had moved to the cities. So all it takes is the right economic or social motivation -- maybe your people love to live in cities and argue with each other all the time... $\endgroup$ – jeffronicus Oct 14 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @jeffronicus that is certainly a realistic factor but I feel like that's a little bit further down the line of the evolution of my different cultures and civilisations and I'm looking for something a bit more "elemental" for want of a better word. I'd prefer for the area to have been largely unpopulated for a time so there isn't all of the history and the remnant architecture hanging around. But that is certainly an interesting thing to factor into the development of the world map, thanks! $\endgroup$ – AsDuskFalls Oct 15 at 13:26
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The southern lands are not amenable to northern-style agriculture.

A similar sort of thing happened in Africa. After developing agriculture (and possibly iron), Bantu speaking peoples spread across the continent, displacing or assimilating the earlier Khoi-San peoples who had been the main occupants before.

african people migration

https://medium.com/bahasantara/a-beginners-guide-to-studying-african-languages-part-1-bantu-languages-cce41072eb45

You will see on the map an island of white. This is the place where the Khoi-San people persisted and where they were when the Dutch moved into South Africa in the 1600s and encountered them. The Bantu agriculturalists did not move into these dry lands because they were unsuitable for their kind of agriculture, which had developed in the tropics.

This can be the case for your people. The Northern countries are populous agriculturally based lands. They never moved into the southern lands because their style of farming does not work there. Your southerners can be pastoralist herders (like the Navajo or Maasai) or hunter-gatherers like the Khoi-San, or have a dry-land Mediterranean type agriculture, depending on what works for your story.

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    $\begingroup$ this is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for, thank you! $\endgroup$ – AsDuskFalls Oct 13 at 18:39
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    $\begingroup$ I think you could do even better with this. Eliminate the Nile Valley, and humans never really expand out of Africa. (Disregarding climate changes during the Ice Ages.) Or the human $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Oct 14 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ "A similar sort of thing happened in [insert name of country that once had an indigenous population]." $\endgroup$ – Mazura Oct 15 at 0:42
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Invent some zoopathogen which a southern animal (like mice, or even some insect) is symbiontic with, so it has a stable genome, and which is fatal within five days for adult humans.

Those new settlers come from the place where that animal originally comes from and where that symbiontic disease developed. Everybody from there catches it as a child, when it is far less fatal, so they are immune.

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Probably not.

See, civilizations grow over time, and that means they tend to expand. Cities get bigger, and territory claims other stuff.

Your best bet is to only have the land becoming habitable as the refugees arrive, or have a depopulating disaster happen there very recently. Yes, there would still be some people trying to live in there, perhaps exiled criminals or something, but the population would be low enough that the refugees would be able to establish themselves as civilization in that area.

I would recommend having the land uninhabitable to humans until shortly before the refugees arrive, as a depopulating disaster might not perfectly efficient and might have side effects lasting for a while.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Itmauve that actually makes sense thank you. I guess I had also not thought about the ability for the new settlers to use their own methods and "technologies" to help make the land habitable again. Even something like a particular herbicide or insecticide to get rid of an indigenous species that proves deadly or extremely aggressive/dangerous could work too! Thanks again! $\endgroup$ – AsDuskFalls Oct 13 at 18:45
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The plague ALWAYS starts in the south and the rest of the people have had their fill of it. They are a little irritated by the new comers who will dig up the anthrax spores again.

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Not only can this happen hypothetically, it does happen in real life.

Australia

Australia has high mountains on the west and east, meaning clouds almost never go over the central continent, rendering it a nigh-uninhabitable wasteland. The Sahara desert is more habitable than central Australia.

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Perhaps the southern area has no consistent, reliable source of surface water. There are small ponds and creeks, but nothing large enough to support large-scale agriculture or even a small town. Instead of pooling up, rainfall drains through the sandy soil deep into the ground.

A long time ago, a few small towns existed in this area. They dug wells to extract water from an aquifer that ran close to the surface in several places, but this was not a large aquifer and was soon depleted. This entire region was soon abandoned, as the rest of the continent had a much more reliable water supply and plenty of available space. The various races wrote off that region for good, as there was nothing unique or interesting about that region to be worth the hassle of trying to live there.

When your newcomers arrive, they initially have the same problem. Shallow wells look promising but dry up quickly. Your newcomers have key advantages, though. The ships that brought them here used rainwater catchment systems to harvest and store fresh water during the journey, and your newcomers constructed scaled-up versions capable of serving entire communities. They're also more skilled at mining and excavating than the other races (insert story reason here), and are able to dig stable wells into the much more substantial aquifers that run deep underground.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 The guts of this is "Climate Change" and you could use that in various ways. $\endgroup$ – Keith Oct 15 at 2:33
  • $\begingroup$ A combination of this and the suggestion from @Stephen below would be pretty interesting to explore! $\endgroup$ – AsDuskFalls Oct 15 at 12:46
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An alternative idea is that the cataclysm that destroyed the homeland of the escapees also had the effect of opening up a path to the unexplored part of the continent. If the new continent was on top of 1km high sheer cliffs, the land on top could be colonized by animal and plant life but not by humans. The seismic aftershocks from the destruction of homeland collapsed one of the cliff faces to create a difficult, but usable pathway for the refugees to ascend.

Such plateaus exist in the real world - Mount Roraima for example. https://www.sciencealert.com/welcome-to-mount-roraima-the-floating-island-plateau

The difficult route in and out could also dramatically limit trade. You'd probably want to dramatically increase the land area available and maybe open a path to the sea at the same time, but it's a plausible way for a vast, fertile area of land to go unexplored by humans.

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