In my world, sometime before the main events of the story, a group of about 100 explorers set out to cross the uncrossable mountain range that divides the continent and venture into lands unknown. When they got to the other side, they settled and claimed the newfound land to themselves.

My question is how long would it take to form a reasonably-sized civilization (about 1 million people) with minimal contact with the outside (meaning the other side of the mountains)? Would a hundred people bring enough expertise so they wouldn't need to start from scratch?

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    $\begingroup$ I think impossible to answer without knowing resource in the area and their tech level starting off (i.e. the actual equipment and knowledge they have to start with, not the tech level of their original society, which they may no longer have access to). Put another way, drop them in Northern Russia and what happens will be quite different from dropping them in a tropical island with limited resources. They could remain a village, die out or grow and prosper but it's complex. $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2020 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ You might rethink your starting parameters a bit, 100 people is kind of small for starting a new civ. Only 100 people to cross "uncrossable" barrier implies some don't make it, so even fewer than 100. If they all make it, it's not that uncrossable. If they have a secret way, that is easy, it makes things simple, you can supplement your original 100 with new "recruits" from existing places, and everyone can make it to the new land, after the first 100 get things started. $\endgroup$
    – Seeds
    Oct 6, 2020 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ Note that in human history civilizations often grew by taking over other existing civilizations. This greatly increases the potential growth rate of a civilization's population at the unimportant cost of destroying (or assimilating) other civilizations and also gains access to new resources. $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2020 at 1:46

1 Answer 1


A short time to start a colony. A long time to start a civilisation.

Based on the "They haven't explored the other side of the continent" I'm guessing pre-flight and no steam-powered metal ships. Sort of "Pre Industrial Revolution" tech level - you have wagons, farming, construction, masonry, leather-working and blacksmithing, In which case yes, 100 people should be fine to keep the knowledge. Bring 3 experts in your 15 most important techs, and some +1's (partners / teenage children.)

Assuming they're well stocked, well led, find fertile land and a water source, don't make any bad choices, and don't have much bad luck, they should be able to have a small village built within a year.

If your 100 people consist of a 50/50 gender mix, no-ones infertile, no ones sick, no-one dies before raising a family, and each family has 4 children in their late teens and early 20s, you'll need 15 generations (~370 years) to hit 1 million people.

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    $\begingroup$ Good answer, but there would be some loss of know-how in the process. You have blacksmiths but no proper jewelers. You have carpenters but no proper cabinetmakers. You have farmers but no proper vintners. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Oct 6, 2020 at 4:44
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    $\begingroup$ @o.m. You are right, they will not leave with the very specialised knowledge like you mentioned, and for the first few years their jewellery, cabinets, and wines will be mediocre. What I reckon though, for this tech level, is that a few experts in a field with adjacent knowledge could jump start the rediscovery of that knowledge, with it fully rediscovered after 370 years. Cabinetry is tricky, Joinery is hard to master, but put 3 expert carpenters (who know of those trades) in a room and give them a lots of a wood they'll be able to rediscover the lost knowledge of both within a few years. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Oct 6, 2020 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ The big thing is their level of agriculture, sanitation, and medicine -- in approximately that order -- followed by what level of fertility they are willing to maintain. In medieval Europe, women who lived through their child-bearing years bore, on average, ten children, which produced mild population increase barring famine or disease, because most children died. Being isolated, they might not have such problems with disease but then their first contact may get very ugly indeed. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Oct 6, 2020 at 12:50

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