I just recently started reading Gulliver's Travels. If you haven't heard of it, it's basically a story about a 1600's era sailor who gets stranded on various islands with strange humanoids. The first one he gets stranded on, Lilliput, is filled with humanoids no more than 6 inches tall, with everything on the island to scale with them. And this got me thinking. What would happen if you got some stone-age Lilliputians and put them in our environment? A few clarifications:

  • We are assuming that this iteration of earth is untouched by humankind.

  • The group is about 100 strong, and they also have basic supplies (food, water, spears, clothing, etc.)

  • They are dropped into a temperate, highly forested area, likely somewhere in America.

  • By progress, I mean technological progress. How far would they go? Bonus points for how they would manage resources.

  • My main question is how they would survive and progress in this world many times larger than them. I don't want it to be intricate, just a basic overview.

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    $\begingroup$ Progress, as in moving around? Living? In any case, the conditions of either of them is highly dependent of the region they are thrown in. You don't wear the same outfit in the Arctic and in the jungle, am I right :p? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena I have added explanations for that in the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ Hendrik van Loon's Story of Mankind (1921) has 480 pages. (Multiple copies are available at Archive.org.) It is a very very basic (and rather simple minded, but good enough for young children) overview of history; and history itself is just a small part of the actual story of mankind. And just for completeness, Lemuel Gulliver's visit to Lilliput was from 1699 to 1702 -- exact dates are stylistic device in the book. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ They would progress at very tiny steps. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ @TheSophomore It is often advised to keep your click off the accepted answer after 24 hours. People with interesting ideas might be sleeping at the time you posted your question ;). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 1:57

8 Answers 8


Problem: 1/12th size is not 1/12th power or force

Their main problem, as noted in the other answers (or comments to them), is that force/power does not scale linearly with size. A 6 inch humanoid may be able to carry a toothpick-sized spear, but it won't do much with it - it just won't have the strength to pierce even skin, let alone fur+skin+fat on a rat or similarly-sized animal trying to eat it.

Using brains and teamwork to replace muscles

Now we're thinking smart little humanoids. There ARE ways to get around that issue with enough effort and knowledge. A group of Lilliputians could concievably operate a complex system of levers, pulleys and gears to wind up a scorpio (spear-throwing ballista-like siege engine) that would look like a small crossbow to a normal-sized human. With this, they could fend off smaller predators - hopefully they're beneath the notice of any bears. Mechanical systems like that would also allow them to handle fuel and ores in quantities that make using metals feasible.

So the question is then, do you allow them to start with technology (or at least knowledge of it) far beyond your average stone-age person? Or if not, can they somehow survive long enough and produce excess food enough to afford thinkers to tinker until they can come up with the ideas and principles, and do all the work needed to create the first machine that goes beyond a curiosity?

Pulley systems would be somewhat easy to discover - at their size, a single plant fiber or some discarded animal hair would make a good base for a "rope", and three conveniently grown tree branches (polished with pebbles to reduce friction) could get them a 2:1 pulley system. A group of Lilliputians tying a rock to a rope, pulling it up as a team effort, and dropping it on a walnut might be able to crack it more easily than one little guy trying to carve into it with a teensy tiny hand axe for days. If they manage to scavenge up some bones, they could get to their marrow more easily this way too. So there's incentive and reward for discovering basic mechanics, which might make them view tinkers favorably and invest into new ideas too.

Levers too are fairly obvious - a twig with a rock as fulcrum may let your group of gatherers turn over a rock and get at the tasty worms and grubs just below it.

Gears are more challenging - you'll need a stationary settlement to really make use of them. Other commenters note that without sufficient protection against rats, foxes, cats or what have you, such a settlement would be seen as larder for any predator who notices them. If the Lilliputians are nomadic prior to the discovery of enough mechanical knowledge and skills to fend off small predators, this might be an impediment - but not an insurmountable one.

A bit of culture to make it work

What won't work is the fairy tale idea of one guy sitting down, whittling up some gears and rods and other pieces, and putting it all together in a tribe-protecting mini siege engine. Even if we let Lilliputians live human-long lives rather than the much shorter ones they SHOULD have at that size, and then replace long trial-and-error with divine inspiration or knowledge passed from previous generations, it would take much too long to (somewhat) precision craft all the mechanical pieces needed to make it work. Oh, there may be legends of just that happening later on to glorify tinkers and encourage young ones to follow that path, but they'll be exaggerations or entirely made up.

What I could see happening however is a big cultural emphasis on tinkering and teamwork - the two things that let them overcome challenges and thrive rather than just live in constant fear as prey animals. Small nomadic tribes carefully evading predators might meet up in an inhospitable place (where no predators are interested in hunting) every year for a few days, bringing their newest ideas, interesting materials, and if the tribe has been prosperous enough to afford working on those instead of gathering food even pre-fabricated parts. Knowledge would be exchanged, those with the best ideas/materials/parts would be most attractive as mates for partners from other tribes, and the tinkers would work together on projects that particularly inspire them for a bit. After the meet, anything too big to be carried along with a tribe gets moved into a small cave (further excavated a tiny bit every year) that gets sealed until the next meeting with pebbles, mud, beeswax... to protect the half-finished stone gears and axles and whatnot within.

Success: a new age

Finally, after decades of work, the project laid out by the forefathers is completed. A huge (for Lilliputians) pile of discarded gears that broke or were just off the needed size by enough to not work proclaims the generations who went through trial and error to get us this far. Tiny gears carved from rocks or bones in painstaking work, lubricated with fat scavenged from what predators left after sating their hunger. Ropes operated by teams of Lilliputians pulling up counterweights or directly putting tension on the great machine. It takes minutes, maybe even hours - but finally a latch clicks shut. A huge spear (well, a small crossbow bolt) is lifted into place by more pulleys. And the machine that would change Lilliputian history forever fires for the first time, with force once thought to be only available to the large beasts. The spear pierces the bark of the young tree that was used as a target, proving that at least if predators can be forced into the right place (by living in caves with defensible tunnels, for example) warding them off or even killing them will be possible.

Plans are drawn up for the perfect location to set up the first permanent defended Lilliputian settlement - it needs to have access to water, but must not flood. The earth must be fertile, the climate favorable, and there should be a place where defensible tunnels can easily be set up. After much debate a consensus is reached, and the great machine disassembled carefully and put back into storage so it can be transported to said location once all preparations have been made there. It will be years of work still, but finally our peoples' hope is in a workable plan rather than only the dreams of the tinkers.

Bonus: how they got here - surviving as 6-inch nomadic gatherers

This part is fairly easy, I think - at least compared to the rest. Small tribes of Lilliputians forage for berries, scavenge opportunistically, and survive the winter by stockpiling nuts (which would be a pain to break open, but worth it) or mining out root vegetables rather than try to pull them up. Many individuals and maybe even entire tribes will be lost to rats, foxes, birds - but the surviving ones are the ones that learn to recognize tracks of dangerous predators and how to avoid them.

Starting with only 100 individuals as the question states would be hard, a lot of luck would initially be needed. But the stories we hear or read are almost always those of the lucky ones - the hero who finally killed the dragon walked over dozens of charred skeletons on his way through its lair. For every great leader bringing an age of prosperity to their people, dozens more have failed. For every great invention advancing society by leaps and bounds, hundreds of people lived their lives seen as crackpots and died broke without anything to show for their work.

So requiring a little luck for a story is not a bad thing in itself - it only becomes one if the amount of luck is unbelievable, or its influence is so constant that it becomes plot armor. I think our Lilliputians could do it, even if it will take them a lot longer than we might have hoped.


Six-inch humanoids wouldn't get very far for a simple reason: fire. The sticks we use for kindling would be as thick as trunks to them but still only burn for a minute or so, not hot enough to cook meat or boil water or fire pottery or form charcoal or smelt metal. Larger fuel sources would be nearly impossible to acquire (they'd have no way to fell a tree or chop it up) and certainly impossible to control once ignited.

Your colony of tiny people would be, and remain, pre-fire hunter-gatherers.

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    $\begingroup$ Could they not just burn lots of tiny twigs, shoving one after another into the fire pit? Or several long ones... $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ As far as getting temperature up, you don't need a lot of material. To increase the heat with little fissile material, you can make charcoal even if all you have is sunlight : CH2O -> C(s) + H2O(g) (in other words just dry twigs to get rid of the water and it's charcoal). Anyone who has used a charcoal grill knows you can compress a lot of energy into a small amount of fuel this way. While sun dried twigs won't give you enough energy density to burn logs, they will allow you to more efficiently dry other twigs into real charcoal. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ As far as felling trees when you're small goes, beavers manage to do this by gnawing at the bark of trees on each side of the tree to create a hinge, see worldatlas.com/articles/how-do-beavers-build-dams.html $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ There's more that can be burned than just wood – candles made from beeswax or animal fat could be constructed, or animal dung can be burned. Not saying that would be enough to achieve everything but I think it's reasonable that they could widely use and control fire. $\endgroup$
    – dbmag9
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ Agree high temperatures for firing pottery or smelting metals might be a challenge, but pretty much any fire burns hotter than 100C, which is hot enough to cook food or boil water. Since the quantities of water or food being cooked will also be proportionally smaller, the amount of fuel needed should scale accordingly. The amount of fuel needed to boil 1g of water is a constant, boiling less water requires less fuel. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:56

Summer season

The cave is deep, we don't know how deep. There's always worms, that is easy. For food stock, we prefer walnuts. We know where to find these, we dry the walnuts and Bghtaq has to use his chopper to open them..

Mice and rats are everywhere this year. We don't eat mice every day, you're lucky to catch one, these cowards are fast. But if you hit one it will go down.. you don't need a spear, a pebble will do. The other day Mrthaq put his famous sling to good use, killed six mice. It's a good season, we had rain, so we have plenty of mice.

One mouse is good for an evening meal. Dad loves mouse, because his father did and the father of his father did. In our caves, most kids hunt rats nowadays. Use the spear. More thrill, rats can be nasty, but their meat is far better.

Our parents and us do the real hunting together. Rabbits, beavers, otters, badgers.. last year we killed a mink, its fur made a great coat for Mrthaq. Sometimes we go all the way down the hill, for many days. There's a lake. and ducks ! you can surprise ducks in the water, while they sleep.

There's adventure too. When a duck is killed, we may offer it back to the forest. Sometimes we need to feed the fox, when it is hungry. Else it will eat us. Owls or buzzards can pick up and kill anyone of us, but they can't handle us together, armed with spears. Another trick we use is our tunic of yellow/black frog skin, they don't like the color.

Winter season

Of course, we can't stay over winter here, the bear will come.. When winter comes, we roll our walnut stock deeper into the cave. There's water and sometimes fish, but it's dark. No fun.

Sometimes I wonder.. our parents say there is a bear. We've never seen the bear ! and sometimes I suspect they just make up the bear, to take us out into the deep cave every winter. Parents seem to always prefer doing things like they did before.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, a "pebble" thrown by a 6-inch humanoid would do nothing to a mouse. They'd be hard pressed to get enough force behind a spear too. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ Rats are even worse. These guys are going to weigh about 125g at most, rats are three times that. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 7:55
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    $\begingroup$ Agree with @JackAidley - a humanoid 1/10th the height has 1/100th the muscle cross sectional area, and 1/10th the arm swing distance - since W=Fd, an object thrown by them will have about 1/1000th of the kinetic energy as an object thrown by a human. This is roughly the equivalent of throwing a BB at someone, compared to throwing a baseball at them. Not convinced you can kill mice by throwing BBs at them. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know the English word, with "backswing" I meant a slinger (?) used to throw pebbles with precision, at larger speed. It works like a piece of "rope" with a cup made e.g. of a walnut, the pebble goes into the cup.. mice are easy to kill. A human 6 inch tall is about 15 cm, that is about 1/10 of stone age human. Neolithic hunters could kill a mammoth, with a group. These were 4-5x human size. A group of Homo minumus can kill a beaver or a rabbit, which stand about the same height as they are. I took remarks about energy into account, but I assume these lilliputters could survive. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies, it is just called a sling. However, the mechanics don't work out in the same way. A human 1/12th of the size is not a 1/12th of the weight, or 1/12th of the strength. Weight in humans scales at less than the third power, but even if we take an exponent of 2.5 you end up with a mass 1/500th of the amount. On top of that all the mechanics of the levers, etc. change. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 17:02

6 inches tall makes them the length of a wood mouse and as "humanoid" likely would weigh much less. Certainly under an 25 grams. This would make most forms of aggression moot.

For example, a spearman would have to be able to generate about 3N of force on a spear honed to the point of a hypodermic needle to puncture comparatively soft "real world human skin". One of these hunters standing on their spear with their full weight would only produce 0.25N

They might be able to feed on soft grubs and slugs but I think their only chance would be to become nomadic berry/fruit gatherers.

I say nomadic as if they were to settle anyplace for any duration longer than a few days, their entire populace would almost certainly be devoured by a predator. An owl, fisher, or racoon is my best bet. If they somehow were able to fend off a racoon or fisher and form a colony, it would only last until a black bear ate them.

So, their best chance is as nomadic, arboreal gatherers who rely on stealth/camouflage to survive with basically no real way to defend themselves. I imagine they would be clustered in small family units and come together as a society only occasionally.

I would not imagine they could progress beyond a primitive hunter gather level.

Post Comments Edit:

There was a suggestion in the comments that I don't think this troop would be viable and quite frankly, I don't.

Modern researchers suggest that it might be possible for as few as 98 people with guided breeding to seed a new civilization and that is basically what we have here only with a stone age level of advancement.

Their size suggests that most basic machines like the wheel or inclined plain would be superfluous with fire being out of the question due to fuel scaling problems.

Someone suggested looking to capuchin monkeys as a template but these monkeys are four times taller and weight up to 5kg. That is potentially 200 times the weight of a field mouse sized human. They have thick fur, comparatively large canines, tails, and bodies built for jumping and climbing.

Here is how large they are (for later comparison):

enter image description here

A bush baby is a better height comparison and even then they are not lean like people and weigh potentially twice what a lean human would weigh. Here is what we are looking at armed with a toothpick or a corn hair sling and a pebble:

enter image description here

Attempting to ward off a family of racoons:

enter image description here

I know that is more than a single family of racoons, but for reference, that guy is holding a container of 100 hotdogs and that is only part of what he feeds them on a daily basis. That is our entire civilization as a starter course.

Also note that bears will happily tear into rotten logs to eat grubs and bees. A bear might not chase one tiny human (though a fisher would), but if a bear or a gaze of racoons found our town they would likely devour it all at once.

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    $\begingroup$ Arboreal ... until a snake eats them! Or a squirrel. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't nomads have it harder? They'd need to travel (presumably often with little cover), constantly set up shelter from scratch and constantly introduce themselves into new environments with lots of curious predators who'd want to have a taste of this new delicacy. If they settle somewhere, they can try to stick to one relatively safe place (maybe somewhere in a tree?), focus much more on setting up defenses and teach the local wildlife that they're not worth the effort. $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ @NotThatGuy Perhaps, but what I can say from raising chickens is that once a predator finds out where your coop (village) is, it is game over for your flock unless you have a hardware cloth (thick wire mesh) enclosure. They will return nightly to test the defenses in hopes of a tasty treat. I also think it will be difficult for mouse size humans to really put up any threat or resistance to a fisher, crow or racoon. $\endgroup$
    – JonSG
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies RE: "Large predators like black bears won't even notice them": black bears do eat ants, bees, wasps, grubs, etc. I don't know if a bear would bother chasing after a single Lilliputian, but if they found a bunch clustered together...that's a meal. $\endgroup$
    – MJ713
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ @MJ713 bears mainly thrive on bearsmart.com/about-bears/food-diet fish, fruits and vegetables, larvae, insects.. they don't eat small mammal prey, maybe because that prey is too smart, or too fast ? Agile, bipedal humanoids 15cm in height will be quite a challenge for a bear to catch. Why would the bear waste the energy ? It can't catch rabbits or hare. I think cats (like lynx) and wolves would be far more dangerous for our lilliputers than bears. But it will be territory dispute, not a matter of food. A 15 cm bipedal does wieigh much, partridges and swine will be more interesting. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 13:21

Capuchin Monkeys are probably a great place to start. They're tool using creatures, they will take twigs and stick them into anthills, pulling out the ants that crawl onto the twigs. Early humans may have began to defend themselves against predators with thorny branches, so this isn't too much of a stretch from the sorts of tools we've seen smaller primates use. Someone else posted the difficulties making fire, so your cradle of civilization is probably going to be somewhere near a volcano with a lot of natural kilns and rocks that are easier to start fire with; you are not going to be able to make a lot of friction. The advantage these creatures have though is going to be numbers; with a greatly reduced size and being lower on the food chain, the carrying capacity for these people is going to be humongous. Given this starting point and the easiest directions to go from here - you're more likely to find hot springs used as a power source before water wheels - I am imagining a society that evolves a lot like the Gorons from The Legend of Zelda. They would need to develop their own architecture, but there is a much wider variety of naturally available habitat. Clearing out an anthill or prairie dog colony, for example, would create a habitat or even a starter mine for resources. Although mining itself would be a little more rare at first ironically enough, since the topsoil layer would effectively be a lot thicker.

Where I think this society would be significantly held back is sailing. It would simply take longer to make trips across the ocean, which would mean stockpiling more in the way of supplies. I think the society would probably be well into the industrial era before it was able to make seaworthy vessels. They may even discover air travel before they reach this point; airplanes to us may be as new as ocean liners are to them.

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    $\begingroup$ Where I think this society would be significantly held back is sailing. It would simply take longer to make trips across the ocean, which would mean stockpiling more in the way of supplies. I think the problems with oceanic voyages would be a bit bigger than that; boats don't scale downwards so well. A wave that would rock a boat scaled around 6' humans would utterly swamp a boat scaled around humans 1/12 that size. Stability would also be a huge issue, especially as a rain shower that would be a minor inconvenience to human-scale boat could fill a 1/12 scale vessel and leave it wallowing. $\endgroup$
    – Spratty
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ Though they have an advantage when it comes to air travel thanks to the square cube law. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ First a correction: the creatures parachuted in the opening question are stone age humanoids. They probably have a common ancestor with monkeys, but their primary lineage - most recent common ancestor - is related to chimpansees, only smaller. Second: starting to talk right away about civilization and mining is one bridge too far. I'm afraid brain volume will not allow for evolution beyond hunter gatherers. They may develop neolithic habits, like stone trade, good spear heads and clothing, early settlement. But I don't believe they'll generate energy, develop architecture, or dream ships.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies -- nothing stops them from evolving a more space-efficient brain $\endgroup$
    – Shalvenay
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 0:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Shalvenay they must already have a very space-efficient brain, to survive a 6 inch stone age phase, developing weapons like spears and knives, to hunt small prey and fight predators together. That is possible, we agree on that.. But Jessica's scenario is describing a complete cultural development, eventually equal to a medieval human civilization. I wonder if that is biologically feasible. Gulliver's Travels is satire referring to early 18th century England, it is literature, not SF. The humanoids in above question were dropped on Earth, not on Liliput with everything scaled down for them. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 7:57

A couple principles are critical in your worldbuilding here: First, the anthropic principle, aka observational bias, second, the cube-square law, and third, cellular biology.

The anthropic principle says that our observations of the way the world is are dependent on our being here to make those observations. You ask "how they would survive and progress in this world many times larger than them"... this ignores that the world already is many times larger than humans. Oceans are wider than our ability to swim, ore veins are deeper than our hands can reach, orbit is faster than our legs can run....but we still tamed all of those. It's a natural bias to project your own expectations into a hypothetical universe where this absolute difference of height to planetary diameter of about 12 million meters or this ratio of 1:6,000,000 is off by a comparatively small amount, a factor of 100. A 'regular' human would not be regular to this world, they would be an unusual Godzilla-sized giant to the small humanoids. Just as we understand trees to be typically much larger than humans, unable to be stepped over or uprooted by hand, so too would they understand what we'd consider a small bush to be larger than them. We'd consider a 1mm grain of sand to be nigh impossible to pick up or to see, to them it would be as easy to manipulate as a baseball.

There are a few scale-dependent factors from physics that would make their life or biology a little different from ours. One is the cube-square law. Volume scales with the cube of length, while surface area scales with the square of length. Weight scales with volume, while strength scales with muscle cross sectional area. A related condition (because respiration and heat loss scale with lung and skin area, but cellular metabolism scales with the number of cells) is two-thirds metabolic scaling due to Kiebler's Law; the tiny humanoids will consume a lot more food per unit mass. However, they do not need to have a fear of falling; they're strong enough and their terminal velocity low enough that they can jump from any height, similarly, heavier-than-air flight is far easier for them.

An important question is whether you want to attempt to scale your humanoids to have scaled cellular biology. You've already said that you want them to be of comparable intelligence, but their skull cavities can contain far fewer neurons than ours. Are other factors like the speed of nerve impulses, the dimensions of DNA, the number of photoreceptors in eyeballs, and so on scaled as well? A related but probably story-critical question is whether they perceive time at the same rate - Their neurons are shorter but hypothetically just as numerous; your reflex to swat a fly on your leg travels up your whole spinal column and back down your arm at 100 m/s, a shorter nerve (like that between the fly's eyeballs and its brain) can react far faster; the connection of nerves in your cerebulum that define your processing and concept of neural impulse velocity and is currently slowly working out the implications as the signals clock back and forth 150mm across your brain, what would life be like if those signals only had to go 1.5mm?

A potential reference work is Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward, which considers aliens of human-like intelligence called "cheela" who live by very different biology and very different physics...on the surface of a neutron star. Their brains are molecular, not chemical, they see in X-rays, gravity and magnetism are crushing, irresistible forces to them.... their lives and culture are far faster than ours.


To begin with, they would have to rely on poison

Somehow the diminutive humanoids discover poison, whether they harvest it from plants or other animals.

This will get them past their biggest barriers to survival. A single lilliputian with a sufficiently poisonous arrow could take down moderately sized prey at least.


Fire can, once started be maintained, but would be hard to transport. They would not find it hard to make sparks from small pieces of stone or pyrite. Ancient humans transported fire with (among other things) Amadou, but the time it can burn for is limited by size which does not work in their favour.


Talking of transport, our lilliputians are going to struggle with ground travel, but excel at air travel. If they observe various gliding animals in the forest over time they may learn to mimic gliding using simple tools. For instance, sugar gliders are about 6 inches in length, and about 3-5 ounces (~120g). Even though our humanoids probably won't be adapted to gliding, they will fare much better than full-sized humans.


Most tools needed, like pulleys and Archimedes' screws, would scale or could be operated in groups. It's unlikely this would pose a serious problem to them.

Smelting would be a challenge, but they could get access to tin and lead, which have a much lower melting than things like copper and iron. It would take almost all their efforts to build a large enough kiln to smelt these metals, but it would be possible. It would probably be less of a commercial matter, and more a community effort.

They could then probably take advantage of steam engines much sooner in their history, because I believe smaller steam engines will operate at lower pressures than larger ones. Perhaps they make an Aeolipile, and it is much more practical at their scale than others?

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    $\begingroup$ I really like the idea of using poison, this is how a lot of plants and smaller animals already defend themselves against larger predators (or even kill prey much larger than themselves) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 5:28

6 Inch tall humanoids:

Are we talking about actual living creatures, or artificial forms of life?

Biological Humanoids

A 6 inch body, using our own body's ratios of 1/8 to 1/7 head to body, implies that their heads are 0.75 inch head to 0.86 heads. Now assume that the brain occupies about 3/4 of the sphere that is the head, let's simplify this (yes I know it isn't accurate) and say that we are working with a volume of a sphere which has a radius of 0.60 inch. I'll conver to metric now; that's 1.524cm and it would give us on average a volume of 14.82cm3.

In comparison, a modern human has on average 1300cm3 to 1500cm3, a rhesus monkey has 89cm3, a locust has 6mm3 (not cm3) and a pigeon has on average 2.18cm3.

Now, there's two important factors here to consider;

  1. pigeons are extremely intelligent (as are other birds) capable of learning, memorising, generalising and even using tools, because their brains are very advanced, and
  2. Elephants have larger brains that humans, yet aren't as intelligent, mostly due to the lack of high neuronal interconnectivity.

So, roughly speaking, our humanoids are considerably smarter than pigeons, yet dumber than monkeys.

So, how can they survive in our environment? Looking at the evolutionary mechanisms that enabled the survival of other species is probably the safest bet:

  1. Learning by observation, example and imitation where knowledge is transfered from one humanoid to another, across their community or group, and enables them to survive and advance, would be a critical factor.
  2. Organising in communities and groups would also be a deciding factor, smaller groups would most likely perish as larger or same sized predators would easily wipe them out. A location that offers little competition in the form of predators would be ideal too.
  3. Local or Nearby Resources would be a requirement; food, water, raw materials, anything they can make use of to survive in a simple and easy way.
  4. Technological advancements would probably dictate long-term survival, e.g., if there will be generations that last long because technology played an important role to their survival, you only have to look at humans to see how important that is
  5. Cultural developments would also play a role; are they able to speak, write, communicate, store information, or are they really primitive?

Artificial Life forms

This is an entirely different conversation, because we do not know what their intelligence capacity and limitations could be. Regardless of their size and brains, an electronic (or similar) life form could sway one way or the other; they could extremely intelligent and demonstrate a hive-like intelligence, which could make them comparable to humans or super-human intelligence, or they could be simple automatons, barely able to survive.

If the later, they would most likely not be able to copy or procreate in any form, and chances are they would have serious trouble maintaining them selves. Eventually, they would either need to evolve to the point where they are either reproducible or self-maintenable (kind of like a Von-Neumann Replicator) or perish, regardless of wether they can survive in the short term.

On the other hand, an evolved artificial humanoid would most likely be capable of not just surviving, but self-modification, evolution, expansion and overall self-improvement, to the point where survival would not really be an issue (again, look at modern human society to get a faint idea of what that could possibly look like). In this case, all bets are off, we have no idea how that could go; they may be able to increase their body size, give up their physical embodiment altogether, create other artificial bodies for them selves, etc.


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