I'm brainstorming an alternate history where the entire human species (Homo sapiens) somehow stays within Africa instead of dispersing elsewhere. Europe and the Middle East would thus remain the domain of the Neanderthals whereas Denisovans occupy Asia, Australasia, and possibly the Americas.

Since all Homo sapiens remains in Africa in this scenario, it is there that most of the world's major civilizations develop. Many of these resemble the African civilizations of our world, such as ancient Egypt, Kush, Ethiopia, Mali, and Great Zimbabwe. However, one notable difference is the absence of Eurasian and American crops and livestock in their agricultural systems. Instead, all the crops that humans grow are native to Africa (e.g. sorghum, pearl millet, and yams), and they have also domesticated African animals such as the donkey, wildcat, spotted hyena, buffalo, and zebra. In addition, metalworking in this alternate timeline is a West African innovation before spreading to the Nile Valley and sub-Saharan lands.

Meanwhile, most of the Neanderthal and Denisovan populations continue their traditional way of life, namely that of small and territorial bands of hunter-gatherers. A distinctive exception to this rule appears in the Middle East and the Mediterranean coast of Europe, where the local Neanderthal populations have learned the methods of agriculture and metalworking from the Egyptian civilization. These "civilized" Neanderthals have even coalesced into primitive city-states comparable to the early Greeks and Mesopotamians.

The question I wish to start off with is what international trade would look like in this kind of scenario. In our own timeline, quite a number of African civilizations (e.g. the ones in West Africa, Ethiopia, and the Swahili coast) benefited from trade with Eurasian cultures. However, in my scenario, most of Eurasia and the rest of the world belongs to territorial, culturally conservative, and xenophobic hunter-gatherers. Pretty much all of Africa's external trade contacts would be the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Neanderthals I described in the previous paragraph, and even they are broken up into squabbling city-states. Or could African humans somehow expand their trade connections beyond this region?

EDIT: On second thought, even the most xenophobic Neanderthals might be willing to trade if they got something desirable from it. So never mind the question I asked at the end. I am still proud enough of the original concept to share it though.


closed as too broad by L.Dutch, MichaelK, Mołot, Vylix, Ash Oct 5 '17 at 11:33

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    $\begingroup$ The most unrealistic part of this scenario to me is the idea that they domesticated hyenas and zebras. There are reasons why those animals were not domesticated in our world, and it is nothing to do with the African people; the animals themselves are simply not nearly as well suited to it as, e.g., horses or llamas. $\endgroup$ – Logan R. Kearsley Oct 5 '17 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ Considering how "infective" is homo sapiens with his colonization effort, I cannot find a good motivation to contain him to Africa. Especially if he can trade and thus travel. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Oct 5 '17 at 5:10
  • $\begingroup$ Problems: 1) According to Jared Diamond ("Guns, Germs, Steel") most of those African animals were simply not suitable for domestication. 2) You can either have other human species being a rough match for homo sapiens (thus creating civilizations) or being inferior, thus doomed in long run. Indigenous Europeans were partially replaced by first farmers from Fertile Crescent. $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Oct 5 '17 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ I am putting a "Too Broad" close vote on this question because it fails the "Could You Write A Whole Book About This"-test. This is insanely broad. Not only would you first have to provide a complete history of how society has evolved and what advances were made in me mean time, but then you could re-write every book of "International trade" under these new conditions. So I am sorry but this simply cannot be given an answer before running into the max character limit. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 5 '17 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ A point of clarification. Modern humans are subspecies of Homo sapiens. Neanderthals are also a subspecies of Homo sapiens. Your world is one where multiple subspecies of human inhabit it, with modern humans confined to Africa. For more information: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_sapiens An interesting but radically different world from our own. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 5 '17 at 11:01

Sadly human nature being what it is I would expect that Neanderthals would be exploited by their homo sapien cousins. There might be small amounts of trade in fur and similar but this would be a small operation in comparison with a far more lucrative and unpleasant trade in slaves. Being strong Neanderthals would be a useful source of labour and I fear history would repeat itself as it did in our time line but in a bizarre way.


Territorial expansion is part of human nature. Sooner or later, your highly developed african civilisations would wish to expand their territories and start a colonisation movement of their own. This would then look very similar to the development of native Americans or Austrlian aborigines after European settlers arrived, as the Neandertal hunter gatherer tribal culture would likely appear similar and tribal dispersion.

At first, trader would wish to trade with the local tribes most likely developed tools for basic ressources like fur and meat, maybe even slaves who are captives from other tribes. Then, homo sapiens would build trading posts where more settlers would arrive with increasing wealth and population. Later, when enough settlers have arrived they would start to expand and fight the more primitive and scattered tribes for territory and either enslave or eliminate them. As the primitive hunter gatherer tribes you describe lack the skills for mining ore or producing craftmanship beyond working wood, bones, furs and primitive weapons they could offer little of interest to homo sapiens who would wish to settle and exploit the natural ressources of ores etc on his own.


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