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I am working on a sort of alien contact story in a fantasy world, where a society would be completely isolated from the rest of the world and thus develop the idea that there is no outside world as a way of coping with the isolation. And soon this myth gets carried down and is eventually considered to be fact. That is, until a group of humans with more advanced technology makes contact with the isolated ones, and thus the idea of an outside world is reborn, sparking the stories beginning.

But under what conditions would this society need to be under that forces them to resort to this idea? Remeber that humans are a curious species so these conditions, whatever they are, would have to be brutal, but not too brutal as to let the humans live (food, water, shelter, etc). Also remember that this is fantasy medieval, meaning that the isolated people's technology is not equivalent to ours. I would say that their tech would be around what the Roman Empire had at its hight (between 96 and 180 B.C.). Lastly, other humans would have to be able to make contact with these humans too, who have the technology equivalent to that of the American Civil War, from 1861 to 1865.

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    $\begingroup$ How does this differ from most of human history? Especially peoples living on remote islands, as in Polynesia. Or there's the Indian ocean island (I've forgotten the name) where the natives kill anyone from outside who lands there. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Dec 3 '17 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ Funny you mention the Romans. The peoples of the Roman Empire, together with the peoples of the Parthian Empire, the peoples of Africa, the peoples of India, the peoples of China and so on firmly believed that Eurasia and Africa were the entire world. They had no idea that the Americas existed. And conversely, the peoples of the Americas had no idea that Eurasia and Africa existed. This state of affairs obtained for many many thousands of years, until it was rather brutally shattered by Leif Erikson and Cristopher Columbus, with spectacular effect. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 3 '17 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Unhappymarshmellow: The point is that for many many thousands of years both the peoples of Afroeurasia and the peoples of the Americas were convinced that their world was the entire world. The curious thing is that eventually some people in Afroeurasia began exploring beyond the confines of their world; but this happened after many many thousands of years, and was limited to a handful of nations. The Indians or the Persians never went exploring, and the Chinese almost never went exploring. Only the future WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) nations did. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 3 '17 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ What about the inuit / chukchi people around the Bering strait? $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Dec 3 '17 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ The Krickets from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a good example for this. $\endgroup$ – B.fox Dec 4 '17 at 4:12
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Obviously you require physical isolation, which is accomplished even in modern times by some tribes in remote jungles.

Typically isolations are accomplished by two elements. The first is physical barriers: Too much water, too much ice, the mountains are too high, the jungle is too thick and they are dozens of miles into it.

An alternative to a physical barrier is a cultural barrier: Your tech may be fine, but you do not wander far because you have been trained from childhood to know it can be lethal. This works in some extreme northern tribes where being caught alone at night could mean freezing to death. Members travel in groups for self-preservation and "innovation" striking out on one's own into new territory is frowned upon. So nobody gets a rebellious impulse and runs away; there is literally nowhere to run. They are taught and believe that there is nothing but ice outside their society, and that is how the gods intended it.

The second necessity is self-sufficiency: The remote tribes in the jungle can hunt and fish and have all the food they need, they don't wander out into unknown territory because it is dangerous for THEM too. At home they have their trails and shelters, with water and food nearby, and that becomes all there is to see and do in their life.

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    $\begingroup$ I would suggest a 'curtain' as well that hides the rest of the world from view. If you're on a land mass and can walk, then someone will. But a sea is harder going. Humanity could see the moon, so went into space. But if there were no stars or moon (permanent cloud, no moon, nebula) then I doubt anyone would have wondered what was out there. $\endgroup$ – Sobrique Dec 4 '17 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Sobrique A curtain would be a component of isolation: Isolation is a two-way street. But if it helps you remember the concept, go for it. Water, Ice, Jungle, Mountain, raw distance. It isn't true that "if someone can walk they will": Not over lethal ice, lethal desert, lethal jungle, or even lethal mountains; they can be so high and dangerous they cannot be scaled with primitive technology. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Dec 4 '17 at 10:49
  • $\begingroup$ In real life, aboriginal people who live in extreme northern environments tend to innovate to the best of their ability given the environmental restrictions they operate under because anything that improves survival rates is seized on. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Dec 4 '17 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison I corrected the text to read more like what I was thinking of at the time. "Innovation" was a poor choice of word. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Dec 4 '17 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ An example of this might be the subterranean Jiha Village in the first episode of the anime Gurren Lagann. (Replace "ice" with "rock/earth".) $\endgroup$ – DanDoubleL Dec 4 '17 at 21:43
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I agree that a good source of ideas is native peoples. Specifically, look at the Yanomami people of the Amazon. They were completely isolated until the 1940s and their experiences with missionaries, anthropologists, and industrialists have been extensively studied. Most interesting are the personal accounts provided by shaman Davi Kopenawa. (Be wary of Napoleon Chagnon's studies as they're controversial and quite probably corrupted by questionable data and tainted observations.) Two sources: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/11/06/davi-kopenawa-voice-shaman/ https://sites.duke.edu/amazonindigenousculture/yanomami-and-the-evolution-of-a-culture/ Consider animism and the connection to the land as major aspects of this developing culture. https://voices.nationalgeographic.org/2011/04/01/uncontacted-tribes-the-last-free-people-on-earth/ One thing to keep in mind is the notion you've put forth that your people are "coping" with their isolation. That presupposes they're aware of and missing an outside world. It undermines the very foundation of your idea. Also, presenting the outsiders as "more advanced" negates the value of this "native" culture. I suggest you think of these people as KNOWING they are the only "humans" to exist in their world and consider the considerable merits of their "less advanced" society as you're developing your contact mythology.

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  • $\begingroup$ A very, very good reference would be the aboriginals of Australia. They lived for over 40,000 years in complete isolation, not knowing about other tribes in Australia, let alone that there were other lands. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Dec 4 '17 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ +1 and excellent point on the psychology and 'coping with their isolation'. I also think "more advanced humans" is insulting, but "more advanced technology" or any kind of science, would not be. Advances in tech or science let us do the previously impossible, or predict more accurately than guessing. Tech and science advances can be objectively measured by their accuracy and reliability in achieving a specific result. And though we may have ideas of what makes a "better" human or "better" culture, I don't think carrying guns instead of swords should count! $\endgroup$ – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Dec 4 '17 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ See the Krikkit Night sky for details... $\endgroup$ – SeanR Dec 4 '17 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ Also, presenting the outsiders as "more advanced" negates the value of this "native" culture. — Why would that be the case? If they live a life rest of humanity lived millennia ago, if their life expectancy, infant mortality etc are like other humans had centuries ago, if their killing tools are outdated by hundreds of years, if their political ideas are something we left behind, if they never entered debt driven economy, and so on, they simply are less advanced. It has little to do with value of their culture, however anyone would try to measure it. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 5 '17 at 0:20
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Low oxygen levels would do it. One of the explanations for the Permian-Triassic extinction is a severe depletion of oxygen. After the extinction there was a "Coal Gap" where no coal was formed for millions of years, which may be because oxygen levels were too low for forests to burn.

In this scenario, it may be that animals became trapped in valleys, which they couldn't leave because the air wasn't breathable at higher elevations. This would explain the divergence of species at this point, since they were evolving in isolation of one another.

It would take fairly high-tech to be able to leave one valley for another. You'd need oxygen tanks and probably re-breathers at least. People might think "there is no one beyond our valleys because only the valleys have air". And sure enough, people who make it to the valley's edge will note that there are no animals as far as the eye can see.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this as it brings up potential species differentiation. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Dec 6 '17 at 21:34
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A world view is a piece of a political view. Liberal humanists and conservative evangelicals have different world views, which comprise the foundation of their political thoughts and also serve to bring individuals in a group holding shared beliefs.

Getting a little more extreme (I want no flame wars here!) there are Flat Earth believers. Theirs is a radical world view to use as an example, and has some similarities with that of your society: in the Flat Earth view there are not other worlds and stars, etc. It is just us and Heaven and Hell. Check out their website. They have internally consistent theories about the edges of the earth, the nonexistence of satellites and so on. Good stuff! Given all this evidence, why would anyone state the earth was round?

https://flatearthscienceandbible.com/2016/02/10/flat-earth-frequently-asked-questions/

8) Q. Why would they lie to us about the shape of the earth?

A. The number one reason is a Biblical and gospel related reason. The ball earth is the foundation for evolution and the Big Bang, which both put God completely out of the picture. If the world is run by the Satanic elite (which it is), then their primary goal would be to discredit and hide God, making us believe He doesn’t exist. In order for evolution to work it needs the Big Bang and the Big Bang needs outer space and the vast nothingness and the planets and galaxies and the giant sun and hurtling through space. The globe earth is the foundation for Atheism, the Big Bang, evolution, the New World Order, the alien deception, many false religions, and Satanic control. So if Satan hides God through his deceptions then he can convince people there is no God. He wants to be God himself. Without the globe earth lie, all of Satan’s deception are blown out of the water.

So too your no outside world people. The myth (of no outside world, or yes outside world; your choice) is perpetuated by persons who derive political power through the myth, and keep opposing factions out of power.

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    $\begingroup$ "evolution and the Big Bang, which both put God completely out of the picture." I have never understood that line of reasoning. Evolution and the Big Bang both focus on answering the how; whereas religion focuses on the why. The two are not mutually exclusive. One's validity does not depend upon the other's invalidity. $\endgroup$ – Flater Dec 4 '17 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Flater At a certain point you have to realize that arguing against people who flat our refuse knowledge and reasoning is a lost cause. $\endgroup$ – SGR Dec 4 '17 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ @SGR: Personally, I think that's an overstatement. Religion serves a purpose (guiding people on interpersonal behavior). It's not a matter of refusing knowledge, it's a matter of focusing on a different subject. Science doesn't involve itself with actively guiding people on how to behave, and therefore isn't a valid "substitute" for those who use religion as a way to unite a community. $\endgroup$ – Flater Dec 4 '17 at 10:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Flater I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about believing in a Flat Earth. There's belief, then there's outright refusal of reality. $\endgroup$ – SGR Dec 4 '17 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ @SGR: Playing the devil's advocate, "reality" is meaningless if you do not observe it yourself. Notice that flat earthers are people whose daily lives are unaffected by the distinction between a flat or spherical earth. They pick the one they want, and picking the wrong one doesn't blow back on them so it doesn't matter. I can argue about which smartphone is the best, and my claims may be objectively correct. But my grandfather doesn't care about that, he just wants something that can make phone calls. He's not being intentionally obtuse, he just doesn't care about the distinctions I make. $\endgroup$ – Flater Dec 4 '17 at 11:44
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Your isolated people need to be in an area that meets most of the following guidelines:

1) It's very hard to get there. High altitude, lots of natural barriers, or some such. If it's an island, It needs to be way off of the shipping lanes and preferably in a place where there are contrary currents that will take others no where.

2) It needs to be a bit beyond just self sufficient. If you live in the perfect place, why go anywhere else? Especially if leaving means your survival is unlikely. You are going to fall off of that cliff, or you will end up in the doldrums off the coast and run out of water. More than adequate resources will suppress, to an extent, the curiosity of the locals. The community needs to be large enough to keep going with a small amount of genetic diversity. If curiosity is the only reason to leave, not many will want to go. The very curious get selected out, because if they leave, they die. Or they never get back, which is the same thing. Think about Bonobos and Chimps. Chimps are in resource poor areas so they roam about and are aggressive. Bonobos are in a resource rich environment, so they just hang out. Otherwise, the two species are extremely similar.

3) They have nothing of value to the Modern Peoples. At least they have nothing that is worth braving whatever barrier surrounds them. Lets face it, most of the exploring in history was a search for resources. It might have been arable land, food, metals, coal, spices, tea.... you get the picture. If there is no real reason to go to that empty area of ocean that has claimed other ships before, they won't go.

That gives you your basic setup. So long as these conditions remain fairly static, The unknown people are going to remain unknown until Outside technology progresses to the point that it can both overcome the barriers AND for it to be cheap enough to attempt the barriers just to satisfy curiosity. Now we can see evidence of super remote amazonian tribes because we have satellites that can take high resolution pictures without it being too expensive in the big scheme of things. I can use google earth to cover a huge amount of the planet without even putting on pants! Now if I put on pants and decide to go there, I can, but it will still be very hard to get there to be face to face with the remote tribe.

This should be sufficient to keep the isolated community isolated until at the very least, powered boats. Maybe even powered flight.

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