If you’re in the mood for more alternate history, here’s a stupid idea that I can’t shake.
Let’s say that, from the earliest times, people could “tunnel” through the Earth. Build a henge, do some rituals and bloop, you’re at the antipode of the place you left.
What would that mean for world history?
Obviously, most places are useless for tunneling because they dump you in the ocean. But a few “sacred” places will give you a real destination. The Celtiberians might have escaped from the Romans to New Zealand. Some villages in central Africa will have a great supply of fish. Some people in the extreme north of Alaska and Siberia will have a source of penguins, which I’m sure they’ll enjoy.
The most interesting things are happening in Asia. Everyone from the Shang to proto-Yue and -Thai peoples to Austronesians and Malays will have access to South America, and vice-versa. Suddenly south America gets rice, pigs, chickens, horses, water-buffalo and elephants (of course you’d take an elephant through a sacred henge). Asia gets potatoes, maize, and llamas (not to mention cocaine). Austronesia and the Amazon swap sugar-cane and chocolate. What emerges is a Chinese-ish empire born long before its time, using naval power and tunneling infantry to conquer not only much of South America, but southeast Asia and Austronesia, as well.
The Great Shang Empire doesn’t last, of course. By the first millenium BCE, the empire has fractured, but not before it’s culture has spread horsemanship and literacy from Manchuria to Burma to New Guinea, from Patagonia to Panama.
By 1 CE, the East-Asian/South American hybrid culture is experimenting with boat-henges. They can tunnel from East Island to the Indian ocean, and attack the Kalinga on two fronts. They explore western Australia as a staging ground for setting sail and tunneling to eastern North America. And the islands east of New Guinea lead them to Mauritania.
War rages between the Romans and the Tunnelers. The result is an Age of Exploration 1500 years too early, with various Tunneling powers staking claim to territory in Africa, North America, and Europe. That’s where my story would begin…if I had one.
So what do you think? Have I set up the board correctly? And if I have, where do the pieces fall?
If you’re hungry for more Antipodean fun, check out the crazy conversation Lamnay and have over on Deviantart.