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Monna Civilization (Vandverse)

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The Monna Civilization was a culture of nation-states in Southern Africa spanning from the Paleolithic Era until the Iron Age, or roughly 6000-1000 BC. It was originally homogeneous in ethnicity and languages, but by 2200 BC had diverged into a plethora of different sub groups, ranging from nomadic to fully urban settlements. They are collectively known ethnically as the Monna Peoples. It was this civilization that also saw the birth of the Molima Religion, a very prominent monotheistic faith localized to southern Africa.

Overview

The Monna Civilization, at its height of influence around 1800 BC, was widespread across the southern tip of Africa. It extends across the entire length of the Orange River from the coast at Namaqualand all the way into Lesotho, and it is close to this river where the majority of Monna people can be found to this day. However, the original homeland of the Monna stretches further north, around the ancient site of the city of Lepang in the Setswana region. Cities and regions also with Monna culture are found in various regions in between, most prominently the Kalahari Desert and the upper parts of the Limpopo River.

It is not certain what the etymology of the name "Monna" is. All versions of Monna traditional beliefs, including the formal sacred writings of Molimism, describe how all the people descended from a single patriarch to move to Setswana named Monan. However, the reconstructed original Monna language, existing before the Middle Bronze Age Collapse, is believed to use the word "Monan" to mean "Man", and "Monna" meaning "people". It is therefore hypothesized that the Monna civilization, as it grew in isolation from the Bantu migrations originally, designated themselves as simply human beings.

Agriculture was widespread and singularly important to the Monna, as they were the first civilization of domestic food production in the entirety of Sub-Saharan Africa. Control of important trade routes through the narrow river valleys of the region was always a contentious real-estate, and the corner stone for most of its local wars. Sorghum is grown the most in that region, as well as oats, limes, and rapeseed for oil. Large domesticated animals are traditional domestic cows and sheep, as well as small pigs.

History

Origins

The Monna people lived in the Setswana region for many millennia, probably first migrated there since the Paleolithic era. They lived peacefully in hunter-gatherer cultures around the Limpopo River Valley leading to the Indian Ocean. However, over the course of a few centuries gradual desertification had eroded away much of the original flora of the river valley, causing a sudden shortage of food supply for the nomadic people. This eventually prompted them to develop new means of food production around the end of the fifth millennium BC. Wheat, cows and sheep were some of the first food grown around the Limpopo river around this time, the first major agriculture in the region. The introduction of agriculture caused an immediate social hierarchy to develop, as the first rulers of the region or "Pelemona" are attributed the largest and most prestigious houses. These houses became the first of the original Neolithic settlement known as the city of Lepang. The Monna culture at this time were known to flourish other forms of domestic art, including forms of pottery, clay reliefs, and funeral plaques. From this material culture, it is clear that the Pelemona had a very strong devotion to the native religion even at this early stage, usually in adoration of the god Kali, but occasionally giving veneration to Chun, Ba, or even Ise. The priesthood inherited from earlier generations of shamans were probably already in use at this time, but the major temples of the Monna were not built until much later.

Being a fairly peaceful people, groups of independent travelers from Monna would migrate west to meet other African tribes and expand their influence. They offered to trade their products of pottery and other works of art in exchange of more sources of food and water. Around 4000 BC, the government of Lepang was still too decentralized to have any further impact on the society, although a gradual trend towards social hierarchy is apparent in the material culture: Art at this time is slightly more refined, indicating a rise of professional artists employed by the Pelemona and other nobility. A hierarchy of scale is employed for the first time in funeral plaques. There is a substantial growth of local economy at this time as well, with some of the world's oldest chain stores appearing to sell refined materials of ceramic, clay, and food.

Around the middle of the fourth millennium BC, the Monna people saw an immense migration westward, with many people settling along the Orange River to a far more fertile region than the arid city of Lepang. Archaeology suggests this migration was prompted by a social shift between the people in Lepang, split between the urban-dwelling people of the city verses those who kept to the earlier migratory culture. Some 250 years later, however, the migrants near Xhariep had established a much larger urban settlement of their own, called the city of Motse. Another large city, called Tlaase, is established by the same people a few hundred km south along the same river. Both of these cities share a very similar culture from those of their ancestors of Lepang, but with some significant changes. Motse revered Kali above all other gods, even Chun himself, in a more henotheistic system. Tlaase, meanwhile, displaced Kali as the chief god in favor or worshiping Ba as the main cult. These cities also kept in very close trade with the Bantu culture to the north, copying their agricultural and architectural techniques.

Across all the Monna culture, rapid developments were taking place among their technology. The plow was first recorded in use along with various forms of carts pulled by beasts of burden (but without wheels). Early forms of musical instruments, such as harps and flutes, were first seen on this time as well. Each city became centralized around the Pelemona, upgrading to a kind of city-state. The White Chapel in Lepang is dated around this time, being the oldest component of the Great Ziggurat that was gradually built over the next five centuries. This shows that the cult of Kali had been fully developed at this early stage, as the Ziggurat became a central point of corporate worship across every level of society, although the rites themselves would be conducted by the priesthood. Most significantly, Monna at this time began smelting metal to fashion tools of bronze and copper as cities begin to grow. Contrary to their traditional beliefs, archaeology suggests that Lepang and its neighbors saw many years of early warfare with bronze weapons. It is likely that Motse and Tlaase held a bitter rivalry for the more fertile parts of the Orange River.

Old Kingdom

Sometime around 3000 BC, the first dynasty or "Old Kingdom" of Monna was first united under the monarch Laomer. Also known under various translations of his name, including Lomer, Lamoer, Lome, Lamar, and Lamer. He originally began as the Pelemona of Tlaase, before raising an army to conquer Motse and all surrounding settlements. He is attributed with many aspects of founding the Tlaase "Kingdom", including a unified code of law, a unified religion (under the henotheistic worship of Kali), and a complete road system across the entire southern Orange river. Many unconfirmed legends also surrounds the life of Laomer: he traditionally had an army of 5,040 men when he conquered Motse, and that he had a companion or tutor named Hanyane, and he also conquered as far east as subjugating Lepang. Lepang we know archaeologically had a series of independent rulers still at this time, although it is very possible that it was submitted as a vassal or tributary to Laomer's empire. Laomer's original place of burial is not completely certain, although it is very likely he was later moved to a cache of royal tombs during the Middle Bronze Age Crisis.

It is also at this time that the hieroglyphic writing system of the Monna was fully developed, making the reign of Laomer the oldest event in recorded history. Many small plaques and monuments dedicated to Laomer are found strewn about the cities of Tlaase and Motse. Various chronologies of his reign are somewhat in dispute, ranging as far as 3115 BC to as late as 2948 BC. Most works of royal, monumental art at this time utilized ornate mosaics of lapis lazuli.

The first recorded dynasty of the Monna culture, after the death of Laomer, seemed to have quickly decentralized and near collapsed after the passing of his charismatic rule. The Monna culture at this stage practiced a kind of gavelkind succession, in which personal property of each kingdom was equally divided among their children. The succession of independent kings at Motse and Lepang (among other smaller states) remained as vassals and relatives to the king of Tlaase, each reverting back to worship of their local traditional deities. Burial of royal tombs at this time is believed to have slowly become more complex, placed inside of larger Ziggaruts or Mastabas. However, very few mastabas have survived to the present day to be sure, and those that do survive have all been emptied. Large-scale building projects at this time helped to vastly increase urbanization as stronger agriculture helped facilitate larger population densities. These large-scale projects are all made of limestone, with fewer made of quartz and copper.

After this initial phase of the bronze age had passed, the kingdom was reunited by Bohlok "the Great", who had moved the center of power to Motya. This state founded by Bohlok was much more continuous and centralized, having a vast national military organized by a strict feudal nobility. The road system built by the early dynastic era allowed quick movements across the whole realm, such that the entire region as far as Lepang was fully annexed into the kingdom. The conventional chronology places the date of this unification around the year 2728 BC. Around this same time existed a celebrated polymath in the history of the Monna people, often called Bohlale, who is accredited for a wide array of scientific and technological achievements. Bohlale is considered to have invented portraiture art, wrote the first works on perspective, and designed the architecture for the first true pyramids for the use of the Motya royal tombs. Bohlale is also considered an alchemist, astrologer, and doctor at the same time. However, most writings attributed from or about Bohlale come from over a thousand years after he died, so it is not certain how much of this was contributed by one man. Several detailed statures are extent that are believed to be accurate depictions of Bohlok the Great and his wife. One such statue is a seated limestone statue with images of Kali and Ba near him, and the other is made of black granite with his wife beside him.

Using the manpower of the largest nation-state in recorded history so far, the great king Na-Thon commissioned the construction of some of the largest monumental structures in human history, the Great Pyramids. Using the architectural designs of the older dynasty, the Great Pyramids were constructed on the limestone bedrock in the Cutu Valley just a couple miles south of Motse. These structures not only served as the mausoleums of himself and his wife, but also in preparation for both his son and grandson as well. Although they remained visible for peoples hundreds of miles around, the various hidden chambers and false entrances kept its treasures untouched until they were finally looted almost 2,000 years later. The inner walls of the pyramids, however, remained until the modern era, being ornate works of lapis lazuli and nautilus shells to depict the gods and creation story of the Monna. Na-Thon's grandson, Semumu, was the last notable ruler of the Motse dynasty. He sent many expeditions and trade relations all across the Orange River, both in the far north and south. It was also probably around this time that the first barges were constructed along the Orange River, creating an overseas trade there as well. After his reign, however, The nation quickly fell into civil war and anarchy, effectively splitting the Monna culture back into its constituent kingdoms and smaller independent city-states. Most scholars believe this was directly caused by constructing the pyramids themselves, since such massive use of manpower and resources effectively bankrupted the entire kingdom. In addition, the region was plagued by a series of nomadic people-groups, most notably the Kutians and Mojaki, probably descendants of the original nomadic people of that same region. Their constant raids and pillaging resulted in the abandonment of some villages, and others becoming full vassals of the Mojaki "dynasty".

Middle Kingdom

This period of a "Dark Age" of the Monna Bronze Age had lasted some 300 years, during which time information on either the states of Motse or Tlaase are very scant. In Lepang, however, culture there saw a bit of a renaissance, and the state became centralized around the new ruler of Moltke "the Great", who made the city well known as wealthy and prosperous during his lifetime. The regions between Lepang and Motse saw a large number of tinier states form that constantly warred for domination of the region. The most prominent of these, the port of Sahel, controlled the main fork of the Orange River as it led into Lesotho. Sahel was often dominated by mercenaries and tribal clans, using the city as a base of operations towards their raids and pillages in other regions. In one notable incident, Sahel's fleet of trading barges were commandeered by a mercenary leader named Leu, and sailed down the river valley and sacked various Zulu settlements.

The armada of Sahel pirates had continued to dominate the southern Orange River for a long time. It is not certain when their attacks subsided, but it seems to coincide with the largest extent of Lepang under the rule of Letsie II. The Letsie Stele describes the opulence of his empire, including a list of military exploits against the states of the White Valley, sacking the city of Sahel. Some scholars dispute this, however, as Sahel is not listed among the tributaries or vassals of Letsie on the same stele. In the city of Motse, the only source we have of this time period comes from the legends of the wizard Baloi and his apprentice Prince Sesoi. This cycle tradition, first written several centuries later, describe their adventures against a variety of monsters and their ascent into various levels of astral realms. No archaeological or historical evidence ever confirmed these stories; however, one famous legend revolves around the Motoya River turning blood red, which is an event also mentioned in other sources at the time. The rulers of Tlaase at this time began a new dynasty from the descendants of Infi, known only as the ancestors of the second Monna empire. These early rulers must have greatly benefited from the coffee trade, as they monopolized the development of coffee products coming from the west.

The kingdoms of Motse and Tlaase were reunited at this time by Kopanya II, the Pelemona of Tlaase. This was a bit smaller than the previous dynasty from centuries earlier, since Kopanya never made any expedition against Lepang, but was nonetheless a revivalment of culture and history. Kopanya fixed the mistakes of the previous empire, by outlawing direct succession of nobility, but instead reserved the right of the monarch to appoint successors for the nobles. Art reached a new development at this time, with the first use of dioramas used in temples and private altars. In the field of music, the lyre is first depicted at this time, as seen on Kopanya's banquet scene on the "Standard of Tlaase". The military of the Monna was far larger and more powerful at this time than before, mostly owed to the large funding of wealth brought in by Tlaase's southern trade. Kopanya revived the trade routes to the north as well, although the White Sea at this point had been monopolized by Lepang.

When Tlaase came under the rule of Kopanya III, he decided to expand the borders of the empire as far as he could to the west, in an attempt to secure direct control over the nations that for so long supplied the city with rich coffee and soy. The General Sebetan is put in charge of the campaign, leading a large number of troops to push south along the Motoya River to find the soy nations and conquer them for Tlaase. This army had thicker leather armor, but bronze plating for officers, having a separate squadron of archers and large cavalry of chariots. Dragoons would carry foot soldiers in chariots for quicker movement instead of marching. General Sebetan pushed as far west along the Orange River as he can, but eventually he strains his supply lines too far and is forced to turn back. Locals that he encounters along his journey can only tell him that coffee and soy come to them from farther up the river. Sebetan sends a small unit to continue traveling and instructs them not to return until they have found the source of these goods. This unit vanishes, never to be seen again.

Throughout the rest of his reign, Kopanya III worked to construct an official navy of Tlaase, consisting of a series of barges across the Motoya River. His son and successor, Infi V, utilized this new navy to send a second expedition to the west in search of the land of "Soyakufi", as the Monna have decided to call it. This expedition was small, fitted with a tight crew over a handful of ships along the Motoya River to explore as far south as possible. However, after sending this expedition Infi suffered a tragic loss at home. Lepang under Khalef the Cruel launched an invasion against Motse, and although Tlaase eventually managed to resuce the city, it came at a loss of significant territory to the invaders. This was the beginning of a prolonged off-and-on conflict between Lepang and Tlaase.

Religious and Cultural Shifts

The end of the third millennium BC saw the decline and collapse of the "Middle Empire" of the Monna culture, collectively known as the Middle Bronze Age Crisis. Most scholars had attributed it to climactic changes that occurred around that time, taking note of the great famine of 1990 BC that crippled agriculture across the region. Other theories revolve around internal economic or political collapse. Certainly the dynastic civil war over the crown of Tlaase had a major impact around the 1970s BC, but the exact extent of that is uncertain. The decline and collapse of the culture in Lepang at the same time suggests a larger disaster to affect both states at the same time. By the early 19th century BC, the constituent states of Motse, Tlaase, Sahel, and Lepang had become independent again, with much of the regions around Motse, Sahel, and Lepang in the north becoming ravaged by the Kutians and Mojaki who became much more prominent at this time. Some smaller cities between these major settlements had been completely abandoned around this time, leading to the looting of the ancient royal tombs. It seems that the Isesian Cult was most prominent at Motse during this time, and most probably germinated the subsequent "Neritic Religions" throughout the whole of Monna. These people horsewhipped the Lady Ise exclusively, and had a large emphasis on the nature of water, as was the case for all the Neritic Religions.

The south, however, managed to remain more stable, with the subsequent dynasties in Tlaase remaining largely secure with respect to the soy and coffee trade from the south. A new city-state, called Kaboroa, was established around this time farther to the south outside of Tlaase's reach, and periodically switched between a rival and tributary of the kingdom. Further east, an oasis of the desert became the center of the city-state of Serug, which became the first people of the region to domesticate the camel, and largely became a tributary of Tlaase as well.

This point in history, during a more divided period of Monna culture, was the earliest myths associated with the modern Monna religion, or "Molimism". Eberum, a prominent trader and horse breeder from Motse, was called in a vision by the Lady Moshali, the goddess of the Molima faith. She called Eberum to travel with his household of 72 persons out to the far north, to a land that she will show him. Eberum obeyed, in spite of many perils and difficulties along the way, and came to settle in the land of Serug which he was shown miraculously. Eberum dedicated an altar by the spring and stream which Moshali created for him, called Bolokang ("God preserves"). The covenant given from Moshali to Eberum has been retold many different ways down the centuries, but generally revolves around Eberum becoming a "great nation", and Moshali adopting them as her own children, "to nurse her people until they are fully weened". Eberum ultimately died in 1820 BC, and his inheritance was taken by his eldest son Khaola.

Khaola had two sons, one named Yakobe and the other Beleu. Each of them had seven sons. Beleu's sons departed from the family of Eberum, and established nations of their own across the eastern desert as nomadic, bedoin people, called the Beleunites. Yakobe's children remained in the city-state of Serug, and each established a tribe of their own. Lady Moshali appeared to Yakobe frequently in dreams, and even once wrestled with him in bed. Later in his life, Moshali spoke through Yakobe to the tribes of his descendants, telling them to embrace the customs and statues that the goddess has given to them, so that they may not be orphans, but adopted into her bossum. Among these customs had included refraining from consuming human flesh and various other unclean foods, and to not take anyone's life unjustly, and to not shave their heads, braid hair, or take any tattoos. And all the children of Eberum said "amen".

After a few centuries of division and warfare, the Monna culture began to once again consolidate into a few larger states. The city of Motse came under the control of a dynasty descended from the Kutian invaders, largely displacing the native population as they settled into permanent urban settlements. Beselum, the founder of this dynasty, is accredited for assembling a massive army composed of various ethnic groups from the region, armed in the military technology of the older Tlaase empire. Beselum's nation was eventually able to conquer the Mojaki and consolidate control over the northern valley, and in 1558 BC managed to seize some coastline of the White Sea from Lepang. In the south, Tlaase is described as being dominated by a tyrannical ruler named Shalatis, who ruthlessly conquered the various groups of the south and pushed the boundaries of Tlaase further east into the desert. Motivated by greed and want of gold, Shalatis subjugated the city of Serug, enslaving the Eberumites there and forcing them to mine the land dry of its gold and silver.

Traditionally dated to 1371 BC, the Eberumites launched a massive revolt against Tlaase led by their first true Prophet, Oseiraph. Oseiraph is attributed as a powerful miracle-worker, casting various plagues on the Tlasseans trying to oppress the children of Eberum. Most famously, Oseiraph is considered to have caused the moon to split in half, and reigned down fiery rocks from heaven on the soldiers of Tlaase. He was originally forced to flee from the city of Serug, when Tlaase stirred a large group of the population against his words. But from the wilderness, Oseiraph called to himself a large exodus of Eberumites out of the city of Serug, until a massive army of 10,000 men returned to reconquer the city. Once achieving their independence, Oseiraph codified all the laws and theologies of the Eberumites, and establishing the foundation of the Molima religion.

Religion

The Monna traditional belief system is a living mythology, evolving as their pantheon of gods reflects the changes of the natural world. The chief and most powerful is the god Kali, the living face of the Sun and bringer of light and life. Chun, the primordial god of time, is attributed to have created the universe several thousand years ago, and produced various other deities including Kali, Ba, Zu, and Ise. The world was originally dominated by terrible monsters known as the Lefu, who would terrorize the earth and eat anyone they find. Some versions of the legend describe the Lefu as giant lizards or covered in scales, while other versions describe them as large men with hundreds of arms or eyes. Kali led an army of gods to drive the Lefu away, and became the new ruler of the sky himself. He is married to Ise, the the goddess of rain, and share responsibility of maintianing balance in the cosmos. Early versions of the Monna kinglist starts with a dynasty of gods, starting with the rules of Kali, Ba, and Zu each of which ruling for thousands of years at a time. Ba being the god of the Earth and Zu god of animals. Tracing back the kinglist of Monna literally, they claim the first human ruler to be Moeris in 4242 BC. According to Monna mythology, Moeris was instructed by the gods how to dig canals from the nearby lakes in order to expand the Noka River, and irrigate the farmlands of Lepang. The Monna religion has great emphasis on civility and respect, having very strict penalties against various forms of violence or injustice. The priesthood is considered the only intermediary between the people and gods, who make monthly offerings to Kali and his brethren. Chun, the primordial god, is technically known to be interceded directly by common people, but this is not generally practiced.

The Molima faith was a more monotheistic religion that first appeared in the mid-to-late 2nd millennium BC. It worships a single, female deity as the creator god and sustainer of life on earth, known as Lady Moshali. It is holds a special veneration of water and other forms of moisture, as being the closest representation of Moshali's presence in the physical world. In fact, a large set of cults around the Monna culture similar to Molimism are often referred to as "Neritic Religions" by their emphasis and use of water-based motifs. It originated among the Eberumite people, who built the city of Serug in the Kalahari desert as a colony away from the Tlaase empire. Most of their traditional views of morality and theology were passed down by Oseiraph, their prophet who helped throw out the Tlaase in 1375 BC. They mostly have laws governing their style of dress and diet, as well as strict codes of honor related to kinship and violence.