Lands of Bronze and Llamas - A Domestication TL


Northern *New Mexico, ca. 9500 BCE

The whistling of birds masked the footfalls of the hunter as he trod gingerly through the scrub grasses. He had left home just before the crack of dawn, hoping to catch some unlucky animal unawares before the heat of the day began – and there it was, past the juniper trees in the clearing.

The beast was tall and ungainly-looking, resembling a misshapen deer more than anything else. Atop a long neck sat a proportionately large head, the beast’s dark, beady eyes turned away from the human as it browsed among the fresh shoots of a low-lying tree. Its feet were hidden from view by the grasses lying along the floor of the clearing, but the hunter knew from experience that its feet were broad and pad-like, looking little like the hooves of a proper deer or bighorn sheep.

Even in his father’s time, these long-deer had been common in the Lands of the Juniper, but increasingly their numbers dwindled, drawing away to the highlands of the great mountains and the distant south. The hunter considered it an omen of great luck that such a rare creature had happened onto his path. Licking his lips and squinting against the light of the rising sun, he readied his atlatl – and let fly.

The spear sailed through the air, and here something changed. Perhaps the sunlight had worsened the hunter’s aim by a hair. Perhaps the long-deer’s eyes turned to a different leaf or shoot. Perhaps a slight twitch of the hand or an unnoticeable buffet of the air had altered the spear’s course. Whatever tiny alteration had taken place, the spear narrowly missed the animal.

The weapon crashed through the thickets past the heretofore-browsing long-deer, creating a great racket and spooking the animal. With a terrified bleat, it wheeled, charging off into the juniper forest, and was gone.

Smacking his forehead and cursing his stupidity, the hunter went to retrieve his spear, deciding that the elusive long-deer was not a lucky omen after all.

And so, a single animal, who in our own timeline would have perished at the spear’s point, escaped to the company of his fellows in the nearby highlands. The young male’s genes passed into the gene pool of this previously-dwindling species of North American camelid, affecting the population just enough within a few short generations to pass on his speed and hardiness to his progeny.

Hemiauchenia macrocephala survived by a hair, and the continent would be changed forever.

Lands of Bronze and Llamas
A Domestication TL


I know I promised in my earlier discussion thread that I was going to wait to start this until my other timeline had advanced further or even finished, but the ideas have been swimming around lately (and I keep hitting practical blocks in working on Age of the Elephant) and I needed to put them out there.

For now this is just where I'll be putting forward my rough work and ideas, and as evinced by the horribly unimaginative title, is very much going to be a "version 1.0" of the ultimate product. ;)

Any comments so far?
Yay! I'm glad you've decided to go forward with it. Will the domestication occur in New Mexico or close by as well, or is that just where the mutant genes spread from, and you'll have the llamas domesticated in the Mexican highlands as you suggested you would earlier?
I intend to have two separate domestications of two slightly different breeds of Hemiauchenia, one in Mexico and the other further north. :)
A Camelid Odyssey
40 Million Years of Evolution


A family tree of the living members of the family Camelidae. Hemiauchenia macrocephala, which is extinct in our timeline, is placed on the tree in red above its probable descendants, today's South American camelids.

The camelid family is a remarkable group of animals. Belonging to the order Artiodactyla (that is, the even-toed ungulates), Camelidae is the sole surviving representative of the suborder Tylopoda. Though today its only relations are (very distantly) pigs and ruminants like cattle and deer, the tylopods once bore a diversity of forms such as the anoplotheres and the relatively well-known oreodonts. All we have today are the six extant species of camelids to represent this unique clade of hooved mammals.

Camelids are distinguished by their long necks and legs, their unique dentition (their canines and premolars are almost like tusks), and their lack of hooves - modern camelids all have padded feet with a pair of toenails (thus Tylopoda, 'padded feet'). Camelids by and large are found in arid environments of any temperature, from Andean mountains and deserts to the cold steppes of Central Asia. In the past, fossil camelids even thrived as far north as the Arctic Circle, proving the hardiness of this family and its adaptability to many different climates.

The earliest known representative of Camelidae is the tiny, deer-like Protylopus, which lived in the Eocene, 45 million years ago. While Protylopus had four toes rather than two, and appears to have had hooves on its feet (unlike any living camelid), otherwise it already exemplifies the basic, camelid body plan.


Protylopus petersoni​

The camelids continued in modest success, diversifying in form and occupying most of the large mammal browsing niches of North America, but never spreading outside of the continent. Nevertheless, from California to Tennessee and from Canada to Mexico, the camelids spread across the continent, and are found in the fossil record of every epoch of the Cenozoic Era (the time period from 65 million years ago onward) from the Eocene onward. This distribution would change during the Pliocene when North America and South America met at Panama for the first time since the age of the dinosaurs.

This momentous event has been termed the Great American Interchange, and began around 3 million years ago. Large mammal species (and large birds in at least one case) migrated over the new land bridge, seeing the introduction of armadillos, ground sloths, and saber-toothed cats amongst others to North America, and the horse, elephant, tapir, and (most importantly to us) camelids, to South America. At about the same time, the cameline tribe of the camelid family crossed over into Eurasia for the first time via the Bering Land Bridge in Alaska, soon siring the lineages that would become today's dromedary and Bactrian camels.

Still, this diffusion of species out of the family's ancestral heartland did nothing to diminish the success of the camelid species still living in North America. They adapted admirably to the conditions of the Ice Age, and it was only when human hunters invaded the continent in the last 30,000 years that their ongoing success was threatened - by the end of the last glaciation, the camelids of North America were very nearly extinct.

And then a hunter missed his target...


Don't forget the value of llamas as a wool animal. One of the reasons Tibet became as civilized as it did is because yak could not only be milked, but it's down is excellent for clothing.
Anything with llamas has my interest.

Fascinating beasts as they are. :D

Does this mean I will finally get a Llama Cavalry TL?

I'm exploring the possibility.

Don't forget the value of llamas as a wool animal. One of the reasons Tibet became as civilized as it did is because yak could not only be milked, but it's down is excellent for clothing.

There'll definitely be some woolly breeds, but whether or not they remain the primary wool-producing animal of North America is not set in stone.
Oh man, that idea's been bouncing around for years, hasn't it? Personally I'm not sure llamas would make good cavalry, but it is an interesting idea.

Well, Hemiauchenia is somewhat larger than its modern lamine cousins, very nearly the size of a small dromedary camel. With selective breeding, they could grow even larger and bear adult humans on their backs.

The next update this evening will focus more on this animal's attributes from an in-timeline perspective. It'll feature quite a bit of speculation, but it should have some useful real-world information on the animal as well.