South America
South America
Image from Steve Bowers
South America in the current era, as seen from outside the Exclusion Zone around Forbidden Earth

An Old Earth continent; formerly part of Gondwana. With an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers, it is the fourth largest of Old Earth's continents, and for much of human history it was the fourth or fifth most populous. Its indigenous nations and tribes were conquered and largely destroyed through military action, introduced diseases, and an influx of settlers and their ideas in the centuries after the first European explorers found the continent, but eventually new hybrid (though predominantly "Western") polities arose to become major world powers by the Interplanetary Age.

Human presence in South America dates back to at least 13,970 BT (12,000 BCE); agriculture was well established by 5470 BT (3500 BCE). Major urban civilizations grew in the Andean region, and there is good evidence that the Amazon Basin, which later reverted to wilderness, was heavily settled. These civilizations came to an abrupt halt with the arrival of European invaders after about 470 BT (1500 AD). The Europeans' Late Agricultural Age soldiers and diseases destroyed even the most advanced of the Early Agricultural Age polities of the day, and together with an influx of European settlers and associated African slaves, and the memeplexes both brought with them, destroyed or profoundly altered the surviving indigenous cultures and peoples. Beginning in the Industrial Age, some of the nations that arose in the aftermath began to make a mark on the world stage, but it was not until the later Information Age and early Interplanetary Age that South America came to the fore, especially after the formation of the supranational organization OSS (Organización Sudamericana Supranacional/Organização Supranacional Sul-Americana) in the late 100s AT (mid-2100s CE). The creation of the Espaço space elevator (beanstalk) based in Brazil with its terminus on an island at the mouth of the Amazon, and another later beanstalk with a landing on the coast of Ecuador, cemented this power, though by that time the relative importance of all of Old Earth's nations had begun to decline with the rise of offworld powers.

Nevertheless, a significant number of the Inner Sphere's great cultures and polities have their origin as Solsys or extrasolar colonies established by South Americans, either at the height of the Solsys Golden Age or in the aftermath of the Great Expulsion. One of the largest populations of sophonts claiming descent from South American ancestors can be found in the 18 Scorpii system, mostly in virtual form inhabiting the Felicidade Dyson shell. Another Inner Sphere system with deep South American roots is Orinoco.

Recently a series of Lost Colonies, the so-called Amerindian Worlds, have been discovered along the Periphery; many of the cultures of these worlds seem to be the evolved descendants of those found in South America before European contact. This has revived interest in Old Earth's pre-European cultures, and increased the number of requests to visit South America itself. GAIA's minions have, as usual, sharply restricted access by would-be pilgrims and scholars.

South America, and especially the Amazon Basin and the northern Andean mountains, had been one of the great stores of biodiversity on Old Earth. A large portion of that wealth was lost during the Information Age, although many well known species were saved thanks to the Burning Library Project. Although it has often been speculated that near-perfect versions of the original Amazonian rain forests and other unique South American biological regions have been restored down to the micro-ecology by GAIA, this cannot be confirmed, as no unauthorized off-world visitors have explored the region close up and unsupervised outside of a very short list of permitted "Pilgrimage" sites since the Great Expulsion. Some consider the full restoration to be a bioist myth, along the lines of the restoration of the lost biospheres of Conver Ky. The inhabitants, though diverse in other ways (they include lazurogened human baselines from various historical periods, and a variety of rianths and provolves) are of course all Children of GAIA and refuse to say one way or the other.

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Stephen Inniss
Ice Age Earth texture by Don Edwards
Initially published on 31 December 2001.