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Population Splitting

Here is a summary my history professor provided, from the class Civilization and the City, about early human settlement (I’ll identify the texts used at the bottom):

"By 8000 BCE, some communities at the eastern end of the Mediterranean numbered 1000-2000 (today called ‘proto-civilizations’), a clear sign that agricultural techniques had developed to a point that a collection of centralized fields could support a very large population in a small place. Irrigation, canal, and dam-building methods were also becoming highly sophisticated, ensuring water control. In theory, many communities of this era could have continued to grow into very large settlements—well over the 5000 today used to identify a true ‘city.’

However, these early communities consistently resisted growth beyond 1000-2000. When they reached these numbers, they split their populations by founding colonies, usually fairly close to the home settlement. They seem to have been trying to avoid breakdowns in organization that could occur in large groups, at least in groups using traditional hunter-gatherer organizational methods. Humans are mentally predisposed to work in smaller groups; they have considerable trouble even in groups of more than 150. Rather than solve the problem with social experimentation, perhaps the invention of some new modes of organization, these communities chose to reduce their numbers to a manageable size. The deadly consequences of a failed experiment seem to have been their concern here; these communities relied on tried and true methods as much as they could."

This is definitely something that should be in the game. if your community reaches 1000-2000 people you should be forced to split your population else experience a breakdown in societal organization. We don’t see the first true city until about 4000 BCE in the Tigris and Euphrates River Valley. This was primarily due to overpopulation, which forced them to colonize the violent banks of the rivers. A large population was required to build and maintain the canals, dykes, levees, and dams that kept the rivers from flooding and wiping out everything in the valley. Typically this change of organization came in the form of the theocratic ruler who governed in the name of the gods.

I’m also curious about small scale warfare between villages. As there was small scale “empire building” going on before the bronze age. Egypt was unified in 3100 BCE under Menes after a war between the ruler of the north and south. This evidently shows that villages were conquered by each other to a certain degree before the advent of bronze. Of course we don’t see major empire building until then, but there was small spats and takeovers going on. It would’ve been difficult to keep control of another village without properly promoting religious “similarities” to create a “common culture.” This period was however known for and dominated by proto-civlizations and city-states, once they came on the scene, bar Egypt.

Texts summary references:


1000 to 2000 people is a huge span! :wink:

I reckon it could be ultra frustrating in-game if you work your way up to 2000 inhabitants and half of your population has to leave, even if they extend your “empire” somehow.

Maybe a bonus earned with the departure of your citizens could help you “level up”: if your settlement becomes too big, some people leave but their new settlement has to supply your city, so you do not have to worry about ressource production and you can focus on more modern aspects of ancient life, namely politics, religion, the founding of a proto-state.
But this should be better tailored to the Middle Eastern DLC, right ?


Interesting points (I actually split up a larger tribe in my second novel partly for this reason lol).

Two points of consideration:

Catalhoyuk may have had up to 10,000 people and we have yet to identify any form of government (it may have an some council or leadership, but nothing which stands out).

I’ve never been able to buy into the 150 hypothesis. My high school at 1200 students and I knew the names and some info on probably 600-700 of them. If I lived closely with them my whole life and had way less outside information to retain, I’d likely know more of them, still.


In all likelihood, your colony would probably start out extremely dependent on you but after reaching a certain threshold of independence would become a rival for resources. The benefit would be that you have another village nearby that shares your culture and religion so they’re more likely to come to each others’ common defense.

Yes we don’t know much about them, but one thing to consider is that site was abandoned, meaning it failed. You also don’t really see the development of rigid social classes until the city appears. In a village, everybody is farming for the most part and typically everyone has to pitch in during harvest. In a city, not everyone needs to be a farmer as you have enough food cultivation that certain people can begin doing other activities. You see the development of social class as certain people are considered “better” at certain things. Like maybe one guy is good at communicating with the gods so that becomes his role. Maybe some people are good at fighting or the temporary watch and it becomes a permanent guard or military role.

I mean it’s more in reference in getting these people to come to a consensus and do something all together. The hunter-gather form of leadership, of generally everyone having a say, doesn’t work once you have so many people. That’s why you see the development of, in most cases, a strong theocratic ruler. It’s someone who can make quick decisions without consulting all 5,000 individuals in the community. Imagine how hard it is just to get 3 of year friends to do something, then multiply that by several hundred or thousand.


We do not know but so much about Catalhoyuk, but we know the population was easily in excess of 2000 for well over a thousand years. We do not know that it failed, either. There can be many reasons why it ended. Also, if it did fail, the reasons may have nothing to do with larger populations or may be more indirect. The Kona plain underwent climate changes due that time, for example.

I wish we knew more, but we don’t. Also, we don’t yet know how much of an outlier that site was.

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By failed I was more so referring to the fact that from archeological evidence, it appears Çatalhöyük was abandoned by its inhabitants. When something is abandoned it could be due to many reasons but from what we know, a good guess would be climate change made farming difficult so they weren’t able to feed their population. But yes, we don’t know much about the site. The first “true” city appears in the Tigris and Euphrates River Valley. They were agricultural cities, whereas many of the other cities founded by Empires during the bronze age were imperial cities that typically housed their bureaucrats, soldiers, and palace. Civilization as we know it is typically defined by monumental architecture, language, some form of writing, and religion.


Very true, but it could be more complex than that. Remember Jericho. It is built, rebuilt, and inhabited, reinhabited.

Worse, if the reasoning behind people leaving had something to do with their beliefs, we may never be able to figure it out. (E.g They become convinced the land is cursed, even if technically everything is fine)


True, although I would say that religion was a way to explain natural occurrences. So if for example they thought the land was cursed it would be due to some natural phenomenon such as say a solar eclipse, some kind of ecological disaster, climate change, etc.


While religions are often descriptive of nature, they tend to be prescriptive of action, as informed by context (e.g. nature). Given the changes in the Holocene during this time, it makes a lot of sense that environment or perhaps a plague may indeed have been the cause.

Of course, we can never rule out events such as an elder “receiving a vision” informing people to leave or do something else lol


Asked my Civilization and the City professor about this today. He said that if you look at archeological evidence, it has no defining characteristics of a city. He also said that it definitely never reached more than 1000-2000 people. He said in fact, there’s evidence that they split their population multiple times in the form that there’s archeological evidence of people with the exact same culture in several different locations around Çatalhöyük. He also said its theorized that there used to be a river running through Çatalhöyük which would have separated the people on each side.

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I am not sure how your professor can be such a declarative statement when the actual researchers cannot make such an exact estimate with a boundary statement of “definitely.” According to Dr. Ian Hodder, director of the Catalhouk study by Standford, estimates have varied, but between 1000-8000 (originally estimated by Dr. Mellart, the first to examine the site.)*
I am not an expert on the issue (not even an archaeologist), so I get my information from the team specifically studying this proto-city.

Here is one of many good papers from the director of the research team investigating Catalhoyuk. He provides some population numbers in the paper (as well as many others he has posted if you dig around the Stanford website).

I studied this at great length before I wrote about it in my 3rd novel, as well as contacting Dr. Hodder and Stanford in general about certain key points. You may find the vast databases of the Catalhoyuk project of use. I spend months reading every document in them. I was so pleased with their work that I became a donor to the project.

Also, Catalhoyuk isn’t a city (it’s is often colloquially called one), but it is a proto-city, which may be what you professor was alluding to.


I shouldn’t have used the word definitely. I asked my prefessor because I go to a research institution and his expertise is early human history. He essentially said there’s many different theories on the site. He said the estimates for how many people lived together often vary depending on the researcher by different definitions of what together means.


Ok. That makes sense.
There ars in fact my hypothese. For my books, I chose a model where the society was split in two by major family group associations, reinforced culturally. That is, however, just a model. lol

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I don’t believe Forcing you to split you city when it reaches 1000-2000 will make for a good game. As people tend to resist and rebel against forcing any thing.

My suggestion is to provide the developers ideas on how to pressure he player into dividing his city/tribe.

One idea is disease/heath the bigger a city gets the more disease/health problems there are.

Also my guess is a population of 50-100 is more realistic as my guess is by the time you get to a pop of 1000 the last thing the player wants to do is micromanage a smaller group at a pop of 1000-2000 players are likely looking at ways to build there empire so they have actualy finished playing the game level 1.

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This is supposed to be a historical simulation of the events that actually occurred during the Neolithic period. Population splitting happened everywhere around the world except perhaps the Americas. When populations weren’t split chaos ensued and traditional society broke down.

In the Americas with the Maya for example, they weren’t able to split their populations because of hostile city states all around and the guys forming a new city would be the first to be attacked. So instead of expanding, they just built up. Many civilizations in the Americas were dealing with very tropical, heavily forested, mountainous terrain and were settled in valleys. Turns out expanding up the sides of valleys requires removing vegetation that’s important for preventing mud slides. And in the rain forest/tropical climate only the top soil is nutrient rich so when they kept building up and up the mountain sides, the crops at the top would get the good soil, but all the nutrient poor, acidic soil would wash all over the farms below. This resulted in increasingly diminishing crop yields as the soil got poorer and poorer for the lower down farms. Eventually everybody abandoned the cities and started living in the rain forests in villages again. When society breaks down, people naturally return to what’s known to have worked in the past.


Free distribution of hearts as this topic is really interesting (at least I’m very interested in).

Like @jrpjim (and others maybe) I think there should be interesting and meaningful reasons to split population. A good number may come very fast in mind:

  • tech level: without a “social tech” advancement you just can’t manage to rule over a certain number of citizens. Meaning, with costly and more elaborate rulership & religious ceremonies and rituals you’d be able to make you society more consistent. Whenever you reach the cap, you should not have half your citizens leaving, but clearly get a progressively insane situation, event-driven, with feuds and quarrels running havoc among your people until enough are dead ir you decided for instance to banish a few families.
  • other techs are important also: with higher efficiency in farming, hunting, fishing or storing you should be able to benefit more of the ressources on you limited city map. Whenever you reach a cap, people should either starve, get ill and improductive or leave.
  • having an important influence area should help having a higher cap: people coming from the whole area to visit your gods, your chief, your enclosure, trade in great religious meetings, etc. This should help you “collecting” more ressources and feed your population thanks to gifts, animals sacrificed there by outsiders, etc.
  • whenever you have too much people in your settlement for the amount of ressources you should be abke to “trade” them: your daughters for a political alliance, or for a great farmer, or for some interesting ressources, etc.
  • splitting should also be seen as utterly necessary for the player. City maps should not have every ressource, so if for instance you’re deprived of stone but your people use to exploit some 3 day away in the hills, you should have every advantage to send some people live nearby, permanently–they still would be an off-map colony (like a satellite or submitted settlement) with strong links regarding culture/faith/kinship and would warrant a regular income in the said ressource for a reasonnable amount of e.g. food or anything. In Neolithic they did that for herding, farming, mining, so this definitively should be in game.
  • those off-map sites should also be the very first step of your empire, with people from foreign settlements able to settle there also, leading either to peaceful relations there, or quarrels, needing you to intervene to drive off the newcomers, etc. This would help make the surrounding world alive, and oblige you to politics and diplomacy with your neighbors.

I think you did a fantastic job of putting everything that was said in this thread into the context of gameplay. I definitely agree with soft caps, as most players are not fans of being forced to do just about anything and see things more in terms of necessity.

The rest sounds good and are valid reasons to split the tribe, but this one feels a bit too magic.
How could this be grounded to something that could be even be separated to pieces that work in its own inside the simulation? What would represent this “social tech” in real life?


I think there are lot of things that could be attached to that. Basically, “social techs” should be essentially flavor names, be it rituals or ceremonies in the religious or social fields. @lotus253 gave a number of hints on what was missing in DoM here (see notably the part with the big bold RITUALS).

If we just take into consideration such a social tech as “memory of the dead”: in a Ice Age family/tribe with 5 or 10 people, just speaking about a dear dead one is enough – basically like when in our family we speak about someone disappeared, telling stories about his/her life, his/her funny obsessions, etc. This is a way to create a cohesive link inside a small group like a family.
This obviously can’t work with a 200 people settlement, so to reach such a cohesive effect you need a proper ritual for the dead: a religious ceremony where every member gathers, a common sacrifice for the ancestors, a banquet and feast. This way, you could for instance have a higher cap for 30 more people in your settlement, and whenever you get this tech a dead cult may happen for instance once a year (or every 10 years, depending on timing in game). With an obvious price to pay for the banquet (food, etc.). And I may hear Lotus from here: “And shiny animations!!!”

There are lot of similar things that may be added as “social tech”: a cultic festival for harvest, for the moon, etc. Lotus could give a very long list if asked to, I’m sure of that.
Thinking about the political/social field, we could add the possibility for the big man (i.e. the player) to offer a banquet, to “buy” some important people or group or people with gifts to reassert his/her authority by showing his/her power and wealth, etc. That’s a very common practice, even today, called “paternalism” in the 19th-20th centuries when the boss of the factory used that (and think of company trips and sport events nowadays).

The bad side of such a feature with “social techs” could be having a sudden cap appearing: I think I remember you told once techs should be meaningful. The trouble is if just because you get a tech you may have +50 citizens in your settlement. To make the feeling far less “mathematical” (a.k.a. “stupid” in daily language), I think using triggered events would be totally fine to make things more fluffy:

  • if your citizen number is 10% above the cap: an event may fire up: e.g. a feud between two family heads, whatever the reason, that may create bits of chaos;
  • if you citizen number is 20% above the cap, then another event may fires up alongside the first one: e.g. disorder due to different political considerations among the groups of citizens/families, etc.
  • if you are 30% above the cap, then could be added a story about the question of sharing ressources between groups if you’re lacking them, then creating another feud, etc.
  • another case: if you’ve got some migrants who want to settle in and you’re already above the cap or about to reach it, you could get severe debates among citizens on what should be the ruler position on that: as a player you may want the newcomers to settle in as they’re damn good potters and on the long term that would be nice for every citizen; but some of those citizens may just wonder how everyone may get fed with the limited ressources of the settlement. Hence: debates, once again, and decisions to make to avoid chaos or deal with it.
    One important thing is that if implemented such events should appear randomly once reached a threshold, giving a sense of real life in the settlement.

As usual, I’m not sure if this may help making my ideas clearer or easier to grasp. And probably you’re wondering how such a things could be done technically, while I’m just thinking on a theorical level. Don’t hesitate to say if that’s the case :wink:


And at 50% above the cap members of the group would be abandoning the proto-civilization and reverting to living in smaller villages clustered in the surrounding areas since the “city-state” could not meet their needs. I use city-state here loosely as again a city is a group of concentrated individuals numbering 5000 or more.