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    Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People
    Posted on Thu, April 21, 2005 by Dongul
    chatdemon writes "The mighty Olman empire, though now a mere memory to the people of the Amedio, was once one of the most powerful nations in Oerik, rivalling perhaps even the Suloise and Baklunish realms of legend. But where did the people who built it come from? Here's a new look at that question, reviewing the source material and offering a fresh interpretation of the clues.

    Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People
    By: chatdemon
    Special thanks to Maria Deltorre and Darva Shriver for helping shape these ideas.
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Here is a look at the canon on the origins of the Olman people, from the adventure module C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, and an alternative interpretation of the material to provide a more interesting story for the history of the lords of the Amedio Jungle.

    Area 1 - The Vault of Chicomoztoc (Place of Seven Caves)

    The display appears to be a diorama depicting a hunting party of Olman warriors, in feathers and deer hide garments, in a mountainside scene. Some have successfully pulled down a stag with the aid of a dog, another group is cleaning a small mule deer and the last party has cornered a puma with their spears. A scout watches the puma hunt from an outcropping above. He holds a metal staff with a loop in its end. It looks like a shepherds crook.

    This scene can be interpreted as symbolic of a change in Olman hunting lands. Stags and other deer are very rare in the jungle, so it is likely that the first two scenes are depicting hunts as they occurred before the Olman people came to the jungle. Pumas, on the other hand, are common in the jungle, so it makes sense that the third scene depicts a transformed hunt, occurring after the Olman people settled into the Amedio.

    Now, the Hepmonaland region is similar to the Amedio in terms of climate and environment, so it makes little sense to imagine stag or deer hunting being common enough there to be depicted in semi-religious dioramas. It is more likely, from studying this diorama, that the Olman people came not from Hepmonaland, as some sages surmise, but from a more temperate region where stags, deer and sheep are common. Since travel to or from such a region south of the Amedio is nearly impossible, it is fairly safe to surmise that the Olman homeland was to the north, in what is now known as the Flanaess.

    Hypothetical Description of Diorama

    This diorama is fairly straightforward, depicting hunting techniques used by the Olman tribesmen before and after their migration to the Amedio jungle. There is one figure of more importance though – the shepherd. While some Olman villagers do keep small numbers of goats and sheep, the scarcity of such animals and the lack of large pastoral lands makes the shepherd an alien figure in the jungle. The person depicted is actually not a shepherd at all, in the strict sense, but the legendary Olman prophet Samalikuk (Old Man Who Sees Tomorrow), the man credited in Olman folklore as being the one who united the Olman tribes in their Flanaess homelands and led them to the jungle to avoid some great misfortune. Samalikuk holds a Slerotin or Moses-like position in Olman legends, and is often depicted as a shepherd to symbolize his guidance and caretaking of his people.

    The other 6 Alcoves

    A The first alcove contains a river scene. Olman men, women and children are busy gathering rushes, fishing with nets and carving a dugout.

    This scene holds little significance related to the history of the Olman, but it is interesting in that it shows that the Olman people hold little of the gender roles that the other noteworthy races of Oerik have adopted. In a traditional Olman community, all people, regardless of age or gender, share and contribute in the work to the limits of their personal ability.

    B This recess portrays natives farming. They are planting maize and harvesting wheat. There are several warriors standing guard and a priest in a bird costume is blessing the fields.

    As mentioned previously, while farming is not unknown in the Amedio, large plots of fertile land (that aren't already overgrown with thick jungle life) are rare. Wheat and corn are also unlikely crops in a jungle environment, being much more prolific in a more temperate climate. Taken in consideration with alcove A (above) and the main scene, it is possible that the three scenes show a transformation of the Olman people from a farming folk to a society that relied much more on hunting and fishing. A step backwards culturally perhaps, but the jungle, while bountiful, is no undespoiled breadbasket waiting to be cultivated. Likewise for the Hepmonaland region, at least in the northern half of that continent. This is offered as further support for the theory that the Olman people came from the Flanaess, not Hepmonaland.

    The bird priest is worth examining as well. The Olman venerate the god Chac, and more often presently, his wife Centeotl, to provide rain for their crops. It is believed that Chac, who presides over not only rain, but farming and agriculture as well, is offended by birds, who reap the bounty of the land while remaining arrogant enough to spend their lives soaring above it. A common Olman belief is that bringing birds into a field or clearing will inspire Chac to bring rain on the spot, since it is obvious that rain drives most birds away. Since the tending of large farms and fields has declined since the Olman people moved to the Amedio, Chac's worship has declined while that of Centeotl has prospered, since she possesses a more general nature aspect not bound strictly to agriculture.
    One last bit of important canon here is the presence of maize, or corn. It has often been debated in Greyhawk fan circles whether or not this crop exists in Oerik, and this diorama clearly states that it does. It is unlikely that corn is the major staple in the jungle that it was in the Olman homeland, but in communities that are located where it can be grown, it may be found.

    C The third niche portrays a temple upon a tiered pyramid. Natives are bringing small offerings of gold and jade. Before the temple stands a priest handling a constrictor snake. Around him stand three costumed warriors - one dressed as a winged serpent holds a spear; another is dressed as a bear with razor claws; the third represents a coyote holding a torch. There are also several stone statues of the gods.

    This scene depicts the conquest of the jungle, at least in the northern empire governed from Tamoachan. The snake-handling figure is Tatichkax (Father of the Jungle), the first emporer of Tamoachan. The serpent he holds represents the jungle itself, and his handling of it portrays an implied mastery over the jungle.

    The lesser figures are distinguished from the statues of the gods, so it may be assumed that they are not gods themselves. They represent the three major tribes that Tatichkax conquered and united to forge the empire. The feathered serpent represents the Palcoatl tribe (Children of the Coatl), the bear represents the Nohakab tribe (Those of the Mighty Claw), and the coyote represents Huunpek (Kin of Little Dogs). Huunpek's torch is of some significance, its fire representing a position of honor. The Huunpek tribe allied peacefully with Tatichkax and aided in defeating an assimilating the other two tribes, so the elders of Huunpek were given positions of moderate authority in the new empire.

    D The fourth niche holds a scene of tribal warfare. All the figures depict warriors carrying spears, clubs, handaxes or daggers. The warriors of one side are painted black, while the other side is done in red.

    This battle is presumably the grave misfortune that occured in the Olman homeland, prompting Samilikuk to lead the Olman from there to the Amedio jungle. The red figures represent the Olman people, symbolic of their being of the sacred blood of Quetzalcoatl, their creator god. Their adversaries are painted black to show a a disconnection from the blood of the gods, not to imply any actual skin tone.

    The other two dioramas, and subsequent imagery found within the Tamoachan module add diverse character to the Olman people, but shed little light into their history, so their analysis will be saved for a forthcoming followup article. The only topic left to address here is to venture a guess at where in the flanaess the Olman are actually from.

    So where are the Olman from? Most of the tribes originated in what is now called the Wild Coast, Pomarj and Principality of Ulek. While no major kingdoms or empires of Olman people sprawled over the region, the tribes were plentiful and thrived in and around the Drachensgrab mountains. In fact, it is likely that their stoneworkings, huge affairs painstakingly depicting their various gods, especially the winged serpentine visage of Quetzalcoatl, are responsible for the name later given to those mountains. The Keoish nobility who hoped to settle the Poor March and break free of the tight grip of the throne mistook the feathered serpent images of the Olman people, now worn by nearly 6 milennia of weather, for dragons, and being unable to explain the carvings, they assumed some divine draconic origin and named the mountains in honor of those wyrms.

    Ages ago, the rise of the Olven kingdom of Celene brought conflict to the Wild Coast/Pomarj region. The Olve and Olman were alien to each other, and their misunderstandings and conflicts blossomed into decades of savage warfare, with neither side gaining an upper hand. It was at this time that Samilikuk rose to influence among the tribes, uniting them and convincing them to abandon their homeland, which he claimed the gods now viewed as tainted by the spilling of Olven blood, and seek their promised home across the sea.

    Several settlements were founded among what are now collectively called the Olman Isles, but it was nearly a century before the migrating Olman happened upon the Amedio mainland and founded their new home, Tamoachan, "The home sought after". Other settlements were founded, some only loosely allied with the empire of Tamoachan, and some, like Xamaclan, completely distinct and sometimes opposed to Tamoachan. Later came the civil wars in the jungle, unification of the entire jungle under the emporers of Tamoachan (for a brief time) and war with the Touv over the islands between their nations and the fall of the Olman civilization, but those historical details are left for another article.

    Back in the Pomarj however, there is still a lingering trace of the Olman presence there ages ago. As Samilikuk prepared the tribes for their long migration, he spoke a grave curse on their homeland, proclaiming that any nation of the blood (human, in other words) that was established there would be doomed. The Olman gods, angered by the actions of the Olves, granted the curse, and appointed a minor deity from their ranks to stay behind and oversee its manifestations. That deity is known to his peers as Luumcoa, The Earth Serpent. Inhabitants of the Pomarj in current days know him as the Earth Dragon. Through his direction, the curse of the Olman gods has been preserved, and no human nation or settlement has thrived there for more than the shortest time.

    More details on the Olman society and their history after settling into the Amedio is forthcoming, but feedback and ideas on the time before that is welcome. No further detailing of the events and ideas posted here, aside from their incorporation into a master timeline, is planned at this time, but interesting additions or alternate ideas from others fans could change that.

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    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by Crag on Thu, April 21, 2005
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    What an interesting idea...
    The Olman originally from the Pomarj, I like it and you supported your idea, just enough to feel right without providing so much evidence the rest of the races looks like idiots which is a mistake many ancient articles make.

    A question though, I realise alot of time has passed but given the lifespan of elves and dwarves, not too mention their obsession with history, wouldn't they remember the Olman and the exodus?

    Perhaps too help shroud the Olman civillization, a better choice would have been the Flan tribesman of the area, add a few Ur-Flannae priests that drove out the Olman but soon returned to competing with each other.

    Also I assume you meant : That deity is known to his peers as Luumcoa, The Earth Serpent. Inhabitants of the Pomarj in current days know him as the Earth Dragon. Not Earth Serpent...Earth Serpent as in the article.

    It ties in the canon of the LGG but I could be completely wrong.

    I eagerly look forward to the follow up Olman articles.

    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by Kirt on Thu, April 21, 2005
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    Very interesting article. Hidden Shrine was one of the first modules I DMed, but it belonged to a cousin and I haven't seen it in decades. I was maybe 11 at the time and didn't know anything about Greyhawk.

    Very interesting your points about maize and wheat - yes this implies a more temperate homeland, and I like the story of the Olman having to abandon that. Samwise seems keen on restricting the Flan to native american crops, so it would put the Olman in an interesting position. If they were from the Pomarj and Wild Coast, perhaps they had both wheat and corn while the Flan around them had only corn. Perhaps they were the dominant cultural force in the area, until the Flan fell under the influence of Vecna.

    Are you strongly wedded to the elves as being the ones who ousted the Olman? You state that it happened, but I don't see the motivation for it. If the Olman did have a culture of primarily settled agriculture, I don't see where the conflict with the elves would be, unless the Olman were so great that they had begun large scale deforestation campaigns.

    On the other hand, I see the rise of Vecna as a natural enemy. What if the elves had nothing to do with it; rather Vecna united the Flan against their rivals the Olman, and that was what forced them to leave...

    "C The third niche portrays a temple upon a tiered pyramid. Natives are bringing small offerings of gold and jade. Before the temple stands a priest handling a constrictor snake. Around him stand three costumed warriors - one dressed as a winged serpent holds a spear; another is dressed as a bear with razor claws; the third represents a coyote holding a torch. There are also several stone statues of the gods."

    Well, it is nice for you to try to rehabilitate this passage, but I think its original intent is rather silly. It is trying to tie the Olman into stereotypes of as many real world native american populations as possible. The feathered serpent would be the natives of meso-america, the bear the natives of the pacific northwest, and the coyote the natives of the desert southwest. Many native american had stories of the fire-theft, a common mythological motif known from around the world. In regions that honored Coyote as the trickster god, usually he was involved in the fire-theft.

    I would like to see future articles comment on the significance of the metal staff (did Olman culture have worked metal? Which metals? Did they lose metal technology after their migration?) and of the presence of the Jackalwere in Hidden Shrine (do or did the Olman have shape changing shamans? Were these curative figures or dangerous spirits? Aren't Jackals from Africa?)

    Thanks for posting this,


    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by Yabusama on Fri, April 22, 2005
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    Excellant article, I really like the tie in with the Slavers, it helps bind the whole area together in a common history.

    Great work, are there more to follow?

    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by Samwise ( on Sat, April 23, 2005
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    Restricting the Flan to American crops still leaves a problem with corn. It was developed from an arid, high altitude, grass. This would not be the climate of the Pomarj. It is not arid enough, and not far south enough.
    It might, by a long stretch, be the climate of the Bright Desert pre-disaster which was drier, but not really high enough altitude.
    And it might be the climate of the Tilvanot, which is far enough south and high enough altitude, but I don't think really dry enough.
    But it wouldn't be native to the Pomarj.
    So while those scenes are definitely not from anywhere in Hepmonaland, you need to keep looking for your Olman homeland.

    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by GVDammerung on Sun, April 24, 2005
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    This is interesting.

    I agree that the Olman Empire of old should be considered on a par with the Suloise Empire and that of the Baklunish.

    I agree that the Olman should be understood to have had a connection with the Flanaess. I think this a matter of "equal dignity" both within the game and for meta-game reasons.

    I disagree that the Olman came from the Flanaess to the Amedio.

    I prefer a scenario where the Olman developed independent greatness without reference to the Flanaess and then forced their way north, into the Flanaess. The particularly "northern" motifs depicted at Tamoachan could easily be things brought back from the north, without the need to have the Olman originally a northern people themselves.

    I see this as another matter of "equal dignity." The Suel and Baklunish peoples both originated outside the most provincial bounds of the Flanaess. Their homelands were on the fringes and extended beyond the Flanaess. I'd see the Olman much the same.

    If the Olman came from the Flanaess proper, are they then a Flan people? I see the Olman as Olman, not a Flan offshoot. I think in pre-Migration history, the Olman Empire would have had contact with the Flan states of Sulm, Itar, Ahlissa and The Spidered Throne but I don't think they are Flan originally or related to them. Even the largest cultural drift could not account for the vast differences in culture, to include mythology. Similarly, were the Olman from the north, one would imagine they would have left more of an impact that would have come down to the present time.

    Still, even though I'd do some things differently, I like the way you set things out with reference to Tamoachan. Very clever.

    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by Crag on Mon, April 25, 2005
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    Now my curosity about the Olman people is officially peaked.

    After reading your article and the other comments, I actually went into my old GH material and have found references to the Olman people that present problems with your theory...

    SB supplement and LGG make it clear the Olman originated in Hepmonaland and through a combination of the harsh jungle enviroment, social and population growth some Olman migrated by boat too the Olman Isles and finally settled the Northern Amedio where they came into conflict with the Touv.

    Obviously the Olman are not related to the Flan and their entry into the Flanaess was East to West - South to North which make your theory problematic but only on the surface.

    What if we take the existing Olman migratory route above and fold your theory after it...

    The Olman after the lengthy journey to the Amedio Jungle from Hepmonaland find they can't expand south without considerable resistance from the Touv so the Olman begin exploring the strange lands to the north. Explorers bring back fantastic tales of an end too the jungle of a new type of land filled with strange trees, wildlife and open spaces. Strange people are also discovered, tall bronze and races that aren't human at all.

    These expeditions cause great fear and excitement among the Olman people, with the majority opting to remain safely within the jungle. An expedition is organized by Samalikuk to colonize the new northern lands (Pomarj) which ultimately fails due to conflict with the elves as outlined in your article.

    Why must the Diorama be read as the first being the most ancient perhaps the alcoves were meant to be interpreted in reverse...

    D) Warfare in Hepmonaland due to population growth and lack of resources.

    C) This scene depicts the conquest of the jungle, at least in the northern empire of the Amedio.

    B) Scene depicts the colonists attempts to cultivate the new crops in the new land once the comminity has established itself.

    A) Scene depicts their efforts needed to establish a settlement (fishing and communal effort) and the desire of the "colonists" (dugout) to re-establish contact and trade with the southern Olman civilization.

    Area 1) This scene can be interpreted as symbolic of a change in Olman hunting lands. Stags and other deer are very rare in the jungle, so it is likely that the first two scenes are depicting hunts as they occurred after the Olman people came to the Pomarj.

    In this interpretation the further one enters the more ancient the timeline depicted which is certainly plausible and this interpretation does conform with the established canon of the Olman people without the loss of your ideas.

    Just the sequence of events is reversed...

    Opinions, thoughts?

    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by chatdemon on Thu, April 28, 2005
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    After further consideration, I have decided not to follow up this article with any further ones on the topic.

    The pedantic focus on corn and stale "that's not canon" arguments have soured me on the material.

    If anyone wants to expand on what I've done, or offer an equally documented alternative, I'll be happy to comment on it.

    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by Tzelios on Mon, May 09, 2005
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    This is the most promising and ambitious article I've read lately.

    Is it checked that there are (or were) no sheep and deers inside Amedio jungle?

    If such is the case, then it seems reasonable that the Olman either colonized the north or migrated from the north to south. In any of these two cases, the lost Suss city may be, prior to the advent of the Suel, of their build. Then if the convoluted script, mentioned in Artifact of Evil, is interpreted like I did in my article on the lost Suss city, then the Olman may be indeed among the inhabitants of this now lost city. But then again, these Olman should somehow be related to the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, the Exag discs, and the Exag pyramids.

    Furthermore, if the Olman are descendants of the Vaati, then Rich's arguments on the Olman migration from the north are strengthened. In fact, pyramid like structures are indeed a common element between the two cultures (compare also with Mona's myth of the cairn builders).

    Rich, did you ever check my Suss city article? You may find more hints on the Olman, given that they are far descendants of the Vaati.

    Another member commented on some past articles using harsh language. Watch your language boy!



    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by Tzelios on Mon, May 09, 2005
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    I also remember Roger Moore did some interpretation of the artwork inside Tomoachan. Is this what you were looking for from the old AOL folders Rich? Did you take Moore's work into account?

    Re: Legacy of the Olman Empire 1: Tamoachan and the Origin of the Olman People (Score: 1)
    by chatdemon on Thu, May 12, 2005
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    As discussed briefly with GVD in last week's chat, here's my proposed fix to the corn problem:

    Lady Rhalta, esteemed clergy of Labelas Enorath, fellow students of history,

    Compiling what little evidence is left of the history of the region we now call Calegdoern, and the men of the Kingdom of Keoland call the Poor March, was a daunting task, but with the aid of my esteemed colleagues From the Temple of Father Labelas, and the honorable sage Ilbrysis, of distant Cryllor, I present today the first of our findings.

    Long before our ancestors came to these lands, even before the first encampment was made here in Enstad, the lands to the south of us were home to a strange society of men, now evidenced to have migrated across the great Azure Sea, making a new homeland in the Jungles of the far south. Their culture was quite simplistic, compared to those of modern men, being a relatively peaceful folk, tending small farms across the fertile plains and keeping flocks of those animals that men usually find agreeable.

    Now, I see the startled expressions upon some of your faces. How can I possibly refer to the wasteland that is Calegdoern as a fertile plain? That is an interesting facet of the history of that realm.

    In the days when those men settled the area, driven out of the Sheldomar Valley by the growing nations of the Flan men, Calegdoern was a bountiful realm of rolling hills and fertile soil. No hills or mountains marked the landscape east of where the foothills of the Lortmil chain tumble into the sea, and the Olmanfolk successfully raised all manner of crops, most notably wheat and Eol, which men call Maize and Hobniz call corn.

    To understand what caused the radical change in terrain in Calegdoern, we must briefly reopen a painful chapter of our own history, the Olman wars. Predating our calendar by a handful of centuries, these wars established the boundaries of our exalted realm of Celene, but in the process, drove the Olman men out of their homes and across the seas. As we understand the events now, it is not fair to lay the blame for these conflicts solely at the feet of either faction, mistakes and misunderstandings were made by both parties, and a decades long conflict began.

    Eventually, as the Sons of Correlon AllFather led our people to victory in those wars, and the Olman people prepared to follow their prophet Samilikuk across the sea, the holy seers of our people began to feel the evil presence in Calegdoern that can still be felt today. Diviners have placed the name Mettraeden, "Earth Dragon" upon that presence, but our reasearch has suggested that this is slightly erroneous. The Olman people of ancient Calegdoern revered a minor deity known as Luumcoa, or "The Earth Serpent", and it is believed that Luumcoa was somehow left behind, or chosen to stay behind, when the Olman followed the prophet south. Luumcoa is said to have cursed the land forsaken by his peers and the men who revered them, damning any society of men who might ever try and settle the realm again.

    In the summer of the 500th year before the crowning of the first King of Celene, and the beginning of our calendar, a great cataclysm occured to the south, forever turning Calegdoern into the broken, rocky wasteland that it is today. It is theorized that some of the Flan men of the young nations of the Sheldomar realized the new absence of the Olmanfolk, and attempted to claim the realm for themselves, eventually coming across of the abandoned city at the heart of Calegdoern, that same city which men and Oroz now call Stoneheim. Upon their attempt at reestablishing a nation of men based around Stoneheim, these doomed Flanfolk awakened the wrath of Luumcoa, which was manifested as a serious of earthquakes of horrific intensity. Felt as far north as Dyvers and as far east as Rel Astra, these events ripped and tore the landscape of Calegdoern, rising a broken chain of mountains at its center, and tearing the fertility from it's soil.

    Now that that is established, let us return to the nature of the Olmanfolk of ancient Calegdoern...

    From a speech by the Elven Sage Qurvalon to the Clergy of Labelath, Olven god of Time and History, in the fall of 589 CY, in Enstad

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