Origins of the Areth
Due to the ambiguity of archaeological evidence, the origins of the Areth are shrouded in doubt, and while the Marcasian Theory of Origin has gained widespread currency both in academic circles and among the general public, much of it relies on inference, deduction and intelligent hypothesis to fill in the gaps left by archaeology, or the deficiencies thereof. For that reason, a vocal minority prefers the alternative Arophanian Theory, which, while entirely based on solid archaeological evidence, suffers from its proponents' disregard of certain suggestive possibilities that are not as well-attested.
Fossils unearthed in Eoris establish the time-frame of early habitation in present-day Audoria as approximately 1.2 million years ago, and mitochondrial DNA dating has conclusively affirmed that the first modern humans in Audoria lived approximately 67,000 years ago as hunter-gatherers. While the existence 10,000 years ago of several advanced sedentary, rice-growing cultures is not disputed due to the strength of the evidence (see Marija culture), those cultures are not considered distinctly Arithide. The oldest artefacts believed to indicate the emergence of a discrete Arithide identity are pottery shards found in northeastern Arophania dating back 6,000 years at the sites of the Calagian culture, which have left archaeologists confounded over their provenance, given the uniqueness and elaboration of their decoration (which precludes importation) and the refinement of the technique used in their making, which imply a certain degree of advancement.
Current archaeological excavations have unearthed numerous other settlements, mostly younger than 6,000 years and generally classifiable into four cultures, namely the Meia culture (3700 BCE - 2400 BCE) located near the border between Phithera and Sirrac provinces, and the Nuroi (3600 BCE - 3000 BCE), Pisa (3400 BCE - 2200 BCE) and Duvai (3300 BCE - 1800 BCE)) cultures in the southernmost parts of Marcasia; all four exhibit cultures substantially inferior to the society that would credibly have left behind the pottery shards found in Arophania. One group of settlements, united by their common, severely eroded state, was the Erda culture, and while the scarce remaining artefacts pointed to a relatively advanced culture, no evidence of pottery was unearthed, although given the level of progress evinced, pottery had logically had to be long in use and refined.
Marcasian Theory of Origin
While specific details of the theory may vary depending on the conservativeness of the source, proponents of this view generally believe that the Areth first arose as a distinctive ethnicity (Arithide: kyteos) as the sedentary, agricultural Erda culture. The Erda were in turn descended ultimately from the hunter-gatherers who had settled in southern Marcasia approximately 67,000 years ago. Hemmed in by the Chisthian Sea and the Iryagi, the Erda peoples faced, from the beginning, very visible limits to the the land, and such persistent population pressures led to successive waves of migration, some initially northwards over the Iryagi into the Marcasian interior, but most were headed on the easier route south across the Chisthian via the narrow Issol A'i, itself a rich fishing ground.
By this so-called Southerly Movement, the Areth came to settle in northeastern Arophania, leaving behind in their homeland in Erdia only a minority of the tribe. The presence of other settlements along the way—notably the Pisa and Duvai cultures, both of which are proximate to the Issol A'i—was once explained as attritional settlements (i.e. settlements established by people who "dropped out" of the migration midway), but are now thought to be successor cultures to the Erda when the original homeland was extensively eroded and eventually flooded. Due to the nature of these new cultures, which were significantly more centred on fishery and seafaring given the lack of arable land, and which were also far less affluent than the Erda (since they were founded by presumably desperate refugees), Marcasian Theorists believe, attention turned away from the traditional craft of pottery, explaining the dramatic shift to simplistic patterns from the assumed complexity of the Erda.
With the rise of the Areth on Arophania a number of centuries afterwards, the Urheimat of the Erdia region once again fell under mainstream Areth influence and control as a flow of reverse migration, known either as Nerioris Enos or, more simply, Nerienos (see Northerly Return), began to take place for a number of reasons, and the more complex culture that the Arophanian Areth had developed diffused throughout the lands that they settled.
- Linguistics: Empirical evidence from the study of language distribution has ascertained that the highest density of sufficiently distinct dialects, which is a useful general indicator of the geographic origins of a people, occurs in southern Marcasia, around the Erdia region. At the same time, these dialects exhibit features and constructions, such as a partial pitch accent in a few regional lects, and remnants of highly complex inflectional variations dependent on the speaker's social stratum, dating considerably further back than the general standard, or than even the classical tongue, which further serves to reinforce the view of a Marcasian Urheimat.
- Lore and religion: Due to the not minor differences in climate between Erdia and Calagia, certain discrepancies and odd references have been observed in the folklore and religious motifs of the Areth. The most obvious of these are the absence of the fir, pine and maple trees in the most traditional of Areth customs, in spite of their preponderance in Arophania, while extensive references are made to the cypress, birch and oak, which did not cross the Chisthian Sea or even spread very near the Issol A'i until beginning the late Aphoiros dynasty, when human settlement and movement, and industry and commerce initiated the propulsion of the species eastwards and southwards, and onto Arophania, when the Aphoiran Emperor Lourant had the revered trees brought into Lazea and planted across much of Calagia. Other such indicators include the mythical Mount Emeris, the abode of the gods and deities, whose descriptions in various ancient sources lead to a mountain uncannily similar to Mount Concogue in Erdia.
Arophanian Theory of Origin
While settlements discovered around the Erda sites (such as the Nuroi, Pisa and Duvai cultures) are generally agreed to have been successor cultures remnant after the Hibundivagos ("Southerly Movement"), the Arophanian Theory posits that these were settlements of a separate ethnos, who were either overrun or assimilated into the Areth when the latter arrived from across the Chisthian Sea.