The Feldeans were a species of near-Lepidosian hominids who lived in Ventral E from the end of the The Curved Time to some point between the 9th and 11th centuries AE.
Feldean remains are seldom found as intact as those of their Lepidosian kin. The skeletal structures of each species are similar enough that there was initially some debate about whether to classify Feldeans as a separate species or merely as a different culture from that found at the ruins of Tash Nisen. Like the Lepidosians, Feldeans were a slightly digitigrade offshoot of humanity with signs of oversized ears perched higher on the head than those of homo sapiens. All known Feldean specimens are shorter than modern humans, though not as short as Lepidosians.
Genetics and Reproduction
Though the number of skeletons found at Ventral E sites suggest that there may have been as many as 10,000 Feldeans extant at the Manifold at the peak of their civilization, the overall number of skeletons begins to decline in strata dating to around 700 AE, disappearing completely some time around 800 to 1000 AE at the latest. It is notable that Feldean 'birth talismans' - apparently buried at the birth of a new child - and other such evidence of fecundity decreases in density at a faster rate in the strata than the skeletons and grave goods of adult specimens. Signs of blunt force injuries on many later adults, 'harem-prisons' filled only with female skeletons found at settlement sites, an abrupt disappearance of almost all male remains around the very end of the Feldean period, and signs of overzealous buring and clear-cutting in the ancient forests nearby suggest that a precipitous decline in birth rates coincided with a period of violent inter-tribal fighting archaeologists call the Birth Wars. While famine was initially considered to be the primary cause of the Birth Wars, evidence suggests that there may have been a biological cause for the reduction in births. Feldean hips are narrower than human hips overall, but the size of the Feldean cranium are typically not smaller; indeed, many female Feldeans are believed to have died in childbirth or had suffered miscarriages. Though early Feldean grave sites show evidence of greater veneration towards female deceased - perhaps suggesting a matriarchal society - later sites show a reversal of this trend. Because of this, it is now believed that, in addition to any pre-existing famine, Feldean tribes would perhaps raid one another for mates in the hopes of stemming a decline in population numbers. Unfortunately for the Feldeans, the death of many strong males and the loss of the forests (and thus game) in the course of the Birth Wars merely hastened the end. As they are now a Lost Tribe, it's unknown if any descendants of the Feldeans still exist among the Freelanders. It's considered very unlikely that any Freelanders as of the year 10,000 AR have Feldean ancestry due to the relative isolation of the Feldean civilization, the lack of any signs of interactions between the Feldeans and any outside cultures, and the early, violent nature of the species' demise. Nevertheless, as with the Lepidosians, the Feldeans shared the same number of chromosomes as their human relatives; it is believed that a Feldean could have hybridized with any other humanoid present in the Manifold Sky at the time - perhaps even creating viable, fertile offspring who still walk the Manifold to this day.
Very little is known about Feldean culture, but evidence suggests that they were matriarchal up until shortly before their extinction. In fact, the number of small art items possessing beehive or honeycomb motifs - especially around the burial sites of certain women - suggest a fascination with bees that extended beyond mere agricultural interests. Theories include that the Feldeans actually sought to emulate bees in social structure (i.e. a powerful queen-matriarch attended to by weaker females and expendable male scouts), that the apiaries were a source of early social power (i.e. the species was developing wealth- and resource-based social stratification) and that apiaries may have held some kind of religious significance due to the multiple roles they filled.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Ruined Feldean settlements are almost exclusively found near vertex mountain lakes in Ventral E. Vast numbers of fossilized tree stumps may be found in and around these settlement locations, along with well-made stone axes and woodcarving tools which were used to convert the original trees into weapons and building materials.
Civilization and Culture
Average Technological Level
Feldeans are known to have had relatively advanced woodworking and stonecutting techniques. They employed their skills to make structures which could withstand the rugged alpine conditions in which they lived; ancient Feldean sites are often found untouched by wilderness explorers, the foundations and cornerposts still standing despite the passage of millenia. Feldeans are also known to have built and tended apiaries which served as sources of food, wax, passive settlement defenses, and bait for hungry bears (which were used for pelts).