by Max Barry

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The Reclusive Mountain Chiefdoms of
Moralistic Democracy

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A Faraway, Familiar Place: An Anthropologist's Return to Ul Ulo

Myth shrouds Ul Ulo like the clouds shroud the sacred peaks of this largely mountainous kingdom. The nation's terrain encourages a reclusive tendency among her people and help explain why Ul Ulo's way of life appears to have remained unchanged for at least two and half thousand years.

But that is only half the story. Lest we forget, the nation of Ul Ulo was once called an empire, more of a force of nature, that swept out of its mountain stronghold 2000 years ago and pushed the Roman Empire out of the lower Badakus Valley and beyond to Nagach, creating a significant empire that lasted into the early middle ages. In that clash of civilizations and its aftermath, where the might and learning of the Roman Empire met a untied tribe of largely hunter-gatherers, the people of Ul Ulo appeared to never adopt any of the Romans' technologies, save those related to fighting. Indeed, the Ululians actively resisted any development or scientific discovery that was alien to their own warrior-hunter culture and way of life. Historians now think the swift and surprising rise of the late-antiquity Empire of Ul Ulo was largely down to a strong sense of national identity and religious fervor that allowed the Ululians to zealously oppose and destroy anything that opposed their austere way of life.

Today, the people of Ul Ulo still possess this sense of pride for their warrior-hunter heritage. Indeed, to refer to it in the past-tense would be misleading: even today, the main occupation of the Ululians is hunting, fishing, goat herding, primitive crafts and war (although on a much smaller scale than in the past). Modern Ul Ulo has no industry to speak of, no agriculture, no infrastructure (many population centers are inaccessible by car in any case), no hospitals, no computers; they don't even appear to have their own written form of language. The name of the country itself, does not seem to be an Ululian invention: the country was 'baptized' Ul Ulo by the horrified Romans, who named the country after the terrifying war-cry, a fearsome ululation (latin: ululo), that echoed around the mountains and struck fear into the Roman soldiers. The name Ululians give themselves is still unknown.

So why bother studying Ul Ulo at all? Archeological discoveries of elaborate murals and stone sculptures under the Badakus valley had long revealed a fascinating and, in some ways, advanced culture among the Ululians, despite the lack of written language. Anthropologists are keen to see what wonders exist in the extensive cave networks within the mountains of Ul Ulo itself.

-Prof. L. J. M Coetzer