Let there be this quantitative question: how do the specifics of a natural environment influence the development of a newborn culture?

Please note: I'm not looking for any deus ex machinas, divine planes and answers incorporating high magic. Let this be a question set in a realistic world governed by the rules of physics.

Following are the specifics of the question:

  • Which environmental factors are to be considered relevant here? Is it the climate, temperature zone, humidity, weather characteristics, fertility of land, local ecosystems and animals, availability of resources, natural dangers and diseases, etc.? Where in the cultural mosaic do these specific factors manifest themselves (one by one)?
  • Can the natural environment be a decisive factor in the development of a culture? Take the (un)availability of basic resources (foods) for example: can this be a determining factor in developing into, say, a liberal or restrictive/hostile society? Etc. What other decisive factors could be considered here (if any) - and to which societal characteristics should they lead?
  • To flesh out the explanation in all angles, do you have any qualitative examples that may be shown here? (as in significant environmental factors on cultures in the classical mediterranean, in the viking society, etc. ...)
  • A bonus question (to be able to apply all that theory onto something): what could an underground society (lots of rocks and caves) develop into, culture-wise? (assuming that some limited amounts of sunlight and food sources are available). Note: if this sub-question seems too vague (as in lacking some required data), feel free to use your imagination (to add that lacking data to the big picture by yourself).
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    \$\begingroup\$ How is this question best answered by an RPG expert instead of an anthropologist or the history stack exchange? (This is an excellent PhD dissertation though...) \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 20 '13 at 14:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a fascinating (if dauntingly broad) question, but without narrative construct or context (even sandbox games are a kind of narrative) it's not answerable as an RPG question. Maybe break it down into a progressively posted set of smaller-topic questions relating these ideas to your gameplay experience goals and how a culture/environment can be designed to help achieve them? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 20 '13 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Take a look at the citation web around: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2451.1997.tb00039.x/… this book citing a 1896 (yes, that's the right century) essay about this topic and so on and so forth. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 20 '13 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ See Also and the 2377 citations of it. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 20 '13 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Crossposted: history.stackexchange.com/questions/8431/… \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 21 '13 at 0:25

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