In Iain M. Banks' The Culture saga, is it known if Earth is the "original planet" of the Culture?

I don't remember any reference to it in any book (I'm reading the third one).

  • Thanks for the answers. I'm currently reading the third book (Use of weapons)
    – greuze
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 10:19

3 Answers 3


The Culture doesn't have a single home planet. It was originally comprised of several dozens worlds that formed a loose, then close alliance.

We learn the name of at least one of these worlds in Excession.

For what it was worth after so much time, a drone team had visited the preserved battle site itself and conducted their own deep-scan of the ground. The fact that Xlephier Prime was one of the twenty or so planets that could fairly claim to have been one of the home worlds of the Culture - not that it really admitted to having such things - made the task easier.

In The State of the Art, we learn that Earth exists in the Culture-verse, but wasn't contacted until the 1970s:

At five minutes and three seconds past three AM, GMT, on the morning of January the second, 1978, the General Contact Unit Arbitrary broke orbit above the planet Earth. It left behind an octet of Main Observation Satellites - six of them in near-GS orbits - a scattering of drones and minor missiles, and a small plantation of young oaks on a bluff near Elk Creek, California.

In Excession, (taking the date from The State of the Art) we learn that the Culture has been "in play" within the Milky Way since at least 2000BC.

Dreve would be an ideal system to do this in; it had been a Culture system for four thousand years, comprising nine more or less wilderness worlds and three Orbitals - hoops, giant bracelets of living-space only a few thousand kilometres across but ten million kilometres in diameter.

And from The Hydrogen Sonata that it's existed as an entity for over ten thousand years.

The Gzilt were a sort of cousin species/civilisation to the Culture. Nearly founders, though not quite, they had been influential in the setting up and design of the Culture almost ten thousand years earlier, when a disparate group of humanoid species at roughly the same stage of technological and societal development had been thinking about banding together.

  • Very complete answer, I have to learn a lot of stuff of The Culture in next books.
    – greuze
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 10:22
  • 4
    @greuze - You should definitely read "A few notes on the Culture" to get some back-story into the history of the Culture.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 10:24
  • The Hydrogen Sonata also contains information on the origins of the Culture.
    – Burgi
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 12:59
  • @Burgi - Good point, see edit.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 13:49

It's known that the Earth is not the Culture's original planet as the Culture covertly visits Earth in The State of The Art in our 1970s.

By the spring of the year 1977 AD, the General Contact Unit Arbitrary had been stationed above the planet Earth for the best part of six months. The ship, of the Escarpment class, middle series, had arrived during the previous November after clipping the edge of the planet's expanding electro-magnetic emission shell while on what it claimed was a random search.

  • So I see my question will be solved in next book :)
    – greuze
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 10:21

No, Earth is not the (or an) originating planet of the Culture.

Consider Phlebas is chronologically the first Culture story, and it takes place in 1331 CE according to its appendix "A Short History of the Idiran War" (page 467) and the fact that the Idiran war is in its fifth year (page 19).

So the Culture exists concurrently with human society on Earth. The Culture visits Earth covertly in the 1970s (The State of the Art) and is assumed to formally make first contact with us around the 2100s (the aforementioned "A Short History of the Idiran War" formed part of an independent, non-commissioned but Contact-approved Earth Extro-Information Pack, as mentioned in said appendix).

Iain M. Banks also wrote "A Few Notes on the Culture" which explains some things about its nature, including the fact that it was founded about 9000 years before our present.

The Culture is a group-civilisation formed from seven or eight humanoid species, space-living elements of which established a loose federation approximately nine thousand years ago. The ships and habitats which formed the original alliance required each others' support to pursue and maintain their independence from the political power structures - principally those of mature nation-states and autonomous commercial concerns - they had evolved from.

  • Thanks for the answer, I always thought that they all had only one "original species".
    – greuze
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 10:24
  • 1
    @greuze - They're repeatedly described as a "mongrel" grouping, using DNA tech to allow them to interbreed freely
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 10:26
  • Where did you find that "Earth Extro-Information Pack" reference, please? Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 17:01
  • @MartijnHeemels - It's from the appendix of Consider Phlebas.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 17:26
  • @Valorum I didn't consider this much before, but I also assumed they originated from a single species. And I did remember that part about them being "mongrels" and having modified genitals. I thought they were refered as mongrels because they had been assimilating many other species for quite some time. Almost like OP, I've only read the first 2 books and 90% of the third.
    – Samuel
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 14:07

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