The Carja are an advanced and powerful human tribe in Horizon Zero Dawn. The Carja are ruled by a monarch, Sun-King Avad, and engaged in a civil war. They have a vast population and are more advanced economically and militarily compared to the other tribes.
The Carja originated in the "Savage East." Their first Sun-King, Araman, discovered the Leaves of the Old Ones from which he brought to his tribe the knowledge of observing the Sun, its movement, and solar worship. Furthermore, the Carja gained from the Leaves the first writing. For reasons unknown, the Carja were attacked and driven from their original homeland by hostile tribes that were once their peaceful neighbors; they were either scared or envious of the Carja's knowledge. The Carja were forced to migrate westward in a harsh journey as many families, including Araman's, perished on the wayside. Their journey ended when they discovered the Spire and Araman declared the Spire's mesa lands as their new haven, naming it Meridian.
Under the reign of the 3rd Sun-King Sadahin, the Carja expanded their dominion and established the present day Sundom. Through the next several generations of Sun-Kings, the Carja continued to expand their domain and growth all the way to Daybreak until their expansion ceased after a failed expedition into the Forbidden West and was strained by their attempts to conquer the Savage East.
Following a brief peaceful interlude, the Carja under the reign of the 12th Sun-King Hivas began to re-militarize, fight with other tribes, and capture slaves.
During the reign of the 13th Sun-King Jiran, the Sundom came under threat of the machines and the Derangement. Jiran believed that human sacrifices to the Sun god were necessary to stop the machines' aggression. The Carja then began a series of notorious attacks on other tribes, capturing victims for human sacrifices in what became known as the Red Raids. As Jiran's mind deteriorated, his cruelty extended to the people of his own tribe.
Jiran's atrocities alienated many of his people, including his elder sons Kadaman and Avad. When Kadaman was executed for demanding an end to the Red Raids, Avad turned against his father and forged an alliance with the Oseram tribe. After months of planning, Avad and his allies launched an assault on the holy city.
Liberation of Meridian
Avad took care to ensure that the city itself was not destroyed. However, the assault inevitably caused mass chaos. During the confusion, the Carja loyal to Jiran fled Meridian. Sensing that the battle was lost, Jiran ordered Helis, his favored Kestrel, to smuggle his youngest son Itamen (and chosen heir) and wife Nasadi out of the city, an order Helis dutifully followed. Eventually Avad confronted Jiran at the Palace of the Sun, hoping that Jiran would answer honorably for his crimes. However, this proved to not be the case, and Avad reluctantly slew his father.
With Jiran's death, Avad became the 14th Sun-King, and brought about a series of sweeping reforms. The first of which was to end the Red Raids. The Oseram freebooters who marched with him became the Vanguard, his personal guard and a symbol of unity among the Carja and Oseram. The Sun-Ring, where countless innocents had been slaughtered, was turned into a memorial for those who had fallen. The Hunter's Lodge was opened to hunters of all tribes and genders. Avad also made efforts to extend gestures of friendship with the other tribes, hoping to make amends for the Red Raids. Jiran's supporters, on the other hand, believed that Avad had committed the ultimate crime. They located to Sunfall, calling themselves the Carja in Shadow (although other tribes would refer to them as the Shadow Carja), beginning the Carja Civil War.
Society & Culture
The Carja are a patriarchal society. Women are socially excluded from joining the military and priesthood. There are two markets in Meridian, one for nobles and the other for commoners. At night in Meridian, most commoners take the elevators to their homes in the surrounding villages.
The Carja see themselves as separate from other tribes, and look down on outsiders such as the Nora as primitives. By the events of the game, Avad has been trying to reform the Carja's views and policies, such as openly accepting gender and status, abolishing slavery, and tolerating other tribes.
The Carja are among the more extravagant and artistic tribes, something prevalent in both their architecture and attire. Common themes in their clothing are hexagonal patterns and avian features, particularly among the elite.
Hierarchy & Government
The Carja also have a class system, with nobles, artisans, and commoners. At the top of this system is the Sun-King, whom is considered the divine representative for the Sun. The word of the Sun-King is considered irrefutable law. Below him are the Sun-Priests, followed by nobles.
Religion & Customs
Carja faith and culture revolves around the sun and shadows. Many of their phrases pay homage to the sun in some fashion (Ex: "by the sun," "may the sun light their passing," "the sun has shined upon us," etc). To the Carja, the sun and shadow are two halves of nature, and to deny one is to deny the other.
The Shadow Carja is a splinter tribe of the Carja, formed from the Carja who remain loyal to Sun-King Jiran. They are enemies to the Sundom and refuse to recognize Avad, whom they see as an usurper who murdered the Sun-King. The tribes have reached a temporary and uneasy ceasefire in their civil war.
The Oseram was one of the many tribes plundered by Jiran's forces during the Red Raids. The alliance between Carja rebels and Oseram freebooters was instrumental in ending Jiran's reign, and as a result, the Red Raids. Following the Liberation, Avad reformed the freebooters into the Vanguard: an elite group of Oseram soldiers and his personal guard.
Amongst all the tribes, the Oseram have been the most receptive to Carja efforts to reform. By the third year of Avad's reign, many Oseram have come to Meridian in search of employment, building a significant Oseram presence in the Sundom. Some Oseram have built settlements on the outskirts of Carja territory, such as Free Heap.
However, by Avad's own admission, the alliance between the two tribes is unstable. Prejudice exists on both sides: some Carja still view the Oseram as primitive, while some of the Oseram (such as Dervahl) still hold animosity towards the Carja for the Red Raids.
The Nora and Carja have a long and tense history. The Carja have historically seen the Nora as savages with a backwards way of life, particularly their matriarchal society. The Nora's fierce reputation for warfare and barbaric stereotype often draws demeaning or frightful remarks from more conservative members of the Carja.
The Banuk was one of the tribes plundered in the Red Raids. While Ban-Ur, their main territory, was relatively untouched, the Cut, which existed on the border of the territories, was hit hard by Carja raids. As a result, animosity towards the Carja is still prevalent (or at least notable) among the Banuk.
Known Settlements, Outposts, and Gates
- Lone Light
- Meridian Gate
- Meridian (capital)
- Meridian Village
- Royal Maizelands
- Sunstone Rock
- The Estate
- Dawn's Sentinel
- Day's Height
- The Carja culture seems similar to that of the Aztecs and Romans.
- Additionally, the Carja's use of Oseram Vanguard troops as royal protectors is similar to the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantines, use of Germanic soldiers as their Varangian Guard.
- The Carja were inspired by numerous groups, including the Khmer in Cambodia and the Al Hajjara in Yemen. Their architecture style is very similar to historical designs used in India.
- The naming convention has male names ending in a consonant, while those of females end in a vowel sound.