The existence of the Nedic tribes prior to the Ayleid is certain, though historical writing tends to dismiss it. Many Imperials continue to parrot the discredited "Out of Atmora" theory, which claims that all humans migrated from the north in the Late Merethic Era. Elven writing on the continent, such as the account of Torval the Pilot, make no mention of humans - though these documents are fundamentally untrustworthy.
The predecessors of most other mortal races departed from Tamriel in the Dawn Era, leaving the continent to the Nedes, who settled it in small tribal communities. These tribes were scattered over half the continent: Nedes did not live only in Cyrodiil, but also in High Rock, western Skyrim, the shoreline of Hammerfell, Argonia, and even Morrowind. it should be noted that the Nedes where, even at this point, not alone: a wild variety of aboriginal beastfolk coexisted with the early human tribes.
The Nedic tribes were never very populous, and did not develop a very sophisticated degree of civilization. Writing was unknown to them, and the few Nedic texts still in existence were recorded by Nordic scholars. Nedes rarely built in lasting materials, save for a handful of burial mounds and stone monuments - those present in Cyrodiil are often attributed to later cultures, when the jungle has not erased them from public consciousness. Advanced agriculture was unknown to them: some of the plains tribes had rudimentary farms, but most lived of foraging and the hunt. The tribes of the Niben valley formed an exception, as they developed fairly advanced fishing techniques with ingenious bronze harpoons and complex systems of nets - techniques that are still in use today in the Nibenay. In the later years, many of the tribes developed early metalworking skills - mostly with copper, bronze, gold, and silver. It is now thought that these skills were first imparted by contact with the Orcs that settled the northwestern deathlands.
Nedic magic was likewise primitive, though, being close to the Dawn Era, full of a raw, dangerous power that later generations could not match. The Nedes had no concept of secular magic, considering this art the sole domain of shamans and priests - power given by the gods, especially the Divine known as Shezarr. What little the Nordic scholars recorded of Nedic spells and magic practice shows it was generally as dangerous for the wielder as the target, a problem that the rare Nedic magical artifacts tend to suffer from as well.
Surprisingly, the Nedes excelled in trade and long-distance communication - especially compared to the isolationist Elven empires that succeeded them. While mercantile contact between, say, the neighboring Direnni and Falmer clans was sporadic and difficult, the Nedes maintained extensive contacts between neighboring tribes, creating chains of commerce across the continent. It is common to find Kothringi silver beads and Tinmi pearls from Rumare in the burial sites of the Illiac Bay and vice versa.
These cordial relations should not be interpreted as a state of permanent peace, however: tribal war was common, as was conflict with the aboriginal beastfolk of Argonia, Valenwood, Hammerfell and Elsweyr. Most tribes were by no means peace-loving people, and what few records are left make mention of war, enslavement of defeated tribes, and gruesome blood-ritual for cruel gods and Daedric spirits.
A fair number of physical artifacts still remain from the Nedic period: flint harpoonheads from the Niben Valley, silver beads from the Black Marsh border, ivory snow-masks from the Jeralls, etc. Collectors are known to value such artifacts, though they are hard to come by. The oldest levels of the Nibenese necropolii and ship-graves tend to be of Nedic origin, though none of these predate the Ayleid. The stone-circles and runestones that can be found across Cyrodiil are thought to be erected by the Nedes, and Nedic treasures can sometimes be found in their environs.
Though historians label all the tribes as "Nedes", and tend to speak of them as a unified, undifferentiated culture group, there were in fact large cultural differences between the tribes.
- AL-GEMHA: common name for several tribes who once lived in the Colovian Highlands and the Gold Coast. Few in number and far away, they diverged from the Nibenese tribes on cultural and religious grounds. Most Al-Gemha did not acknowledge Shezarr or the other Niben gods, instead worshiping the constellations as living beings. They had cordial relations with the northern Orcs, and some claim that there were widespread instances of blood-mixing among the tribes of the borderlands - leading some historians to classify them as a half-breed. The Ayleid, too, seemed to make a distinction between Nedes and Al-Gemha, as the more diplomatic kings of the west allowed some Al-Gemha tribes to exist independently (in return for large annual tributes in wealth and slaves), even tolerating several independent settlements on the west coast. After the Rebellion, they were accused of collaboration with the Elves, and driven out of their homelands into the northern desert. Records of the First Empire, mention raids of these peoples on the early Colovian settlements, but these grow more infrequent in later centuries, and stop entirely after the Redguard invasion of 1E 808.
- AL-HARED: minor tribe of the west. Likely somewhat related to the Al-Gemha. All but forgotten.
- HORWALLI: tribe living in the heart of Blackwood. Known for their unique architecture: due to the absence of dry land and prevalence of dangerous creatures in this part of the world, the Horwalli built pole-villages in the center of lakes, protected on all sides by open water. This style of building continues to be used by some of the deepwood Nibenese. Unlike the Kothringi and Orma, the Horwalli survived the Khanaten Flu, though these days the tribe is all but indistinguishable from mainstream Nibenese culture. The ealy Horwalli tribes worshiped a permutation of Vaernima, and they are credited with pioneering the use and knowledge of Nibenese sacred narcotics.
- KEPTU: small, but influential tribe of the salty mangroves of southern Blackwood and the eastern Topal Bay. The Keptu were gifted sailors, known for building seaworthy skiffs out of reeds and hardwood, with which they moved with ease along the southern shores as far as the Gold Coast in the west and the lands of the Chimer to the east. Though no official record remains, it is claimed that the Keptu were also capable of crossing the ocean on their ships, visiting far-away destinations such as Pyaondea and Cathnoquey. Primitive navigational instruments of polished bone attest to this. Due to the seafaring ways, the Keptu stressed the importance of the goddess Kynareth and her son, Morihaus. They developed a large bull-cult in the post-Ayleid period, and one of the major temples of Morihaus is still located in their old domain.
- KOTHRI: A large tribe of the southeast banks of the Niben Bay. Adept at moving in the jungle, the Kotrhi lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle dependent on the Cougal, a hyena-like jungle creature that they used as pack-animal and warmount. They acknowledged several gods, chief among them being Z'en, god of toil. Though at their peak they rivaled the Nedes for power and influence, the Kothri suffered heavily during the Ayleid period and due to their schism with the Kothringi. Post-Rebellion, the Kothri grew into a rural power block to opposed to the Nede-dominated Imperial center. Kothri affectations remain prevalent among the modern-day eastern villages, especially with the lower classes.
- KOTHRINGI: An offshoot of the Kothri, known for their silver-grey skin. Rather than submit to the Ayleid dominion, these Kothri fled deeper into the borders of Argonia, where they were granted sanctuary in return for a degree of collaboration in the designs of the Hist. Though also targeted, the Kothringi mostly avoided contact with the Ayleid, and were only tangentially involved with the Rebellion. Unlike most other tribes, the Kothringi maintained their own tribal naturelong after the rise of the unified Empire, and developed a culture that many labeled as distinctly un-human. Kothringi involvement in the Empire waxed and waned: they were devout followers of the Marukhati faith in the First Era, but became more insular during the Second Era. Early Kothringi were nomads, though in later times they became accomplished sailors and traders along the southern shores. They exploited several famous silver mines, and Kothringi silver was once one of the most prized trade goods of the Topal Bay circuit. It is thought that these mines, along with the toxicity of their environment, was cause for their distinctive silver-colored skin. The Kothringi were wiped out in the Khanaten Flu in 2E 560.
- MEN-OF-'KREATH: generic term for inhabitants of the Falkreath area, consisting of a mix of minor Nedic tribes and scattered Nordic immigrants. Somewhat similar to modern-day Reachmen culture.
- MEN-OF-GE: once a populous tribe of the northwestern jungle (modern-day Chorrol), the Men-of-Ge fell were eradicated during the Ayleid period: their master, the sorcerer-king Nilichi, sacrificed them all to his patron deity.
- MEN-OF-KHET: eastern tribe, inhabiting the basin north of the Silverfish river. The modern-day inhabitants of Mir Corrup and Cheydinhal claim ancestry with the Khet. Somewhat similar to the Kothri.
- NEDE: one of the most populous and influential tribes. Lived on the southwestern shore of lake Rumare, though their influence stretched far to the south and north.They controlled large stretches of jungle, open land and parts of the shoreline of lake Rumare and the upper Niben. Thrived on fishing, farming, and trade with the surrounding tribes: records tell of grand tribal gatherings and markets on Nedic land. While never a real empire, it is clear that some of the lesser tribes were vassals or paid tribute to the Nedic chiefs. The Nedes were polytheistic, but had special regard for Shezarr, in their culture a female spirit of war and magic. They maintained shrines on the sacred islands in Lake Rumare. After the Ayleid period, the Nedes remained one of the largest tribes, and the early Empire was heavily influenced by their culture and ideology.
- ORMA: minor tribe of the deep Blackwood. The Orma were known to settle deep in the toxic wastes of Argonia, which had a profound effect on them: records claim that they were unnaturally small and stunted, quick to move in the jungle, but suffering from various diseases of the skin and lungs. They were very susceptible to blindness, either due to a genetic effect or a kind of pollen common in their homeland. The Orma practiced an early form of Moth-worship, and prioritized a form of Julianos as their patron deity - after the rise of the Empire, many Orma sought to join the Cult of the Ancestor Moth, and Imperials believe that the Orma had unique powers of prophecy. Like the Kothringi,the Orma were erased during the Khanaten Flu of 2E 560, though unlike the former certain strands of Orma blood were preserved in mainstream Imperial culture. Blind prophets, hermits and seers of Orma ancestry can still be encountered in the Nibenay.
- SEDOR: secluded warrior tribe of the northeast. Lived in the high valleys of the Jerrall mountains, above the snow-line, and rarely contacted the other tribes save in times of war. Known to make snow-masks out of mammoth ivory that they traded with the northern tribes. They had a reputation as fierce warriors. In part due to their willingness to fight, the tribe suffered heavy losses during the Rebellion. The last of the Sedor died during the War of the Tribes, several decades after the founding of the Empire. They are now known only to a number of scholars, and through the Ayleid ruin that carries their name.
- YERPEST/YSPEST: little-known tribe of the Valus Mountains and south-Morrowind. Fled to the east following the arrival of the Ayleid, eventually settling on the eastern shores of Tamriel, between Argonian and Chimeri territory. Though very little is known of their eventual fate, it appears that the Yerpest refused the accommodation of the Hist, and later fell into conflict with Cantemiric Velothi, ancestors of the Dres. A small number of tribesmen returned to Cyrodiil after the Rebellion, but the vast majority disappeared, leaving only traces in the accounts of the older Dres slaving companies.