My theories are heavily influenced by the “Great Empire of the Dawn were Dragonlords” theory I first head on History of Westeros, in collaboration with LmL. I have developed divergent views, particularly around the Long Night, but would have never thought of them without their work on the GEOTD.
I would encourage folks to listen to all recent History of Westeros casts, (and Radio Westeros) but the theories I build upon are described in: House Dayne Part 2 , Asshai-by-The-Shadow, The Great Empire of the Dawn, Asshai & GEotD live Q&A and Chat
A TLDR of the conclusions that they made that I totally agree with and expand upon are:
An ancient huge civilization called the Great Empire of the Dawn (GEOTD) existed in the Yi Ti/Asshai region, and ended with the Long Night.
Some fused stone construction, which requires dragons, are attributed to the GEOTD, concluding that they were dragonlords. In particular the Five Forts and the base of the Hightower on Battle Isle.
Links are established among the genetics of the Targaryen/Valyrians and GEOTD dragonlords through eye color analysis between Daenerys’s visions at the House of Undying and GEOTD emperors. This leads to the theory that Houses Dayne and Hightower, who bear resemblance to Targaryens, are ancient GEOTD settlers.
Valyria was likely a colony of the GEOTD.
First Men were not a homogenous group, but a general label applied to pre Andal Westerosi inhabitants.
WOIAF Art Work
It's probably taboo, but my theories reference artwork in the WOIAF. It is known that GRRM is concerned about attention to details in artwork depicting ASOIAF, like the proper depiction of the Iron Throne. However, it appears that GRRM had direct influence on WOIAF artwork. Read Ted Nasmith comments on details of the Eyrie art, “That too was a suggestion from GRRM”. If GRRM was giving direction on the details of the art in WOIAF, I consider their depictions to be cannon. People will disagree, oh well.
To date I have proposed two theories, first is that dragons require volcanic regions as a habitat, and that volcanic Marahai was the home of the GEOTD dragonlords before it erupted causing the Long Night. If the Valyrians were any indication, it is possible that the majority of dragons and dragonlord were on Marahai when it erupted. No ruins, no history, no evidence. Studying dragon ecology has led me to only four prominent volcanic habitats. My theory is that the GEOTD dragonlords had a physical presence at the volcanic sites of Marahai, Valyria, Dragonstone and Winterfell during the Age of Heroes, before the Long Night.
I am going to put forward an alternate Valyrian history that directly conflicts with the origin story which the Valyrians told. My thinking is that since the Valyrians thrived on brutal conquest and enslavement of its neighbors, revisionist history would have come easily.
The GEOTD had existed for thousands of years, being a dragonlord culture they would have understanding of dragon habitat. If volcanic regions are necessary for dragons to lay eggs, they would be keen on any volcanic active regions. Based on geographic distance I believe that Valyria would have been visited and colonized during the Dawn Age, before the GEOTD had arrived in Westeros.
I believe that the people referenced were the dragonlords from the GEOTD, and that they did not depart Valyria after arriving, but had departed from the annals due to Marahai erupting and destroying almost all direct evidence of their existence. I believe that the Valyrians inherited their dragon affinity genetics from the GEOTD, and to keep that bloodline strong incest became a practice of the remaining dragonlord nobility.
According to the old tales of the Faceless Men, an old organization with Valyrian slave origins, dragons came to, not originating from Valyria.
Of course, all of this comes into direct conflict with the Valyrian origin story.
Another Fused Stone Analysis
I would like to acknowledge all of the work done in compiling all of the fused stone examples by others in the fandom, I am merely building upon other people’s work.
I think that the Valyrians, being a colony of an empire gone, had lost much of the capacity to artistically shape fused stone architecture as the GEOTD had done. This analysis is based only on fused stone, including lower case dragonstone, no oily black.
Fused stone Valyria
We know actually little of the architectural details of Valyria other than a brief mention by Catelyn. Nowhere else are there any physical descriptions of Valyria structures.
I propose that the architecture of topless towers and elaborate buildings as seen in the Ted Nasmith illustration from WOIAF are actually fused stone. None of the buildings resemble brick and mortar construction and all the buildings appear to be made of the same material. Putting the crystal blue spheres aside, the building material resembles Dragonstone, which is built entirely of fused stone. There do seem to be different shades to the dark stone, with the top pinnacles of the tallest tower colored to depict a flame. While there is no mention of any Valyrian fused stone work having different colors, coloring Valyrian steel would be a demonstrated related achievement.
I propose that these topless towers were built by GEOTD artisans, early in Valyria’s history, and the ability was lost with the Long Night and the end of the GEOTD. I believe that the techniques to artistically mold fused stone, both in shape and color was also a lost craft. Being a lesser version of a former greater empire would not have worked well with the Valryian manifest destiny narrative, so they lied to cover it up.
Fused stone projects attributed to the Valyrians outside of Valyria:
Volantis – Black Walls
Huge, massive very thick walls. No artistic details, no towers, just a giant mass of poured formed fused stone.
Walls, no artistic details.
Essos - Fused Roads
While the scale of this infrastructure project is huge, the manipulation of the fused stone is consistent and simplistic. It's like pouring asphalt.
Volantis – Long Bridge
Only the roadway of the bridge had been singled out as being of fused stone construction, roughly the same technique required for building a fused stone road.
The black stone arch was carved, and therefore cannot be fused stone. However, the arch may have meant to appear as fused stone, to imply lost artistic capacity.
All of the fused stone projects Valyrians completed while incredibly huge were a simplistic use of shaping fused rock. Roads, bridge road beds and walls. This is not to belittle the impacts of these constructions, roads that do not erode and walls that cannot be broken are the building blocks of an empire.
Fused stone projects attributed to the GEOTD:
A thousand feet is higher than the Wall, and five times higher than the Volantis walls. A project possibly beyond the capability of the Valyrians.
Creating a labyrinthine interior would take considerable skill of using fused stone.
Lies I say.
There are a large number of quotes from the books that describe the fused stone architecture of Dragonstone, but this is the best.
Dragonstone was not built as a forward thinking invasion base for Westeros, nor a Valyrian steel storefront and slaving base as it was ultimately used. The castle Davos describes, with building exteriors shaped as dragons, more resembles a temple to dragons, using extremely advanced fused stone capability.
There are a thousand unique twelve foot statues on the castle walls alone!! Even the mundane rooms like stairwells and kitchens have attention to detail fused stone work that rivals all the roads and bridges built in terms of crafting. Think of the number of Valyrian fused stone artisans and dragons that would be necessary to do the project. It would have required a huge effort and the Dragonstone worksite would have been been crawling with dragons.
The work of Dragonstone does not resemble the simplistic poured stone walls and roads Valyrians had been built in its past. Dragonstone bears closer resemblance to the impossibly huge Five Forts and labyrinth halls of Battle Isle, which I contend were techniques of the GEOTD.
Why no Sphinxes at Dragonstone?
If there is one mythical creature that is distinctly Valyrian in origin, it’s the Valyrian sphinx. Here is a description beside a Valyrian fused stone road.
We also find Valyrian sphinxes flanking the door of the Red Keeps council chambers. This puts sphinxes directly connected to Targaryen inspired construction.
Tyrion also noticed sphinxes carved on the stone arch at the Long Bridge of Volantis, built by Valyrians.
How many mentions of sphinxes are their on Dragonstone among the thousand gargoyle statues? None.
Davos listed off a long list of gargoyle type creatures, but no sphinx.
Between POV’s of Davos and Cressen there is a fair amount of descriptions of the fused stone architecture of Dragonstone, no mention of sphinxes. Valyrian artisans had mixed sphinxes and gargoyles on the Long Bridge arch, why the absence at Dragonstone if it had been designed by Valyrian artisans?
Another review Ted Nasmith’s art of Valyria in the WOIAF shows sphinxes in the bottom right corner, which I propose are fused black stone. However, these sphinxes do not have dragon anatomy and could not be considered Valyrian sphinxes.
Why is there no examples of fused stone Valyrian sphinxes in either Valyria or Dragonstone, I believe that the Valyrian Sphinx is an architectural style developed after the Long Night in Valyria. Valyrian artisans could not manipulate fused black stone beyond walls and roads, as that skill had also been lost with the GEOTD.
Let's go to Dragonstone….not.
There is a clear contradiction in the last two sentences of this quote, did dragonlords sightings at Dragonstone become “more frequent” or did they go back to Essos “dragonlords thus continued their schemes and intrigues on the native continent.”? If editing errors like “frequently” instead of “infrequently”, then it would make more sense. Because of the ambiguity, I am working with the last sentence that all the dragonlords headed back to Valyria after being “not unknown” in the region. Not exactly the dragon activity that would be necessary to build Dragonstone, assuming dragon fire was a crucial element of fused stone construction.
So according to the Valyrian narrative, who I contend are liars, after building this monumental fused stone dragon structures at Dragonstone, the dragonlords seem to lose interest.
The exception are the Targaryens, when plans for permanently leaving Valyria are made based on prophetic dreams, Dragonstone with its volcano was the best choice for a dragonlord.
While these attitudes could be explained as rival family smack talk, it does speak to a disrespect of Dragonstone from other Valyrian dragonlords. It’s also telling that when the Doom had struck no other dragonlords were visiting the Targaryens at Dragonstone, those that had survived the Doom are reported to have been in Tyrosh, Lys and Qohor at the time.
Valyrian dragonlords would have had business in Tyrosh and Qohor, but Lys was for pleasure. If you were a Valyrian dragonlord looking for a vacation, where would you go?
(Yeesh, I hope Yandal got some kickbacks from some Lys noble for that advert.)
My thoughts are that if Valyrians were to develop a vacation hotspot, it would be over the top Vegas style. Yet, we hear nothing of fused stone buildings, or any type of ornate fused stone structure on Lys.
So, within a two hundred year period the Valyrians decided to create an awe inspiring thousand fused stone statue studded castle, with towers shaped as dragons on a dreary island no Valyrian dragonlord was interested in visiting after the novelty wore off.
I don’t buy it. Neither does Tyrion.
How old is Dragonstone?
Fused black stone does not erode or otherwise age, making it difficult to date by looking at the structure alone, making it hard to date Dragonstone by just looking at it.
Valyrians had been on Dragonmont two hundred years before the Doom of Valyria, the Doom having occurred at 114 BC. This places the Valyrian founding of Dragonstone at sometime after 314 BC, six hundred and fourteen years from the events of the books.
Six hundred years is a long time, and any castle that age would be considered old in the real world, but I feel comparisons are necessary for context.
These are the Frey’s, whom most nobility see as new money upstarts.
In fact, if Dragonstone is only roughly six hundred years old, there are only a handful of castles in Westeros which are of more recent construction; The Twins, Harrenhal, Summerhall and the Red Keep. High Tide and Whitewalls were also newer castles, but High Tide was burnt during the Dance of Dragons, and Whitewalls had been pulled apart on the orders of Lord Bloodraven for its role in the Second Blackfyre Rebellion.
There are probably more but I imagine not many, and no castles of great significance. Even the seat of House Manderly, an Andal family which fled the Reach to the North and built New Castle, is probably several hundreds years older than a Valyrian built Dragonstone.
However, there are a number of descriptions of Dragonstone that share one word to describe it's age, ancient.
Fused black stone Dragonstone is immune to weathering, but even as Maesters Cressen, and Gyldayn or Gerold, whomever wrote The Conquest, is aware of the “fact” that the castle was built less than 600 years, their internal thoughts betrays a contradiction in the use of the word ancient.
As for Davos, he is describing the iron bars of his cell, which are not of fused stone material and could therefore be one of the few material elements in Dragonstone Castle which could be reliably dated.
Other structures on the island of Dragonstone, not built of fused stone, are also depicted to be ancient.
What constitutes an ancient fortress? Let’s go with these:
· Storm’s End
· Casterly Rock
· Raventree Hall
· High Tower
If Dragonstone had been built by the GEOTD, then it would rightly be considered ancient.
My theory is that as the Valyrian Empire expanded west mounted dragons would have been drawn to volcanic Dragonmont, two hundred years before the Doom. There they discovered an ancient GEOTD fused stone stronghold and immediately occupied it, then claimed it was built by them. A very believable story since they are the only known culture who could conceivably construct it.
While I feel confident of my theory, I feel that I need to address obvious critiques.
If Dragonstone predated the Long Night, why was nobody living there before the Valyrians arrived?
Dragonstone is a very impractical castle. On the side of an active volcano, there is no mention of agriculture and it probably does not have a clean water source. If occupied everything would need to be imported, much like Asshai. No real wealth is created on Dragonstone, so you would need to be independently wealthy, or dragonlords, to occupy it. It would make a kick ass pirate lair though, my thoughts are Justin Milk-Eye, an ancient Massey pirate before he took the Massey’s Hook.
For these reasons, I propose that aside from being occupied by Valyrian dragonlords and the royalty of Westeros that Dragonstone had remained abandoned for the impracticalities of the location itself.
Would there not be any historical accounts of a fantastical dragon shaped castle in Blackwater Bay before the Valyrian arrival?
Prior to the arrival of the Valyrians on Westeros Dragonmont was a very remote location from any major kingdom. The Crownlands did not exist, Blackwater Bay at the time had a single real community, Duskendale.
Residents along Blackwater Bay were on the edge of kingdoms, particularly Storm’s End and the Riverlands, being conquered by distant kings was a constant theme. In fact, Ageons first maneuvers of the Conquest was over Storm’s Ends disingenuous offering of the Blackwater Rush, as the land was largely lawless. Before the Valyrian arrival Riverland, Ironborn and Stormlord armies had claimed the region as their own, bringing war and instability to the communities along its shores, all rather ignoring what was within Blackwater Bay itself.
I suggest is that if there was knowledge of a strange castle made of fused stone on the side of a volcanic island, it would have been local. So, let’s look at who was local on the Blackwater prior to the arrival of the Valyrians around 314 BC. The shores of Blackwater Bay near the Gullet are rocky, The Whispers and Massey’s Hook being less than ideal ports could not have supported a large local fleet. Residents of Driftmark and Claw Isle would have been aware of Dragonstone had it already existed. They would have required ships for supplies and are in close proximity to the volcanic isle. The current families on these islands are the Velaryons of Driftmark and the Celtigars of Claw Isle, whom are cited often as being of Valyrian heritage, with the purple eyes and silver hair to prove it. This would have placed their settlement at 600 years past, previous inhabitants of the islands unknown.
However, lore around the Driftwood Throne puts the Velaryons in direct contact with the Merling King.
Again, the word ancient, this time to describe the Driftwood Throne. There are additional references to merlings in Blackwater Bay, Davos had washed up on stranded rocks bearing their name.
If there was once a Merling King in Blackwater Bay, it would have been long before the arrival of the Andals, nevermind the Valyrians. Merling King stories would be more Dawn Age/Age of Heroes, during the time of the GEOTD.
Lies could have started and sustained the story that the Velaryons had arrived at Driftmark with the Valyrians and were not more ancient residents. However objects retain history, and the lore of the Driftwood Chairs origins is harder to manipulate. I believe it points to the Velaryon’s being of GEOTD ancestry.
What of the Citadel and the maesters, should there not be any accounts?
(Places inch thick tin helm on head)
It’s a cover up I say!!! Notice how Yandals work is completely void of pre Valyrian history on Blackwater Bay!! There is a Crownland map, but it’s as if nothing happened prior to the dragonlords arrival …..what are they hiding!?!! How long have the Velaryons been living on Driftmark!?! Who is pulling the strings at the Citadel!?!?
That’s right, the Hightowers are covering up for their very old purple eyed Velaryons kinsman. Who are the Hightowers anyways, what was Uthor’s old name before he built the tower?!?! What are they hiding and whose lies are they spreading?
Getting their cues from the purple eyed lying Valyrians directly!!!
UNTIL THOSE LICKSPITTLE GREY SHEEP ARCHMAESTERS ARE REPLACED WITH TRULY INDEPENDENT FREE THINKERS LIKE MARYWN THE HIGHTOWER CENSORSHIP OF THE CITADEL WILL NOT CEASE AND LIES WILL CONTINUE TO FLOW FROM OLDTOWN!!!!
(Removes inch thick tin helm from head)
If recent real life history has taught us anything, false information can easily be pushed upon a population to impact their understanding of the facts. It would only take a few adult generations of dragonlord Valyrians telling the locals “We just arrived and built Dragonstone” for the story to be accepted as truth.
I propose that the Valryians did not build Dragonstone, but had been built by their predecessors, the GEOTD, thousands of years before the Valyrians arrived in Westeros.
No Valyrian Sphinxes at Dragonstone.
Belief that the Valyrians did not have the skills to create fused stone ability to build Dragonstone or the toppless towers of Valyria.
Multiple use of the word “ancient” to describe Dragonstone, which if Valyrian built would be relatively new.
The Valyrians had limited interest in Dragonstone, which is at odds with the efforts which would have been necessary to build such an impressive fortress.
The surprising rarity of gargoyle architecture
From all the descriptions of all the locations in the ASOIAF do you know how many are described as having gargoyle architecture? Three, Dragonstone Castle itself, a weathered inn on the Dragonstone shore and the First Keep of Winterfell. Check it out
Two locations which on the surface have no connections, other than volcanic activity, share a rather unique artistic style.
First Keep of Winterfell
Notice the similarity in the descriptions of the weathered inn gargoyle on Dragonstone and the First Keep versions? Considering these two locations are the only examples of gargoyle statues that can display weathered aging, I propose that they were all built in the same era.
What exactly is a gargoyle? According to Wikipedia, “a carved or formed grotesque”. Therefore a gargoyle is not a creature itself, but a depiction of creatures as grotesques, which Davos upholds as he defines the list of creatures as gargoyles.
Using this definition, as Tyrion crossed the Long Bridge in Volantis with Ser Jorah I propose that he was gazing up on carved gargoyles.
I would propose that the architecture was also in Valyria, considering that the Long Bridge was Valyrian built. To corroborate, reviewing Ted Nasmith art of Valyria in the Valyrians Children chapter of WOIAF you will see many examples of gargoyles on towers, which I also speculate is GEOTD fused stone construction.
Who built the First Keep?
So, by this logic, the oldest Winterfell tower cannot be older than the arrival of the Andals because it's round, yet Winterfell is said to be the home of the Starks since the Dawn Age?!?! Straight up contradiction. Some say that since Winterfell is a mashup of different eras of construction that the gargoyles of the First Keep were not part of the original construction. However, Bran’s observation that they were shapeless from rain indicate otherwise.
Big question then. How did the ancient builder of the First Keep of Winterfell, a man possibly named Bran, come to have been influenced by a gargoyle architectural design not to be built on Dragonstone for thousands of years? I theorize that the dragonlord GEOTD had a presence at Winterfell during the Age of Heroes and built the First Keep. Much how the Valyrians had lost the ability to artistically shape fused stone, Westeros lost the wisdom of round towers with the Long Night.
Winterfell, Dragonstone and Valyria are all volcanic and potentially all good dragon habitats, they would therefore have been of interest to the GEOTD dragonlords on pre eruption Marahai. An empire that would have had influence anywhere dragons could fly, and built with a gargoyle architectural style.
Are my theories controversial, and fairly crackpot, you betcha. However, there are inconsistencies in the Valyrian history that I believe are obscuring a larger hole in Westerosi history, the direct influences of GEOTD culture and blood magic during the Age of Heroes.