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Rodrik of Dorne

Technology and History in Westeros

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Just finished reading Beyond the Wall, and I must say I found the essay by Adam Whitehead very interesting (among other great works, like the one by Elio and Linda).

Whitehead's text is titled An Unreliable World: History and Timekeeping in Westeros. It made me think about the history of technology shifts in Westeros.

Bronze Age in Europe starts around 3200 BC and lasts until ca. 600 BC. Iron was introduced in Europe in the late 11th century BC, and slowly spread over the succeeding 500 years. Bronze Age was a period of twenty-six centuries, and Iron Age (overlapping Bronze Age) a period of sixteen centuries. In Westeros, the Bronze and Iron ages appear to have lasted only two to three times longer than their real life counterparts (there are controversies, for course, and we can't be sure about when the Andals came with iron technology).

So, if in Europe what we call "the middle ages" lasted around a thousand years, am I right to assume Westerosi current technological level is 2000-3000 years old?

What are your thoughts on the issue?

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As I said in the essay, it's difficult to be sure because the dating is all over the place. It was more of a commentary on the frequent suggestion that in ASoIaF there has been constant technological stasis for 8,000 years, which is clearly not the case (especially after ADWD and seeing the old, primitive Northmen practicing human sacrifice to their weirwoods).

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It appears as though while Westeros has a very glacial pace of development in terms of government, economics, and so on, they are very advanced in their understanding of the natural science in comparison to their nearest comparisons, 14th century Europeans. Though winter is very much a delayer of development, Essos seems to be pushing forward in many areas, at least in the free cities. It can be assumed that Westeros' own development may follow, though there seems to be no analogue of the black death to wipe the old lords and large populations of peasants away and replace serfdom with wages.

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It is a fantasy world, how on earth would you draw a parallel to our own history? Where would you put the dragons and the Others? What about wildfire? You assume they had that much firepower back in the 14th century? Just read it and enjoy it :)

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It is a fantasy world, how on earth would you draw a parallel to our own history? Where would you put the dragons and the Others? What about wildfire? You assume they had that much firepower back in the 14th century? Just read it and enjoy it :)

Their are many parallels to our own history in Westeros. The fact that it's basically a medieval/feudal society like 6th - 14thish century Europe is the main one.

Others - Scandinavian societies were convinced their forests had frost giants and trolls.

Dragons - every society from Britain to China claim to have had dragons. I actually would have liked the idea of the Targarean dragons being myth in the books. Then again a literal dragon rider is badass.

Ok stupid myths aside...

Wildfire = Greek Fire,a primitive napalm. Sure it didn't burn green but it was fucking brutal! The ingrediants were lost but European powers were trying to recreate it right up to the point war ships became metal.

Having said all this, I agree it's fantasy, just read and enjoy. Also, if Westeros did follow the same technological timeline as Earth I'm pretty sure they'd have phasers by now.

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Erickson's Malazan civilization is like 300,000 years old, and we don't see warp drive, phasers or photon torpedoes there yet.

In fact, they still ride horses and fight with swords.

That's the beauty of fantasy.

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Erickson's Malazan civilization is like 300,000 years old, and we don't see warp drive, phasers or photon torpedoes there yet.

In fact, they still ride horses and fight with swords.

That's the beauty of fantasy.

That was kinda my point, parallels are there but we shouldn't read to much into it.

LoTR for example. No guns there.

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It appears as though while Westeros has a very glacial pace of development in terms of government, economics, and so on, they are very advanced in their understanding of the natural science in comparison to their nearest comparisons, 14th century Europeans. Though winter is very much a delayer of development, Essos seems to be pushing forward in many areas, at least in the free cities. It can be assumed that Westeros' own development may follow, though there seems to be no analogue of the black death to wipe the old lords and large populations of peasants away and replace serfdom with wages.

It wasn't on the scale of the Black Death, but the Great Spring Sickness of 90 years before AGoT was pretty devastating. IIRC, it wiped out almost 10% of the population of Westeros.

LoTR for example. No guns there.

No, but they had explosives (the bomb Saruman used to blow the wall at Helm's Deep) and early industrialisation :)

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Let's just say, the world has developed much differently from our own. For starters, the Free Cities, being mercantile and competing against each other (competition is good) will likely be at the forefront of innovation and technological advancement, with the Seven Kingdoms following in lockstep. There might be crazy new (to the people in the series) tech we haven't seen in Asshai or the Summer Isles or Sothyros... maybe black powder which these civilizations use for fireworks and primitive bombs (kind of like the Chinese did), but the more martial-minded Westerosi and Free City folks develop a way to use it in cannons and muskets.

But overall, Westeros is facing some very different challenges from what medieval Europe was facing. For starters, Europe was never united. Furthermore, the faith had a monopoly on knowledge until the Renaissance, whereas in Westeros, the maesters and the Faith are separate.

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It can be assumed that Westeros' own development may follow, though there seems to be no analogue of the black death to wipe the old lords and large populations of peasants away...

Hetman...there was a "grey plague" when Maester Pycelle was young that wiped out a great deal of the population.

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Hetman...there was a "grey plague" when Maester Pycelle was young that wiped out a great deal of the population.

Not enough, clearly, since it didn't seem to do much to precipitate the weakening of the lords and force a less feudal society. In fact, when I think about it, Westeros as a whole has a lot less big towns and cities than Western Europe did at the approximate time. The influence of Burghers within society seems almost non-existent, really.

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Also, time has to be weird in Westeros, months and months, sometimes years without the sun. Do they keep time with an hourglass or what?

Or is it just in the North where the long nights happen? Kinda like parts of Alaska thats have 6 months of sun at a time.

If the sun is that unpredictable everywhere in Westeros/Essos that would make Westeri years different than earth years. Our whole concept of time is based on the sun(or the earth's viewpoint of the sun)

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Also, time has to be weird in Westeros, months and months, sometimes years without the sun. Do they keep time with an hourglass or what?

Or is it just in the North where the long nights happen? Kinda like parts of Alaska thats have 6 months of sun at a time.

If the sun is that unpredictable everywhere in Westeros/Essos that would make Westeri years different than earth years. Our whole concept of time is based on the sun(or the earth's viewpoint of the sun)

This.

Something is inherenantly broken in how time has been kept since the andals wrote down the histories of the first men. I would not be surpirsed to find that because of how the sun is placed in their solar system "years" are shorter than a Terran standard year, and moreover the planet itself has a strange orbit that creates the artic circle affect of years of winter.

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Also, time has to be weird in Westeros, months and months, sometimes years without the sun. Do they keep time with an hourglass or what?

Or is it just in the North where the long nights happen? Kinda like parts of Alaska thats have 6 months of sun at a time.

If the sun is that unpredictable everywhere in Westeros/Essos that would make Westeri years different than earth years. Our whole concept of time is based on the sun(or the earth's viewpoint of the sun)

Considering how seasons are described - with winters lasting for several years - it is clear that the climate in Westeros is not functioning as we are used to. I read somewhere however, that GRRM has promised that the mechanisms behind the season changes and the long winters will be revealed in the coming books.

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