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Ancient dungeons

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Heidi Hanley, Aug 23, 2017.

  1. Heidi Hanley

    Heidi Hanley Dreamer

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    I am writing about a fantasy world that is pre-medieval and Celtic in nature. They do not have chain mail but they do have iron/metal swords. I have a man in a dungeon and not sure if I can use metal bars across the door or if I should use something with wood. I don't want a solid door because it appears more cavernous than that and I mention that there is light from the rushes preventing total darkness. Any ideas???
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    The Romans certainly did, so I can't see why someone with a similar tech level won't. Wrought Iron doors, gates etc should be possible. They may even look beautiful... For me any use would be more reliant on the availability of Iron ore. If they don't have easy access to that and iron will be seen as a rare and valuable thing.
     
  3. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    The Romans also had mail armour so they're kinda not what OP had in mind. The second half of your post is spot-on though.
     
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Chain mail co-dates with iron weapon, so I took that as a choice/restriction. It would be the availability of the material or some cultural restriction that would stop their use .
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The Romans learned to make mail from the Gauls. It's entirely reasonable to use iron but not have figured out mail.
     
  6. DMThaane

    DMThaane Sage

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    If you can make iron swords you can make iron bars. If they have the availability of materials and the desire to create such a dungeon then they'd appear to have the means.
     
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    But you don't really need bars at all. Many dungeons (cells, really) were nothing more than a room (stone walls and floor) with a heavy wood door, often reinforced with iron bands. If you were lucky, you got a window. That's it. Simple and effective.
     
  8. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Not sure what you mean by it appears more cavernous, but I am sure that is a meaningful reason.

    I guess the question I would ask is why it became important enough to construct an iron bar door when a cage of wooden bars or door would be equally effective? As an alternative, he could have been dropped into a cavernous pit with only a cover on top and a rope or ladder needed to escape. They could also just tie him up real good and stuff him in the corner of a cave. If escape means he would get seen by everyone, then he is still effectively unable to do so.
     
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  9. Heidi Hanley

    Heidi Hanley Dreamer

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    Like this idea very much. Thanks everyone for the background and good ideas. Going to work on it now.
     
  10. SMAndy85

    SMAndy85 Minstrel

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    Iron/Steel swords require more knowledge of working the metal than it does to make bars. One could argue that iron bars on a cell door could predate iron swords. I don't know about actual history on this, but it makes sense to me.

    You could always double this up with the others, if you wanted to have iron bars, but also a REALLY secure prison. A prisoner could be dropped into a cave, which has an opening that has been barred, but the cave wall was dug into from the outside to make space for the bars, then bolted in place, then mortared over. The bars won't move, but it gives the prison guards access to give their prisoners food, and to make sure they're still secure.

    You'd still need a rope/ladder to get out, and if someone wanted to break you out, they'd need to break through the mortar, then unbolt the bars without being heard/seen.

    Personally, I would have the bars being vertical, and slotted into place from the rooms above, then secured in place so there was no lock actually at the cell to be picked or forced. You could then make sure the bars were secure from above, without having to see or hear the prisoner, allowing a very effective isolation.

    I might have to use this idea myself....
     
  11. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    It's an Oubliette... ;)
     
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I'd agree with Andy - an oubliette type pit dungeon is an excellent choice. Simply drop someone down a hole that's too wide for them to span with hands and feet so it's hard to scale, and they aren't getting out. The only technology needed is either to dig holes in stone, or to build them into mortared stones in a stone building foundation. You don't need bars either so they can have plenty of light. And they were a common feature of medieval castles and fortresses.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  13. Heidi Hanley

    Heidi Hanley Dreamer

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    The dungeon is below the keep and after taking stairs down into a dark place, it opens up into a cavernous room lit by rushes. I ended up using the wooden bars. "Bottomless pit? The bowels of hell? The prick of light grew larger until the staircase emptied into a cavernous, musty room. The room was lit with rushes. At least they aren’t keeping him in the dark, Briana thought. Across the far end was a heavy gate constructed from thick wood stakes. Brath merely nodded at the posted guard who stepped back to let the king confront a disheveled and weary-looking Artanin, who sat curled up behind the bars." That works fine for this scene, but I have learned a lot from this conversation and I really appreciate the help.
     
  14. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    The room was lit with rushes.

    I am a bit confused here. I imagine rushes as a type of wetlands plant, also used as a floor covering, and can be woven into mats, baskets... etc. Unless the world building includes a rush that glows in the dark.

    But rushes can be made into a type of candle, so I think perhaps Rushlights or rush-candles are what you need.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2017
  15. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi Heidi,

    Are Brath an Briana two different people? And shouldn't it be weren't instead of aren't in Biana's thought? Sorry = know you didn't ask for a crit but couldn't help myself.

    Also I was confused by rushes. Do you mean torches in wall sconces?

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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