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Nails and construction in the ancient (stone age) world

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Swordfry, Feb 1, 2016.

  1. Swordfry

    Swordfry Troubadour

    So a quick Google search told me that nails apparently were not invented until sometime in the 1500s, which somehow I really doubt.

    I realized that I am having a much harder time understanding just how things were built and constructed in the ancient world. My books take place in an "advanced stone age" I like to call it, which is why I was hesitant to put the era in the topic title. I only call this a stone age at all, because this is an Earth-like planet, but with very little accessible metals on the surface. Most is found really deep underground. Thus, very little metal, and the main resources are wood, stone, sea shell, and bone. Despite this, the inhabitants of my world have hill forts (and if I to, I swear I'll just invent magic nails because I really do not want to get rid of the hill forts, lol), basket weaving, some pottery, and one specific race are master craftsmen with wood because where they live, there is so many freaking trees.

    So how were things constructed, say back in the stone age, or any other time before nails were invented? Where things lashed together with ropes and such? Was there some sort of adhesive being used?

    What about wooden nails? How feasible would those be? Even, say, if they were made from a special, enhanced wood that is about twice the strength, durability, etc, of normal wood found in our own world?
  2. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Bronze and copper nails can be traced back to ancient Rome, if not earlier. I assume your google search meant to say 1500 BC. The reason why nails didn't become commonly used until much later was because making that many small pieces of metal was too difficult and time consuming with early smithing technology.

    Most woodworking (as far as I know) were reliant are joints (such as mortise and tenon joints) to keep large pieces of wood together. Some earlier forms of carpentry glue can be traced back to around 2000 BC.

    As far as stone age goes, there were very little woodworking going on. The tools and techniques just weren't there until the bronze age.

    Also, you probably should have posted this topic in the Research forum.
    Swordfry likes this.
  3. Swordfry

    Swordfry Troubadour

    Yeah research forum would have been better I suppose.

    And boy do I look dumb now with that 1500 nonsense. Goes to show I shouldn't try and world build and post in forums late at night, lol.

    I will research wooden joints more later. Thanks for the info.
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    1500ce might be right if they were referring to mechanically made [cut] nails and not those hand made [forged].
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  5. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

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  6. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I remember hearing that crucifixion was typically done by tying the person to the cross, not nailing; the crucifixion of Christ was a noteworthy exception (probably because even his haters knew he was badass). How accurate is that?
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  7. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    so nails as we think of them may have been made in the 1500s, as in headed nails. before, nails were more like mini spikes. rivets held armor together, and they were a sort of washer, fitted with a copper tube, and then happened flat to hold together. those would have been used for fine things, but construction was likely made with wood pegs or metal ones?

    If you are doing a really scarce metal world (which makes sense), I'd think of hemp as a valuable building material. hemp can be woven into baskets, made into sacks, or used as rope. Hemp rope, in a mild climate, would withstand years of normal weather, and fasten joints together that could withstand roofing material (hides, bark panels, or thatch).

    As far as I know, Stone Age homes were half dug out, and half built up. In a fantasy world, maybe they would have utilized a dirt floor and dirt lower wall, and then built on top of that, you would have timbers? I guess it depends on what resources your climate and setting have available. Nails probably would have been too bothersome to make if metal is scarce, but I'm sure you can make suitably durable buildings without any metal. But if you do have some metalworking, you can have nails or metal pegs, or even metal fittings to make handles on doors or whatever. Hinges, maybe not, but I remember even in the American West, they had leather hinges and latch strings in use, and that's certainly a rather modern application for what must be ancient technology.

    I'm not an expert, but I hope my random musing gives you some ideas. Be creative!
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  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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  9. Zack

    Zack Scribe

    As far as I know, a lot of clay/mud mixtures were used because they set very hard, kinda like concrete. Also, a lot of wooden structures are notched to fit together (like linkin' logs) and secured with the clay/mud mix. However, that does severely limit the shape of structures to simple boxes or octagonal shapes (if the notches are cut at angles). Most of these structures would be susceptible to fire, especially if they have thatched roofs.
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  10. Swordfry

    Swordfry Troubadour

    Thanks for all of the info. Good stuff.

    I considered the interlocking aspect, like Lincoln logs and some stone walls. In fact if I recall correctly, with stone walls, the interlocking was somewhat better than using mortar because the mortar decayed over time.

    I think maybe I should get more creative, like somebody here said. In my transition from typical medieval fantasy setting to metal scarce stone age setting, I have been thinking way too hard on the basics and thinking like we do now. Really, my main three races would have their own unique buildings and homes because of how they are. One is a coast dwelling race, and I have come up with a few ideas for different dug out homes. Another is a race that literally carves out homes in the earth and stones with acid, so lots of creativity there. The other is a mix of homes nestled in the upper branches of large trees, and more human homes, especially hill forts.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Roman crucifixion was normally done by tying, not nailing. The point was to make the person suffer--you didn't want them bleeding out by creating open wounds. The most likely end was that the lungs fill with liquid. *shudder*
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  12. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    Evidence shows in the beginning things would have been lashed together or held together with wood pegs in holes.

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