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Bethelamon
February 13th, 2006, 04:51 PM
Im currently in the world-building process, and realised I need to learn about materials and natural resources. Should have payed more attention is chemistry classes!

Metals. Where are gold, silver, copper, bronze etc found? Or how are they made? So far in my world I have included an area where people go for gold-panning, its a flatland between several mountain ranges. There is also a mountain range where silver was discovered in large quantities in the ancient days and made a certain city very wealthy... is this correct? I have no idea where silver comes from! :o

Coal and iron ore. Are they any rules as to where these are found? I've got one ancient mining city, does it make sense to have one 'hot-spot' for iron?

Also... spices. I have written about a southern coastal city on the edge of a desert as a Spice Port. Where do spices come from? Anywhere?

Please include all information about natural resources and other stuff which could help in world-building, or post any links which could be helpful!

Katran
February 13th, 2006, 05:29 PM
Hi Bethelamon-

I hope you don't mind my replying. I'm not a writer, but I do know a fair amount about natural resources. (I'm a geologist by training.)

In general, for gold, if it's not being mined directly out of the ground you'll want to pan for it in the mountains. Generally you can find gold in rocks like granite (such as in the Sierra Nevadas in California, home to the California gold rush), but you'll want to get it close to the source before it settles out of the water. A basin between mountain ranges will, most likely, get the water coming out of the mountains eventually, but by that time the amount of gold in the water will be very low--most of it has settled out in the time that the water took to get down there, and what is left will have been spread out. So--best place to pan gold is usually mountain streams, and if you want to mention the surrounding rock, granite is a good guess.

Silver is similar, but it's usually found in veins rather than by panning. It's a lot more reactive than gold so by the time it gets into the water, it's useless.

As far as coal goes--usually comes in the form of beds, and is spread out. You don't tend to get it in one localized spot, but over a whole region. Same goes for iron. I don't know that much about coal mining, but the major iron deposits in the world are in South Africa, Minnesota and Western Australia, and they are BIG. You can basically dig enormous pit mines and get rock out that is over 50% iron ore. If your world developed similar to Earth, the way that our deposits got made is that when the earth was young, it didn't have oxygen in the atmosphere, and the chemical conditions were such that iron was very soluble in the oceans. When photosynthetic, oxygen-producing bacteria became common, there were oxygen "blooms" that made iron insoluble in water, so it dropped out of the oceans in massive layers that we now mine, about 1.5 billion years later.

As far as other resources go, you might want to get a book for ameteur prospectors--they're fairly common. This list (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/guides/guide-display/-/2OV4TN8Y3RI0N/ref=cm_bg_dp_m_3/103-0571771-0805411) is an Amazon guide to books about gold prospecting, but you can look up prospecting there and probably turn up some guides to other minerals.

Hope that was helpful. :) Thanks for trying to make your world sort of realistic. If I were going to write a novel, I'd get incredibly caught up in the details of realistic world-building. :)

Edited to add:

This Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spice_trade) has info on the spice trade, which might be helpful too.

Bethelamon
February 13th, 2006, 06:16 PM
Thanks for the informative reply!



In general, for gold, if it's not being mined directly out of the ground you'll want to pan for it in the mountains. Generally you can find gold in rocks like granite (such as in the Sierra Nevadas in California, home to the California gold rush), but you'll want to get it close to the source before it settles out of the water. A basin between mountain ranges will, most likely, get the water coming out of the mountains eventually, but by that time the amount of gold in the water will be very low--most of it has settled out in the time that the water took to get down there, and what is left will have been spread out. So--best place to pan gold is usually mountain streams, and if you want to mention the surrounding rock, granite is a good guess.
Ok. The area I've got is a very small basin between mountain ranges, I could make it much more rocky and hilly. Its basically where 'adventurers' go looking for gold, its a rather barren and uncivilised area. The prospector settlements will be based around the mountainsides then.

Silver is similar, but it's usually found in veins rather than by panning. It's a lot more reactive than gold so by the time it gets into the water, it's useless.
Excellent. So people would go panning for silver in the mountains?

As far as coal goes--usually comes in the form of beds, and is spread out. You don't tend to get it in one localized spot, but over a whole region. Same goes for iron. I don't know that much about coal mining, but the major iron deposits in the world are in South Africa, Minnesota and Western Australia, and they are BIG. You can basically dig enormous pit mines and get rock out that is over 50% iron ore. If your world developed similar to Earth, the way that our deposits got made is that when the earth was young, it didn't have oxygen in the atmosphere, and the chemical conditions were such that iron was very soluble in the oceans. When photosynthetic, oxygen-producing bacteria became common, there were oxygen "blooms" that made iron insoluble in water, so it dropped out of the oceans in massive layers that we now mine, about 1.5 billion years later.
Ok then. I think I will have my main mountain range as where all the Iron is at, and the city of Bruin can be the big industrial mining settlement.


Thanks for the information!

Thinking more about the spice trade... What spices or other things could a country with similar geology and climate to Egypt specialise in? (not like Egypt in culture). Its basically a small bit of fetile land on the coast of a great desert, accessed from the mainland by a warm mediteranean-like sea. I want there to be a large trading colony there, and the Spice Trade seems appealing. So its like Egypt/North Africa....

World Builder
February 13th, 2006, 10:16 PM
Ajwain is a spice thought to come from Egypt. You could also use coriander -- I think that's what it's called.

Also, if this 'egyptian' nation has a similar geography to Egypt, perhaps the spices are coming from the Interior of the continent. The River would serve as a trade corridor through the desert, bottlenecking trade so that the Spice Port could easily control all access to these rare spices from across the Desert.

As for coal, like Katran said, it can be found in large seams over vast areas. Its formed from the sediments of ancient swamps. I'm from the Allegheny Plateau (specifically, south eastern Ohio) where you can find a lot of coal. An area where the ancient swamps have been uplifted to form mountains and hills is going to be the best places to mine for coal. However, coal didn't really become a major resource until the Industrial Revolution; so depending on the time frame of the story, you might not need to mention it.

Katran
February 13th, 2006, 10:25 PM
Also, if this 'egyptian' nation has a similar geography to Egypt, perhaps the spices are coming from the Interior of the continent. The River would serve as a trade corridor through the desert, bottlenecking trade so that the Spice Port could easily control all access to these rare spices from across the Desert.


I agree with this. Many major spices come from the tropics--places like Indonesia and India, which tend to be very humid and hot. (I think intense flavor is often associated with rainforest plants because a lot of times they're poisonous to other animals, so it's a defense mechanism.) So if you had a river flowing from a different part of the continent, which might be more jungle-y, there could be spices grown there.

Saffron is a good spice for your area, also--it requires a LOT of flowers to make it, but it's a chapparal plant that grows in mediterranean regions, first cultivated in Greece.

You could also, like Frank Herbert, make up your own spice to suit your needs. :D

Bethelamon
February 14th, 2006, 08:15 AM
Hmmm good idea... I could have a river going south into the desert, and all the spices come from down the river.
What spices can be found in the desert? I don't really want to put a jungle in there.

I think I won't bother with coal, the big industry in Bruin will instead be iron.

Holbrook
February 14th, 2006, 12:50 PM
I think I won't bother with coal, the big industry in Bruin will instead be iron.

How are you going to smelt your iorn ore or work the iron? You need either coal or charcoal, for which you need good sized forests for. Normally iron industries spring up where you have coal, iron and a good water supply.

Take a look into the history of the late 18th early 19th century for coal/iron industries. Pre that time period you need to do some research on medieval industries.

No short cuts I am afraid. You need to decide what state of development you want for your civilisation and research the relative time period of our history.

Bethelamon
February 14th, 2006, 12:53 PM
How are you going to smelt your iorn ore or work the iron? You need either coal or charcoal, for which you need good sized forests for. Normally iron industries spring up where you have coal, iron and a good water supply.


Lots of charcoal. Part of the background is that two very large forests have been hugely reduced in the past few thousand years, to a shadow of their former selves.

Holbrook
February 14th, 2006, 01:01 PM
Lots of charcoal. Part of the background is that two very large forests have been hugely reduced in the past few thousand years, to a shadow of their former selves.

Then best remember charcoal production on the scale to supply even a medieval type city would eat up what remains of the natural forests at a very fast rate. That is what happened to large tracks of forest in Europe during the middle ages.

Ward
February 14th, 2006, 06:41 PM
you asked also about bronze, it's an alloy of copper and (usually) tin, in something like a 9:1 ratio copper to tin. early bronze was copper alloyed with arsenic, which was a naturally occuring surface deposit in some areas. copper by itself is fairly soft (i beleive it can actually be 'worked' without a fire), bronze alloy is hard and more suitable for weapons and armor. copper is easier to find on the surface whereas iron requires more intensive mining (unless you find a meteorite: 'sky metal' was in short supply). bronze continued to be used alongside iron and steel right up to the modern era, cast bronze artillery and cannon being the most prominent example. Steel is 'carbonized' iron, the hotter a fire a society can produce the harder and better quality steel they can make: hot fires require, as mentioned, huge amounts of charcoal (as well as bellows, etc.).

a book you might want to check out is The Metalsmiths in Time Life's Emergence of Man series: its a good intro to the kind of thing you are asking about, with lots of pictures; it deals with the beginnings of metal working in the ancient world. Its an old book, you should be able to find it on ebay (I recommend the whole series actually, particulary the later books).

another thing: if you have a climate like egypt's one thing that would be in short supply is wood, the egyptians were always trading for it: especially the kind of big beams you need for ships and public works projects. these they imported from Lebanon (the tall cedars). Local acacia wood was suitable for small items, and was very hard, but large, straight pieces weren't to be found there.

aside from spices you might think about incense (in the near east the arabian pennisula had good sources) and other materials like pitch and resin, neccessary for boat making and mummification. also, oil was a huge industry in the ancient world as it was used for cooking, burning in lamps, and even bathing. Egyptians used linseed (flax) oil, the best and most lucrative oil was from olives. Papyrus was also important to egypt, as was Nubian gold and semi-precious stones from sinai, but their number one money maker was simply foodstuffs: because of the regular nile floods they could get as many as three harvests a year in some cases.

if your society practices monumental stone architecture you should find out a bit about that as well, there is a reason for using limestone for buildings and granite for obelisks, for example.

its a big subject of course, the best thing you can do is read up on the real history of places like those you want to write about and you'll have the confindance to write about your world knowing it's based on reality.