over in Esrolian Merchant ships (https://basicroleplaying.org/topic/7379-esrolian-merchant-ships/) the discussion eventually got to X was invented in y BC, so we can have it in Glorantha. I'm not knocking that approach but it got me thinking about what are the actual limits of Glorantha technology.
For example I'm not doubting that cranes exist in Glorantha, but what I'm interested in is does Glorantha have more than the simple pulley that Mesopotamians used for hauling water (1500 BC). Have they invented or acquired from Dwarves the compound pulley described by archimedes (250 BCish). Likewise do they have a knowledge of simple machines like those listed by Heron of Alexandria - lever, windlass, pulley, wedge, and screw.
The use of the screw means we can have olive and apple presses.
Also @Joerg said:
This idea of other materials is part of this - is scaling up chitin based legs and carapaces reallygoing to work? how do yo fasten them together?
@David Scottbeat me to this topic. I did a little research on this, and found this interesting article (though I differ on a couple of points made in it):
Basically, much like the other aspects of history, a lot of the technology of Glorantha is based on mythic precedents.
The iconic sailors of Glorantha all use weird material. The Waertagi use "living bodies of slain sea dragons", the Sendereven cut their outrigger catamarans from special rocks (sounds rather similar to creating Moai), dwarf paddle-wheeled floating castles use opus caementitium (aka concrete), a material also attested in use for Pelandan architecture (as per Entekosiad), and the elves breed and grow special trees into boat shape.
The original Artmali and Helerite boats and ships were solidified clouds, purple for the Artmali and tan blue for the Helerites. I already speculated in another thread about the architectural possibilities in such a material.
In face to face conversation with @Jeff I learned (or at least got the impression) that at least some of the earliest seagoing vessels in myth were little more than a good-sized piece of barch for a hull, a huge leaf for a sail and a branch for a mast, held together by the will (and creative power) of the creator and sailor.
If you look at the first boat myths, we get the Sofali Diros with his sea-turtle shell, we get Kogag with his giant beetle carapace, and Varanorlanth too. We have reed boats from riverine Peloria and Maniria (including the Zola Fel valley here) which are almost dully normal.
There should be humungous dugouts, possibly in the Maslo copies of the Sendereven design. Possibly widened through application of superheated steam - a technology apparently already known to mesolithich spear-makers, which requires water, fire-heated rocks, animal skins, and more fire-heated rocks. If you manage to heat timber to 120 degrees or more, it becomes malleable like putty without losing its year-ring lamination. Manipulating something that hot requires some ingenuity, but that's a quite commonplace quality in humanity.
Malkioni really should be (or have been) using coracle-based technology rather than planked hulls, in imitation of the Waertagi hulls. The Free Men of the Seas might have changed that with their radically new designs, leaning on Manirian knowledge acquired from the Olodo. Likewise the Yggites with their access to seal skin.
The earliest naval activities occurred on the "coastal parts" of Sramak's River. In the west, the experiences of the Waertagi have survived the Gods War. In the East, the wager of the Prosandara and Venperesha (Revealed Mythologies p.74) created land in the seas and sea in the lands before any other water invaded the land. These outermost islands were soon populated, and whether the people were created in loco or ferried there, they soon started taking to the seas and to meet the neighbors. It is from this oldest tradition the Sendereven came.
The Keets appear to have been drawn to the beaches of the southwestern corner of the world, which is how the sea gods were enraged by the "blessing" bestowed by the keet sage who was trod upon by the dancing sea god who received lightness and couldn't return to his sea any more. (Sounds somewhat similar to the myth of Heler...)
Rivers are there in the Golden Age, IMO this starts with the Birth of Umath, which pushed his mother down and his father upward. The ever-hungry waters were only too happy to return to the sixth side of the Earth Cube which had been inaccessible to them for too long. Rivers expanded into lakes, wetlands and smaller seas, providing opportunities for the earliest boating above drowned land (seas, rather than bottomless oceans). The God Learner maps show the Solkathi current that goes around the Spike meeting the Neliomi current, establishing the sea north of the Spike even before the Great Flood that followed (and that covered highlands with huge standing waves). In a way, the dry lands of Kerofinela and Kethaela (and Saird) may have been the result of a huge downward wind blowing the waters to either sides of these lands. Those extremes retreated, and some balance of sea and land was found on the surface of the cube, until the seas dried up later in the lesser Darkness - possibly through the agency of Valind building his glacier, possibly for other reasons.
The mermen as we know them are the youngest of the Elder Races, younger than mankind. They were born when the Vadrudi ravaged the invading seas, picking wives from the waves without asking for consent. The earliest Diros stories would come from this period, too, as they require an interaction with Sea above Former Lands. (At least that's how I see this. Others might disagree.)
This puts the start of naval history outside of the outermost East Isles and the Waertagi coast (or at least surviving and accessible memories thereof) in the Storm Age.
One problem with assessing which technologies were conceived (or willed into being) way back when is that narrators of a mmore modern age will replace terms that they don't really understand with technological terms they are familiar with. That's how the ceramic storage vessel that Diogenes inhabited when he was met by Alexander has become a cooper's barrel in western European tradition and imagery.
The same goes for mention of other technological inventions for ages past. Even when avoiding the route of von Däniken and his ilk, there are tantalizing images and models of things that would not have survived as material leavings because they were made of perishable substances. We infer the archaeology of textiles from weights that we assume were required for a hanging loom. We have not the slightest idea when baskets or basket-held skin containers were first used. Unlike ceramics, these didn't survive.
Finding copper-age Ötzi as an ice mummy has expanded our knowledge of earliest textiles by 100%. Similarly well-preserved remains are only known from bog finds or salt mines, and usually younger by millennia. For other data the textile archaeologists look at depictions in durable materials, like ceramic dolls or fresco paintings like those of the "Minoan" culture, or possibly wall paintings invisible to the naked eye but detectable with modern spectroscopy and datable by analyzing minuscule chalk crusts forming over them, like the recent discovery of definitely Neanderthal wall paintings about 15000 years before the arrival of the African immigrants that provide the majority of our European DNA.
So, let's examine our discussion whether certain technologies are bronze age or not (and keep in mind that bronze age didn't end simultaneously everywhere - in my mind, the Bronze Age lasted until about 500 BC, regardless of early iron industries e.g. by the Etruscans starting well before 800 BC - and yes, I am aware that BC isn't the politically correct term, but I'll use it nonetheless).
"Barrels require metal hoops, so they are definitely not a Bronze Age thing." Paraphrasing from a comment here lauding the insistence on amphorae as standardized containers. Probably well and true for the Mediterranean, but when a Roman author testifies the use of barrels in transalpine Gaul, he describes a well-established technology of the La Tene people, and quite likely stretching back to the Hallstatt culture or even its precursor. We don't have any literature about that. Oral tradition is treacherous, as the Diogenes in a Barrel misconception shows (quite on topic), but that doesn't prove a negative. It is extremely likely that the army that attacked at the Tollense crossing came from a barrel and bucket-using material culture, just not proven. And that battle predates Khadesh, and hints at having a similar scale, so we are looking at a huge organized human endeavor in a region that historians relying on Greek and Roman authors have labeled benighted Barbaria, and that label has stuck even to modern pre-historians.
When we find durable evidence for a culture in that region, it can be stunning, like the gold hats or the Nebra disk. But most of that culture's activities appear to have been made in perishable material.
Human remains are among the less perishable material from that region, as are certain grave gifts. Unfortunately, body burials were rather few in that time, and remains in urns have seen thorough destruction. So basically, a culture of great recyclers has recycled allmost all the evidence for their activities. Post holes can only attest for what was within the soil.
But it is that period that means "Bronze Age" to me. Whenever I see Greek Hoplite armor, it shouts anachronism to me. To everyone in the Anglophone world this seems to shout "Bronze Age", but it (and contemporary ship building) is about as period appropriate as the late mediaeval armor in that Arthur flick with Connery as Artus and Richard Gere as Lancelot for events that are set in the crumbeling remains of Roman culture in Latinized Britain - off by a millennium.
So, if there was a coracle or paddled canoe-based advanced naval technology on the Atlantic and Baltic shores, we don't have much evidence of that. We get the Hjortspring Boat dating from around 400-300BC, and it was accompanied by presumed contemporary iron weaponry - that's La Tene culture further south, the Iron Age successor of the Late Bronze Age Hallstatt culture. We see rock carvings that are somehow (no idea how exactly) dated to 2000 BC, give or take a millennium, which show objects with double protuding stems very similar to the shape of the Hjortspring boat, so one might assume that there was such a naval culture in the northern seas. We don't have any findings from this period, though.
But we know those were warmer times, with a local climate comparable to Tuscany now, so it is possible that the boreworm (which started the discussion below) was native in those waters back then. While the Baltic Sea has a few anoxic pockets where wooden remains might have survived, no such lucky find has been made yet in those much smaller areas than the vast anoxic underbody of the Black Sea with its very own story of flooding preserved in an environment hostile to all surface life. Varchulanga's realm, only without the big organisms escaping. Or possibly some other deity of darkness and deep sea trapped in a locked bottom of aerated water. Think of a (possibly shapeless) marine vampire lifeform (or undead, or chaotic) whose vulnerability is aerated water rather than sunlight. Something like this must exist somewhere on the sea floor of the Homeward Ocean... and it might guard some lost holy Earth place to rival Ezel or Seshna's Temple. Food for a merman campaign, maybe.
Once you start looking at giant-sized insects as source for construction material, quite a few weird ideas might work. Who needs glass windows when you can frame the transparent wings of giant insects and put those in the wall openings? Surely better than parchment.
The carapace shielding doesn't have to be water-tight - it needs to be bore-worm proof. And it might only work in combination with those charmed bait boards (think galvanic anodes in modern ships and containers for liquids, like warm water reservoirs) that end up on the menu of the troll providers.
Silky cocoons are produced by quite a number of pupae, and while that stuff won't necessarily be up to par with bast or spider silk for tensile strength, the sticky bits of these might be just the material to be put between overlapping pieces of carapace lashed together with some stronger fibre. Or maybe someone has found a way to use insect legs for rivets - put a thinner one from the outside into a wider one on the inside and put a splint into a hollow through both of these.
That recorder played by the troll wind lord in the 13G illustrations? I would bet that it is made from an insect leg rather than a bone. Take enough hollow insect legs, and you might get useful tubing.
Then there are insect excretions based on specific feeds, like e.g. laquer. Troll giant insect herders might be able to produce this on (ancient) industrial scale.
There has to be a reason why cities like Nochet or Boldhome tolerate man-eating monsters in their midst. This might be it.
Then there is the perennial "Gloranthan metals aren't quite their terrestrial equivalents".
Gloranthan metals probably corrode differently than terrestrial ones. Still, I like to suggest sulfidic corrosion associated with Darkness, and oxidic corrosion associated with Sea and Storm. Earth and Sky might claim that they don't corrode but transmute to something better, but then I am fairly certain that sulfidic corroded metal can be quite tasty to uz palate.
The standard metal is brass or bronze, a naturally occurring alloy of earth metal and sky metal, either of volcanic or of storm origin. Lodril's descent created the first brass, and that's how mostali metallurgists will classify this kind of alloy. Brass is solidified liquid, whereas bronze (at least in gods' bones) has growth rings, something anathema to Maker dwarves even though it provides an additional durability. As far as my theory of metals goes.
You can melt air-descended bronze, and after cooling you will get a metal undistinguishable from brass, and probably one that suffers all the weaknesses we associate with bronze vs (contemporary) iron (although few of those have been proven - the main consequence of the introduction of iron may have been a much greater availabiity of metal objects from local production, although usually inferior unless it underwent the refining hinted at in the Wayland myth re-melting the sword he made in contest with the King's previous smith).
Storm-descended bronze will be of a better quality than brass much like normal (non-refined through oxidizing) steel is inferior to damascened, layered terrestrial iron, for IMO the same mechanical reasons.
What else do we have in anachronistic material? Let's ignore iron, it is as fantasy a metal as is Mithril in Tolkien's Middle Earth, and from a very similar source (dwarves delving deep, then too deep). But we have glass, and more to the point, we have glass-blowing, and we had that for centuries, already in the time of the Autarchy. Possibly even earlier.
But again, the Mostali had it way before that. Already their second caste, the lead dwarves, know the secrets of molten rock not returning to its mineral graining. That means glazing (and implies ceramics), although blown glass possibly might have had to wait until the brass mostali provided the non-unique tools for heating a glass drop and then pushing exhaust gas (not necessarily "Air", as Mostali tend to dislike that concept) into it.
Whenever the humans develop something that has been pre-empted by Mostal the Maker, the mostali and dwarves accuse the humans of theft, or of unlicensed plagiarism and duplication (which, if one believes Hollywood's lawyers, is a crime with higher damage sums than all the homicides and bodily harm with guns in total).
Once a concept has been imprinted on Gloranthan reality, it cannot be unmade. It may be suppressed in some form for extended times, possibly requiring huge rituals or cataclysmic spells, but it will creep back. Take Nysaloran illumination, or take writing (as per the Fourth Age or late Hero Wars Illiteracy curse in King of Sartar). Is the God Learner secret really gone for good? Or do the de-deifying events of the late Hero Wars render it without any meaningful material to work upon? I wouldn't be outraged if the Umathelans somehow managed to re-discover that secret and use it against the mostali advance, making that cataclysm even greater.