Misc Encyclopedia of "starting from scratch" in a primitive earth-like world

Discussion in 'Community Creations' started by lychee, Dec 12, 2017.

  1. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    [​IMG]

    Introduction:


    This encyclopedia is a resource of articles and references for everything somebody might want to know if they transmigrated (or were otherwise stranded) to a primitive environment nearly identical to Earth, minus any objects from modern civilization. I'll probably update this slowly on my own because it's an interesting educational experience, but anybody can contribute (tag @lychee and I'll add your article to the table of contents).​

    Contribution Rules:

    1. Follow the submission format (see below)

    2. Assume that a person has absolutely nothing on them. No string, no rope, no anything. For manpower purposes, you can assume you have a team of five people who are equally as clueless and unequipped as you, but at least they are willing to work with you. For the purposes of this exercise, also assume that the locals are less technologically advanced than you (cavemen basically), speak a different language, and would be unwilling to help/trade with you unless you have something good to offer in exchange. No free lunches!

    3. If your article has prerequisites, link to the prerequisite article. If the prerequisite doesn't exist, please write it.

    4. Provide instructions for how to find or obtain everything that you would need. For example, you need "flint" to start a fire? Where do you find flint? Start from where you are in your backyard and describe how you would find it (e.g. where in the world) from where you are standing. Be specific.

    5. Try to provide quantities if relevant. Obviously you have no standardized measuring utensils, but if you're making black powder, you should write it roughly like: "Two parts XXX and five parts YYY", etc.

    6. Provide references and sources.

    7. One topic per post. If you find yourself writing about multiple different topics, split it up into different articles.

    8. Reserve topics you are going to write on by posting in this thread and putting a WIP. This is to let other people know you are currently researching and writing an article.
    Submission Format:

    Code:
    [b][SIZE=6]Article Title[/SIZE][/b]
    
    [b]Prerequisites/Ingredients[/b]:
    [LIST]
    [*]Please link to any prerequisite articles
    [/LIST]
    
    [b]Description/Instructions[/b]:
    
    [b]References/Links[/b]:
    [LIST]
    [*]Please include links to outside resources here
    [/LIST]
    
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  2. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
    iampsyx likes this.
  3. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Tinder

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    • A sharp object (optional)
    Description:

    The process of starting a fire involves growing a small spark into a flame. Different kinds of fuels have different amounts of flammability and will burn for different amounts of time, so the sequence of fire starting typically involves beginning with the most flammable (and shortest lasting) fuels and gradually transitioning to fuels that are less flammable but burn longer.

    "Tinder" is a material that will catch fire just from a spark, so it is the first fuel source in the fire-starting sequence.

    Moisture is very important when picking material to use as tinder. The greater the amount of moisture in a material, the higher the ignition temperature required to ignite it. Wet or moist things definitely will not light. Starting a fire in a wet environment is significantly more difficult and will not be covered in this article. Things that you find on the ground typically have a lot of moisture, so it is best to choose things that are elevated above the ground (e.g. tall grass, bark on dead but standing trees).

    Many kinds of natural materials can make great tinder. Examples include: dry grass, tree bark, leaves, dandelion heads, cattail fluff, bird down, dry pine needles, tinder fungus, sawdust, and fatwood (dried pine wood saturated with pitch or resin).

    Dry grass and tree bark are among the two most widespread materials you can use to make tinder. In terms dry grass, you should look for tall straw-like wild grass that grows at least up to your knees (not the green lawn grass), and take only the top part. In terms of tree bark, it is best to find fibrous bark that is relatively stringy but dry.

    [​IMG]

    A "tinder nest" consists of two components: (1) An outer "bird's nest"-like bundle of tinder about the size of a baseball glove to a football. This should be able to hold its shape on its own. (2) An inner golf-ball sized collection of tinder that is especially fine and almost powdery in quality. You can make this by shredding/crumbling the tinder material to the point it could fall apart easily. Place this inner crumbly tinder inside the outer bird nest.

    References/Links:
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
  4. AMissingLinguist

    AMissingLinguist [Not Here][Blank Sect][Nuffian #N]

    Joined:
    May 15, 2016
    Messages:
    2,226
    Likes Received:
    6,141
    Reading List:
    Link
    Finding a Water Source

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    Description/Instructions:
    Water is essential for surviving in any world. The first step of finding a water source is using the five senses. An obvious water source will save time in finding since it will be closer than groundwater and plentiful. Listen for running water and walk towards it. Birds, bugs, and animal tracks will also lead to running water. Rainwater is the next source of water that is easy to capture and contain. If there are no containers nearby, then the use of weeds weaved into a basket, fruits, or leaves can serve as temporary containers until something long-lasting can be made. Fruits, vegetables, roots, cacti, and roots also contain water. Smash some of the plants with rocks to squeeze the water out and into a container. Unripe green coconuts are better than ripe coconuts because they don't contain laxatives, which will dehydrate a person. Collecting plant transpiration is also a good idea, but requires a bag to cover a branch with a rock inside so the water gathers at the bottom, so it'll be left alone for now. There's also melting snow and ice, digging an underground sill, collecting condensation on metal, and digging a beach well.
    Warning: Avoid alcohol, urine, blood, and seawater/sea ice. Urine contains waste, but has no salt. Alcohol dehydrates and clouds judgement. Blood contains diseases and salt. Seawater/sea ice contains salt and severely dehydrates. Visit the link below for better instructions.

    References/Links:
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
    iampsyx and lychee like this.
  5. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Thanks for contributing! What you wrote is perfect! As for clothes -- the idea of this encyclopedia is that a person should be able to do everything completely from scratch -- so yes it includes clothes.

    Fire Starting (Hand Drill method)

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    • Tinder
    • Kindling (small pieces of dry grass, leaves, and twigs)
    • Fuel (firewood, animal dung, etc)
    • A sharp object/rock

    Description:
    Starting a fire using a manual method is one of the most difficult ways to start a fire and requires a lot of strength, patience, endurance, and technique. Almost universally, it will be easier to use a "Bow Drill" or some other spark-forming fire starter (e.g. flint) if the requisite materials are present.

    Similar manual friction-based methods to the "Hand Drill" include the "Fire Plow" and "Fire Saw". These methods will not be discussed in this article, although they have their own considerations although the fundamental principal is the same.

    Choice of wood and humidity is essential for the hand drill method. If you are in a humid area, starting a fire will be more difficult, as these fire-starting techniques were all developed in the cradles of human civilization -- typically in dry, hot, desert-like areas like Africa or Australia. If you are in a humid or marshy area, you may need to somehow find a way to cure the wood (drying it) otherwise it will probably be very challenging.

    The best kind of wood to use is dry dead non-resinous medium-soft wood. Non-resinous means it doesn't have sticky sap. Look for dead wood that is still on the tree above the ground, because dead wood on the ground is often too damp or rotting. "Soft wood" means that if you run your fingernail into it, it should make an indentation into the wood without much effort. Aspen, Cedar, Elder, Poplar, and Willow are examples of common wood that are reported to work well. However, most sources often recommend to experiment and try all different kinds of wood in your area, and not to get hung up on a particular kind. Choice of wood is properly the most important factor determining how easy or hard this will be, aside from the humidity of your location.

    [​IMG]

    A hand drill consists of two components: (1) a fire board, and (2) a spindle.

    The fire board (also known as a "hearth board") should ideally be no more than half an inch thick and flat on both sides. The length and width can be flexible, but something like 1 foot long and 2-4 inches wide is a good size.

    The spindle should be a long straight shaft that is free of bumps, roughly the thickness of one of your fingers, and 2-3 feet long. Longer is better because it allows for a longer cycle before you need to bring your hands back to the top of the shaft. Some sources recommend using relatively young plants (soft wood trees or shrubs) in their "nascent" growth phase. The kind of wood doesn't have to be the same as the fire board, but you should still seek a medium-soft wood, and try out many combinations. Young trees and shrubs in their "nascent" growth phase grow especially fast and straight as shoots, making them ideal for use as a spindle. Strip the bark from the shaft. If you have access to a fire, heat can be applied during the drying process to help you straighten the shaft into the right shape. The investment is worth it because getting a good spindle can be difficult, and the spindle is reusable. All the spindle to dry fully (takes weeks to months).

    [​IMG]

    The most challenging part of the hand drill is getting good technique and conditioning your hands properly. Using the hand drill generates a lot of pressure and head, and it is extremely common for beginners to blister their hands. Therefore, many sources recommend spending at least two weeks conditioning your hands prior to actually attempting to start a fire. The skin on your hands need to be calloused and thicken, similar to how your feet end up calloused, otherwise you will almost certainly blister before you are able to get an ember.

    Remember: patience (on the scale of weeks)!

    To condition your hands and practice technique, cut a small notch into a piece of fire board, and simply practice rolling the spindle fingertip to fingertip between your palms in the notch, while applying downward pressure. The key technique point is to use long rolling strokes across the full length of your palms and fingers. Short strokes are not going to work. Since you are applying downward pressure, your hands should eventually make their way down to the bottom of the spindle as you roll. At that point, you should just bring your hands back to the top of the shaft again without lifting the spindle from the board. You don't want to lift the spindle because that causes the heat to dissipate and your lose all the energy. Work on increasing your speed to as fast as you can and building up your hand resistance, while working on your transitions from the bottom of the stick to the top. Don't push yourself too much each day because you won't be able to do this technique with blisters.

    [​IMG]

    As you start getting better, you should begin to see dust generated by your practice. If the color of the dust is light, you're not using enough downward pressure, or you might not be using the right kind of wood. Dark dust, burn marks, or better yet smoking indicates that you are in the right direction. If you're not getting enough downward pressure, you can adjust your posture such that you are on one knee, and putting your full body weight into the downward pressure. For people at a sufficient level of speed and pressure, it should take 3-10 minutes to get the wood smoking.

    [​IMG]

    Once you know that you will be able to get an ember, the next step is to prepare everything you need for a fire. This means that you need all your firewood, fuel, kindling, and your "tinder nest" ready and on the side.

    In your fireboard, pick an existing hole that is slightly worn in, shallow, but not burnt, and cut out a wedge. Leaving plenty of room for oxygen to reach the wood dust/coal is important, but you don't want it so wide that the spindle slips out.

    Then, put something under the board to catch the wood dust/coal. This can be like a piece of bark or a leaf. You will need to transfer the ember to the tinder using this later.

    [​IMG]

    Finally, start rolling your spindle as you practiced. As you begin, you don't have to apply a lot of pressure as you start. The important thing is to warm up the board, which will take some time. The ignition point of wood is around 700 'F (or 350 'C), so you should think of yourself as slowly warming up the tip of your spindle up to that point. If you tire, it's okay to stop briefly, but do not pick up the spindle off from the board or else you'll need to start over. The same goes with whenever you need to move your hand up the shaft. Don't pick up the spindle!

    When you begin to see smoking, that is when you should begin to seriously increase your speed and pressure. You will know when you stop when the smoking comes from the pile of wood dust. If the pile of wood dust is smoking on its own, you have an ember!

    Dislodge the ember from the fire board if necessary, but make sure the ember doesn't fall apart. If it falls apart, you have to start over!

    Transfer the ember to the tinder nest. It's easy to fail at this point too, so good luck! Once you have the ember in the tinder, pick up the tinder nest, cup it, and tilt it sideways and blow gently. We tilt the nest sideways because heat rises, and we want to keep the heat in the tinder nest.

    [​IMG]

    When you have an obvious flame going, you will need to feed it kindling because otherwise it will burn out very quickly. Kindling is like dried leaves or twigs about the size of pencils. Keep feeding it until you feel like the flame is healthy enough, and at that point you can add larger pieces of fuel like firewood, etc.

    Congratulations, you have a fire!

    References/Links:
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
    iampsyx likes this.
  6. AMissingLinguist

    AMissingLinguist [Not Here][Blank Sect][Nuffian #N]

    Joined:
    May 15, 2016
    Messages:
    2,226
    Likes Received:
    6,141
    Reading List:
    Link
    This is a huge project you're undertaking, @lychee. Maybe tagging some nuffians can help speed this project?
     
  7. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    I'm up for anyone joining if they're interested! Honestly, I'm doing this because I think it's an interesting thing to learn, so I'm fine with it being slow and taking a long time.

    Stone Blades and Knapping

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    • n/a

    Description:
    Stone tools have been made by humans since the beginning of human civilization. The method of making a stone tool is called "Knapping" which involves chipping flakes away at the suitable "core" stone with a "hammerstone" until the right shape is obtained. The archaeological term for this is "lithic reduction".

    The first step in this process is to find a location with many rocks. In many places in the world, you will find many rocks around creeks and river.

    The second step is locate the proper kind of rock that will flake easily. The "hammerstone" is easy because almost any kind of medium-sized rock of sufficient hardness with a rounded surface will do.

    The "core" is much more difficult. In history, the best types of stone to use as a "core" are: obsidian, flint, and chert. Obsidian is found around volcanic areas. The geographic distribution of flint/chert is discussed in the flint article (WIP). While these three materials make the sharpest stone tools, it is probably possible to get away with other types of stone as well.

    To identify suitable "core" material, look for a rock that has sharp edges or a flat/concave surface. Avoid porous rocks that have holes and cavities, as well as rocks that have cracks. If you clack two rocks together, it's a very good sign if it makes a ringing sound or sounds like glass. The more spherical the rock, the better.

    [​IMG]

    The motion for striking the core is to smack side edge with the hammerstone. The hammerstone should glance the edge, and it should be swung in a motion such that it follows through and does NOT stop on impact. If you hit it just right, a sharp piece should flake off. You can use one of the sharp flakes as a stone knife.

    Note that this process takes less force than you may think. Many people do this in their hands, or on their thighs. This is a precision/skilled method or art!

    [​IMG]

    If you think you've gotten the hand of controlling this, the more advanced version is called "lithic reduction". This method is essentially the opposite of what is described above, in that you chip away flakes until your core is shaped the way you want it. This method will give you larger sharp rocks to work with, perhaps better suited as an axe head.

    Refer to following picture:

    [​IMG]

    Something to keep in mind that obviously it's not easy and takes skill to get it come out just perfect. What you might find interesting is that "soft hammers" (e.g. made of wood or bone) offer more control and finer products. Typically, artisans would use a "hard hammer" (e.g. the above mentioned hammerstone) to break off large chunks, and a "soft hammer" to shape it the way they want.

    References/Links:
     
    AMissingLinguist and iampsyx like this.
  8. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Sedimentary Rock (stone-age level knowledge)

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    • n/a

    Description/Instructions:
    Sedimentary rock is one of the three types of rock (others being Igneous and Metamorphic), which is formed by the deposition and cementation of sediment (weathered/eroded minerals or organic material) in layers. This is in contrast to igneous and metamorphic rocks, which form by high heat or pressure.

    Sedimentary rock is the most important kind of rock for a stone-age neolithic, and it is important to know where to find it and how to recognize different common types of sedimentary rock.

    [​IMG]

    Sedimentary rock makes up 70% of rocks on the surface of the earth. It is easiest to find sedimentary rock near sources of water, or where water used to exist. This is because water is where a lot of erosion and sedimentation takes place. Examples of good places include ancient lake and ocean basins. Cliff faces carved out by rivers over the millennia often contain exposed sedimentary rock. Rivers and streams often carry sedimentary rock with the current, so you can often find them along the banks.

    Sedimentary rocks have layers and bands.

    [​IMG]

    In identifying sedimentary rocks, we divide them into three types: Clastic, Chemical, and Biological.

    Clastic sedimentary rocks are composed of other rock fragments that have been cemented together. Functionally speaking, these type of rocks aren't very useful to humans because they are weaker stone that breaks apart more easily. Clastic rocks are subdivided based on the size of the grain. Large grained (a rock composed of small rocks) are called "conglomerates" and "breccias". "Sandstone" is made out of sand (sand is medium-grain crushed/eroded rock). "Mudstone" and "shale" is made out the finest material, often clay or silt. Sandstone and shale are the most common sedimentary rocks.

    Sandstone is usually tan or yellow granular in quality. If it looks like its made out of small sand-like grains or has microscopic holes, it's probably sandstone. This kind of rock is not useful to us.

    Mudstone and shale are similar kinds of rock that have no visible grain. The only difference between the two is that mudstone breaks into block-like pieces, whereas shale breaks into flat plates. Mudstone and shale is fairly fragile, soft (by rock standards), and breaks relatively easily. In nature, they are quickly weathered and form vegetated slopes, whereas other rock types that are more resilient form cliffs or resistant formations. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish mudstone from limestone, especially since they often occur in the same place, but keep in mind that limestone is more resistant to weathering than than shale and breaks into harder blocks. Below is an image of mudstone:

    [​IMG]

    The next subtype of sedimentary rock is chemical sedimentary rock. Chemical sedimentary rocks form from the precipitation of dissolved materials, giving them many useful properties. The most abundant of this family is limestone and dolomite, which contain a lot of calcium carbonate. Other rocks of this family include chert (flint), iron ore, and rock salt.

    First we discuss limestone, dolomite, and chalk, which make up 10% of all sedimentary rocks. Limestone is an extremely important family of rocks for us, which will be discussed in its own article. Dolomite is, for our purposes, very poor quality limestone. Chalk is a special type of limestone that has many chemical uses. The calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in limestone comes from ancient decayed marine organisms. One key feature of limestone is that it dissolves in acid, so it erodes in unique shapes (e.g. from acidic rain). Please see the limestone article for more details.

    The other major type of chemical sedimentary rock is chert, which includes flint. Chert is less common than limestone, making it a valuable commodity, and occurs as nodules within limestone or chalk (a special subtype of limestone). Chert has a different chemical composition than limestone, and is primarily composed of silicon dioxide (SiO2), making it a hard stone useful for making stone tools. Chert and flint breaks in conchoidal fractures, creating sharp edges, and it is relatively easier to control the fractures created. Historically, the most reliable place to find flint nodules was within in chalk formations. See image below:

    [​IMG]

    The final subtype of sedimentary rock is biological sedimentary rock. These types of rock form from animal and plant debris. For our purposes, this is coal, which we defer discussing to another time.

    References/Links:
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
    iampsyx and AMissingLinguist like this.
  9. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Limestone (and chalk)
    Prerequisites
    :
    Description:
    From the perspective of a stone-age neolithic, out of all the sedimentary rocks, if there is one to know by heart, it is limestone. Limestone is the heart of a stone age industry because large limestone deposits typically contains many other valuable types of rocks such as chert and flint. In addition, it is a very good construction material, a key ingredient in concrete, quicklime, basic chemistry, fertilizer, and can be used as flux in smelting. It has tons of uses, and limestone is soft enough to to cut with primitive tools, so it is arguably the most important sedimentary rock to know!

    Sedimentary limestone deposits can be extensive, covering hundreds of square miles. 10% of all sedimentary rock is limestone, making it the most abundant stone resource that humans have practical use for.

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, limestone is not evenly distributed across the planet. Although it is present on all continents, it should be obvious that some areas completely lack limestone, in which case you're out of luck as a stone age man (or woman).

    Like all sedimentary rocks, the key to locating limestone is to search for an area that may have been an ancient lake or ocean basin. Limestone is a family of rocks that are composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), which comes from marine organisms that once had shells. In the modern day, limestone forms in shallow, calm, warm marine waters -- for instance, coral reefs are made out of limestone -- but in the prehistoric era, these kinds of marine organisms were all over the world.

    One key feature of limestone is that it dissolves in acid. Rain and ground water is slightly acidic, so water erodes limestone differently than other rocks. Therefore, if you find a rock formation that has an interesting, unique or bizarre natural formation, it is probably limestone. A natural limestone formation like this is called a karst. In the image below, notice how the limestone rock formations are much taller than how they would naturally be; acidic rain water digests the stone to give it extended and unusual shapes.

    [​IMG]

    Another common place to find limestone is in caves. Though, technically it is more accurate to say that caves form in limestome formations. Since rainwater digests limestone, ground water will form massive caverns and networks of caves in areas where the ground is made of limestone. The calcium carbonate in limestone caves is what makes the characteristic stalactites and stalagmites in caves. Acidic water dissolves limestone, and carries it another destination where it precipitates.

    [​IMG]

    Now that you know were to find limestone, it is important to know that limestone consists of a massive family of rocks that all contain Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3). You should be familiar with two types of rocks in the limestone family.

    One is called "dolomite", which is composed of MgCaCO3. For our purposes, you should think of dolomite as functionally "bad quality" limestone that is more resistant to acid and a harder stone, although it has similar properties. Dolomite is difficult to distinguish from limestone, and in fact it wasn't until 1778 until the first person was able to distinguish dolomite from limestone.

    One other special type of limestone is called "chalk". Chalk is most important type of limestone to know from a neolithic perspective. Chalk is important to us because it is very unique in appearance (white as chalk), has all the same properties as limestone, and it can be found in deposits on the surface as well as underground. Chalk is also relatively soft as a rock, and can be mined with bone tools, picks, and shovels. Chalk mines are probably among the oldest mines in human civilization. In the neolithic age, cave men mined chalk to find flint (chert).

    This is a good time to bring up that nodules of flint (chert) are virtually always found together inside chalk deposits. Therefore, if you are looking for flint (which is a precious but very important rock in neolithic industry), if you've found chalk, it means you've effectively found flint. Stone age people figured this out long ago, which is why chalk mines are humanity's earliest experience in mining. In the below photo, notice how there are bands of dark rock inside this chalk mine. The dark rock is flint.

    [​IMG]

    References/Links:
     
    iampsyx likes this.
  10. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Cordage (Principles and techniques)

    Prerequisites:
    • Any kind of fiber
    Description:

    Introduction

    Cordage is the general term that refers to all sorts of cord, rope, string, etc. Apart from making fire, the ability to make cordage is probably one of the most important skills in the arsenals of early humans, as flexible and tensile cord is used in virtually everything that humans need. The capability of our species to making cordage is in some senses a key ability that distinguishes us from apes and monkeys -- as even a monkey can throw rocks and wield sticks -- but cordage is what allows humans to create tools, build shelters, weave fabric, be clothed, etc. It some sense, it is fitting that the earliest African folktales feature Anansi the spider, revered and treasured an icon of spinning, weaving, and textiles just as Prometheus is said to have brought fire to Earth.

    The process of making cordage is universal. Virtually anything long, thin, and flexible can be made into cordage -- almost quite literally anything you pick up off the ground. While doing research on this topic, I (@lychee) experimented putting these skills into practice by cutting paper into thin strips and twisting it to make cordage. It is possible to use tree bark, roots, plant stalks, grasses, leaves, animal sinews, and even animal fur/hair to make cordage.

    That isn't to say, however, all materials are equal. Some materials are stronger than others, and some materials are more convenient than others. Long fibers are far more convenient to use than short fibers, because it takes less manual labor to work make rope with longer fibers. Some materials are more abundant, and other materials have different properties (e.g. how easily they rot, how heavy they are, or how water resistant they are).

    It is the perspective of this article that we shouldn't get bogged down in the details of exactly what kind of material to use. Rather, it is more important to learn the technique, and experiment with different materials over time to optimize for the properties you need. In an emergency situation, it is fine to use basically anything (e.g. I made a pretty decent cord out of mere paper), and you might be surprised by how something that initially seems flimsy can become quite strong.​

    Step 1: Material Selection and Harvest

    The selection of what material to use depends on your requirements and what is readily available around you. In this section, we will briefly rank types of material by their strength and what they can be used for.

    A. Vines - Vine-like material (e.g. grape vines) are commonly regarded as the weakest kind of material for cordage since they are naturally somewhat stretchy in nature and brittle when dry. However, they are long and easily to manipulate.

    B. Miscellaneous dead plant fibers, grass - This is the "everything-else" category, and includes largely any kind of plant or shrub you can find that isn't in Section D. One key point about this category is that you should preferably look for dead plants that are dry, but not so dead that they've already begun to rot.

    C. Inner Tree bark - The inside layer of bark on many trees can be used to make cordage. The advantage of using tree bark for making cordage is that trees can found pretty much everywhere, and the bark can be harvested in almost any season. However, the processing of tree bark into fibers is a little more complicated. In addition, if you strip too much bark from a single tree, it will kill the tree. Therefore, it is a little more difficult to collect large quantities of tree bark in a sustainable fashion compared to using faster growing plant materials. This topic will be discussed more in another article.

    D. Cultivated fiber plants - The following crops are plants that humanity has valued over the ages for the ability to make very good cordage or thread. Not all of them are necessarily stronger than other kinds of bark/plant, but the fact that humans explicitly cultivated them over the centuries should clue you into the idea that these types of plants are especially useful if they are available. In general, these crops are harvested seasonally, so if you are out of season and run out of your harvested stock, you must depend on some other material to make cordage. Briefly, the most famous fiber crops in history are listed:
    • Flax (Europe)
    • Hemp (Worldwide, originating in Middle East)
    • Cotton (Worldwide)
    • Jute (India)
    • Ramie (East Asia)
    • Kenaf (Southeast Asia)
    • Dogbane (North America)

    E. Tree root - Fibers from tree roots can make very strong cordage, though they aren't as convenient to collect in large quantities.

    F. Animal sinew - Cord made from animal sinew is approximately twice as strong as plant fiber cord of the same diameter. This makes animal sinew especially well suited to making tools that need a lot of strength or need to be lightweight (e.g. bowstrings, arrow heads). However, as it should be obvious, animal sinew is not abundant as other sources of material.​

    Step 2: Extraction of Fibers

    Depending on what kind of material you are using, fibers need to be extracted from the plant. There is a lot of variation on how this can be done, so the details will be left for other articles describing each specific material. We will, however, cover the basic theory here though.

    All vascular plants roughly have similar anatomy. The layer of vascular plants that contains the strongest and most flexible fiber is called the phloem ("inner back"). Plant fiber collected from phloem is called "bast fibre".

    [​IMG]

    In the above image, the outer layer of a plant stem is called the "cork" (labeled as "bark"). This is analogous to the skin of the plant, and consists most of dead cells that have been shed as a protective layer. The layer that we aim to extract is the layer immediately beneath the cork but above the cambium -- the "phloem".

    When you peel the bark off a tree or plant, typically you take off both the "cork" (outer bark) and "phloem" (inner bark), leaving wood exposed. The inner bark contains a lot of cellulose and has a lot of long, stringy fiber. There are many different methods to extract this bast fiber without damaging it, but it will not be covered here.

    Although the above image describes a tree trunk, this basic anatomy applies to all vascular plants, regardless of whether there is wood or not.
    Step 3: Principle of making cordage

    Once your have fibers, the basic principle of how cordage is made is illustrated in just a few images. Here, we discuss a 2-ply, which is twisting two fibers to combine them to make a stronger cord. Even though each of our fibers are of a limited length, they can be extended indefinitely in length by using a method called "splicing".

    [​IMG]

    We keep both strands of the cord together by twisting each strand in opposite directions. Because of the direction of the twisting, both strands naturally end stuck together, and end up forming a helix. There's no glue or anything -- the force of each strand trying to untwist is sufficient to hold the cord together.

    [​IMG]

    In the above image, the person's right hand is twisting forwards, and the person's left is twisting backwards. Another way to think about this is much like the way we wring out a wet towel to squeeze out water. Both hands move in opposite directions from each other.

    Now, this is merely the general idea. Once your make your first cord, you can use the existing cord to make an even thicker cord. You can keep repeating this over and over as much as you need. In fact, the the Rope Bridge of Q'eswachaca is a suspension bridge made by the Incan Civilization out of ichuu grass and straw, and it still standing today. It's amazing that you can make such strong rope out of straw! See below:

    [​IMG]
    Technique A: Making an eye

    In this section, we begin to discuss more efficient and historical methods of making cordage. The first technique is called "making an eye", and describes how to take the cord. In brief, simply take one fiber and twist it until you get a kink. This is called the "eye":

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You should aim to place the "eye" one quarter of the from the end of the rope. This is so that later on, when you need to extend the fiber, you don't need to splice both ends at the same time. From this point, you can proceed to the Reverse Wrap technique (Technique B) or Thigh Rolling technique (Technique D).
    Technique B: Reverse Wrap

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The "Reverse Wrap" is the most common method of twisting a cord by hand. It's a little bit annoying to explain by hand, so honestly I think you should just look at a youtube video rather than trying to understand from text or pictures.


    Technique C: Splicing

    When you get to the end of one fiber, you can add a new one simply by adding a new fiber close to the end of the old one.

    [​IMG]

    The important key import to remember is to never splice both fibers at the same time. Place yourself such that you only need to splice one side at a time.

    There are numerous other techniques for how to splice so that the rope is even across its entire length (it should be obvious that the above method causes the rope to thicken slightly where it is added), but this will not be covered here.
    Technique D: Thigh Rolling

    The final technique we discuss is an alternative to the "Reverse Wrap". "Thigh Rolling" is one of the fastest methods of making cordage, and is the preferred method employed by many indigenous native cultures across the world. However, it requires slightly damp fibers, and requires a little bit more coordination. If you wish to learn more, a video is linked.

    [​IMG]


    References/Links:
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2017
    isecai and iampsyx like this.
  11. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Food (General Considerations for a Hunter-Gatherer)

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    • n/a
    Description:
    Before beginning a discussion about food, we first must clearly make a distinction between what is short-term survival and long-term survival.

    Short-term survival is a strategy that is oriented towards lasting as long as possible in the wilderness, with the expectation that eventually you will be rescued by someone. In the present-day real world, this approach is the only strategy that is relevant to us. This is because the average survival situations in the real world lasts 72 hours.

    In a short-term survival situation in wilderness environment, food is actually last on a list of priorities. According to the famous Rules of Three: a person can survive 3 minutes of severe bleeding, 3 hours in a harsh environment, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Therefore, in a real-life survival situation, essentials should always be secured in that order. Most survival guides will recommend to not even bother with the food, and simply undergo a fast. This is because with the skills and abilities abilities that most of us have, attempting to forage for food or hunt usually consumes more energy than we gain. Therefore, in a real survival situation, the smart thing to do is actually to conserve energy once you have secured the essentials (shelter + water), because the human body can survive for an astonishing amount of time if you know how to fast properly. Plenty of people have fasted 100 days or more, and the world record for the longest fast is 382 days.

    For a long-term (>2 year) survival approach (our fictional setting), a fasting approach is not sustainable, especially to a hunter-gatherer. As we fast, we lose weight and muscle, and become increasingly less fit as time progresses. Unless we have a hospital or third party to rescue and nurse us back to health, eventually we become so weak that we are unable to procure food for ourselves, and then we die within a year if we are not rescued. Therefore, the primary concern of a hunter-gatherer is actually to maintain body weight at a certain value.

    Therefore, to begin discussing this, we have to understand a simplified fundamental equation about human caloric intake:

    (Daily Caloric Need) = (Basal Metabolic Rate) + (Calories Consumed from Activity)

    Your Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of calories that you burn simply from resting. This value is affected by your total body muscle mass and fat mass. The bigger and taller you are, the more calories you burn simply from resting. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Typically, men and younger people have higher BMRs than women and older people, but this can largely be attributed to the increased amount of muscle mass in younger men. Typical basal metabolic rate for humans range from 1,100 to 1,700 calories per day.

    Calories consumed from activity is rather obvious. The more you move, the more calories you burn:

    [​IMG]
    Given all these numbers, we have to eat our daily caloric need every day on average in order to maintain our weight. It's fine if we skip a meal or two (or even a lot of meals) so long as after it's all averaged out in the long term, it comes out to that magic number.

    What is the magic number? You've probably heard of the famous 2,000 calorie diet for a regular person. But this number is for the mostly sedentary modern adult man. What if we were living in the wild? Some people estimate that with the amount of activity it takes to survive in the wild, we would need to consume 3,300 calories per day in order to maintain our body weight. Research has been performed on the caloric intake of the Hadza tribe, one of the last remaining pure hunter-gatherer cultures on Earth, and the men of the tribe use average 2,700 calories while traveling 11 miles per day on average. Keep in mind though that the people of the Hadza tribe are substantially shorter and underweight compared to most Westerners, meaning their basal metabolic rate (BMR) is also lower.

    For the sake of arriving at a convention, let us assume that a typical person needs 3,000 calories per day to maintain their body weight in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

    Now we turn our attention to food.

    As we all know (especially if you've dieted before), different foods have different nutritional values. To keep things simple, for now let's ignore vitamins, and only count calories. You may have heard this before, but some foods (like celery) actually have negative calories. This is because our bodies consume more energy to digest the food, than calories we gain from the food itself. In truth, there are actually many edible things out there that have negative calories -- it's just that we don't normally call it "food" and it isn't sold in the supermarket.

    This is a very important time to stop and make a distinction between "edible" and "food". Several plants you find in the wild might be edible. We define edible as not having any adverse reaction (e.g. stomach upset) after eating the plant. However, just because a plant is edible (especially per a field guide on edible wild plants), doesn't mean that the plant has meaningful caloric value.

    Let's start with one example. Why don't we eat leaves or grass?

    It is actually reported in some field guides that most wild grasses in North America are edible. The key word is "edible", meaning we actually don't have any problem holding grass in our stomachs. The problem is, grass is sort of like celery to us -- it costs more energy to digest grass than we gain from eating it. Some survival guides suggest chewing grass in your mouth to get the nutrients and spitting it out chewed fiber, but it's still pretty debatable how many calories a person would actually gain from doing that. For our purposes, grass = 0 calories.

    So how many calories do the most famous edible survival wild plants in North America contain? All of the following are plants that are commonly reported in survival guides:
    • Dandelions (3 cal/oz) - Need to eat 62.5 lbs (28 kg) for 3000 calories
    • Lingonberries (5 cal/oz) - Need to eat 37.5 lbs (17 kg) for 3000 calories
    • Cattail Root (8 cal/oz) - Need to eat 23.5 lbs (11 kg) for 3000 calories
    • Blueberries (16 cal/oz) - Need to eat 11.7 lbs (5 kg) for 3000 calories
    • Pine Bark (35 cal/oz) - Need to eat 5.4 lbs (2.5 kg) for 3000 calories
    • Acorns (120 cal/oz) - Need to eat 1.6 lbs (0.7 kg) for 3000 calories
    This is a stunning amount of food. Can you imagine eating 12 lbs of blueberries? Given that berries are mostly water, eating 37 lbs of lingonberries is the same thing as needing to eat 4 gallons of it. Our stomachs can't hold that much (we can hold up to 4L max), and we'd be retching just from trying.

    The point for going through this exercise is to demonstrate that just because something is edible, it doesn't mean that it provides meaningful or efficient caloric value. Herbivores practically spend all of their time all day eating grass precisely because the caloric value of many plants is so low. Unless we want to spend all literally day eating dandelions or berries like a rabbit, living as a vegetarian is not a viable option for a hunter-gatherer.

    Mind you, this isn't to say that dandelions have no value -- despite having almost zero caloric value, they are full of vitamins -- which are also important to human health. However, eating dandelions probably isn't going to help keep starvation away, because there's no way you can find 60 lbs of dandelions in a single day.

    Having seen this, our first and most important lesson that we can learn from hunter-gatherers of the past is that caloric efficiency is the number one consideration while foraging for food. Just because you see a patch of dandelions over the next hill doesn't mean you should walk over their to harvest it, simply because the dandelions are edible. Direct your time and energy to the foods that will provide you the most calories.

    In a documentary on the Hazda hunter-gatherer tribe, the cameraman pointed out that the men are constantly eating as they walk. They reach out with theirs hands to grab berries from a bush right next to them, but they don't stop moving or change their course to go looking specially for berries. This is a testimony to the mantra: if it's in front of you, and it doesn't take much energy to get it, then just eat it. It's on the way, right? However, the important thing is not to waste time on it, especially when there is bigger game to chase.

    So what is a hunter-gatherer diet like?

    Unsurprisingly, it is dominated by foods that are high in calories: meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, roots, and fruits. 50% or more of the diet comes from protein.

    Now let's take a look at the caloric value of various animal meats:
    • Clams (10 cal/clam) - Need to eat 300 clams per day for 3000 calories
    • Egg (75 cal/egg) - Need to eat 40 eggs per day for 3000 calories
    • Squirrel (132 cal/animal) - Need to eat 23 squirrels per day for 3000 calories
    • Rabbit (790 cal/animal) (1 lb meat) - Need to eat 4 rabbits per day for 3000 calories
    • 1 ft long river fish (960 cal/animal) (1 lb meat) - Need to eat 3 fish per day
    • Salmon (5760 cal/fish) (6 lbs meat) - 1 salmon lasts one person for 2 days
    • Turkey (7200 cal/animal) (10 lbs meat) - 1 turkey lasts one person for 2.5 days
    • Deer (59,360 cal/animal) (70 lbs meat) - 1 deer lasts one person for 20 days
    • Bear (68,800 cal/animal) (100 lbs meat) - 1 bear lasts one person for 23 days
    That's still a lot of game a person needs to bring back in a day! But I think the important takeaway point from these values is that it's not worth your energy to go hunting for squirrels. Rather, to really survive in a hunter-gatherer environment, you have to pursue the big game (larger animals) to have a reasonable chance at living sustainably. Unfortunately, the bigger the animal, the more of a threat they pose to humans too. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense why hunter-gatherer tribes did things the way they did.

    In case you're unfamiliar, typically, hunter-gatherer tribes had 20-30 members. The women would go gathering in groups to dig up things like tubers/yams, while the men went hunting in pairs or alone. Sometimes the men would come back empty-handed, perhaps many days in a row, in which case at least there were foraged veggies/fruits (not enough to be filling) for dinner that could reliably be depended on. As for where to hunt -- it was typically at dawn or dusk around sources of water, where animals came to visit. Seasonally, hunter-gatherers would migrate and change sites depending on what was in season. To make up examples -- perhaps there is a salmon run in the summer, or perhaps the buffalo herd passes by in the fall. The entire tribe migrated to follow the big opportunities. When there's a salmon run, as you might image, a tribe would be all set for months -- perhaps even the entire winter.

    Conclusions
    The impressions that I (@lychee) got from doing all this reading on hunter-gatherer societies and diet is that it's probably impossible for a single person to survive on their own long-term in the wild unless you're in an area with tons of deer and other big game. Otherwise, a person practically has to spend all their time looking for food or hunting, and there would be no time at all to do anything else. If they got injured, or an accident happened, they were probably as good as dead.

    Even having two people would be better than one, because then perhaps one person can do the average 11 mile daily trek to hunt for big meat, while the other person stays closer to the camp site to do gathering and other maintenance work around the home, such as making tools and other essential materials like. In a sense, it almost makes sense why there are two genders...

    But since we mention two people, 3 would obviously be better than 2 in case one got sick... and if you keep following that pattern, something like 5-7 people would be a really nice number for a small household unit. The number might need to be bigger if the objective is bigger game like herds of deer (who's going to carry it, right?) or even bison.

    I hope this was eye opening though?

    References:
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2017
    iampsyx and AMissingLinguist like this.
  12. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Sharpening Stones (Whetstones or Water Stones)

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    • n/a
    Description/Instructions:
    To use a stone tool, chances are you will need to sharpen it. This article briefly describes how to sharpen stones.

    It is actually very simple in principle. All you must do is fine a relatively flat stone, pour some water over it, and begin grinding. The granularity of your "whetstone" determines how fine the blade will be end. Very coarse stones grind faster, but the edge ends up being not as even. Very smooth stones grind slower, but the edge can end up being very sharp.

    Something to know about stone tools is that you must grind them frequently. Stone is not the same as iron or steel, and they are prone to chipping. If one of your tools chip, you must grind it down again otherwise the tool will become more fragile. The degree to which one should sharpen or polish a stone tool is a challenging balance to maintain, because if it's too blunt, it won't cut, and if it's too sharp, it will shatter easily.

    Therefore, it is probably a good idea to keep different stone tools for different purposes.

    [​IMG]

    References/Links:
     
    iampsyx and AMissingLinguist like this.
  13. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Chiseling (woodworking principle)

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    Description/Instructions:
    So you have a sharp stone, what do you do with it? How to do cut down a tree or otherwise do woodworking? Instinctively, maybe we might think it's a good idea to swing our arms and the stone in our hands like an ax, but this may not always be the optimal method in all situations. Remember: stone tools are fragile. They're break easily. Besides, trying to use a stone blade like an ax when you don't even have a handle is going to make your hand numb by the end of the day.

    In this article, we describe a method of woodworking called chiseling.

    You can use chiseling to work with larger pieces of wood, or cut down medium-thickness trees that might be more difficult to cut down by hand. Chiseling is better suited to stone tools anyways, because you are better able to control the impact on the stone, meaning your tool is less likely to chip or shatter. As a result, you can find chisels in the archaeological record for thousands of years:

    [​IMG]

    So how does chiseling work?

    The principle of chiseling is to use: (1) a stone wedge, and (2) a "hammer" (e.g. wooden club, another rock) to hit the wedge.

    This method is extremely effective for splitting things like firewood:

    [​IMG]

    If you turn the chisel sideways, you can use it to cut down small trees:

    [​IMG]

    References/Links:
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2017
    iampsyx and AMissingLinguist like this.
  14. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Copper Ore (Malachite)

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    • Ability to identify limestone (sedimentary rock)
    • Hammer or chisel (stone, bone, or better)
    Description/Instructions:
    It's been a while since I've last updated this series, but thanks to to the Let's build an island colony RPG forum game that I'm playing, I've started to do research again on prehistoric technology. This article is somewhat of a landmark one because it is first step in the metallurgy "tech tree".

    We'll begin with an introduction to the seven metals of antiquity: gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury.

    Of these, copper is often reported as the first metal mined and crafted by humans at 9000 BCE (note that some people argue that lead is earlier). There are several reasons why copper metallurgy likely occurred first:
    • Copper is abundant** (Note: "abundant" for a metal, but still quite rare in the grand scheme of things)
    • Copper is a soft metal (too soft to make good weapons/farming tools -- think coin press)
    • Copper has a low melting temperature** (Note: "low" for a metal at 1084°C, but still not easy to smelt)
    • Copper compounds, particularly malachite, has a very eye-catching green color and is easy to identify

    Let's talk about abundance first. Copper is the second most common metal of antiquity (after iron), and the 26th most abundant element in the crust (50 parts per million). It was widely known by every ancient human civilization, but it was still rare. To put its rarity in context, copper as an element is about 700x more abundant than silver. Copper could be found in all major regions, but it should be noted not all forms of copper were equally accessible or abundant, making it a critical resource and component of trade in the copper and bronze age. Historically, major empires or regions were supplied by only a handful of major copper suppliers. The Roman Empire depended on the island of Cyprus for its copper supply. A single enormous mine in Sweden supplied two thirds of Europe's copper supply in the 10th-17th Century with a virtual monopoly. The Native Americans in modern-day Eastern US depended on copper deposits in Michigan. Notably, copper was rare and prized in many parts of Africa.

    The takeaway inference is that most civilizations/kingdoms had a domestic source of copper if they really needed it desperately (which was absolutely the case in the bronze age). However, the cost to mine/refine domestic copper wasn't equal in all places, and it wasn't uncommon for old or local mines to be abandoned when a better source of cheaper, better quality copper ore (often foreign) entered the market through trade.

    [​IMG]

    Copper appears in nature either as "native copper" or as a "compound" within igneous or sedimentary rock. Native (pure) copper is rare, so most ancient civilizations more frequently dealt with copper carbonate compounds that that have a distinct blue-green color. A particular compound of note is Malachite (copper carbonate hydroxide).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The top image is actually from Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, but I like it because it is an excellent image of an ideal malachite deposit -- namely, it is found in exposed sedimentary rock. This feature would have been especially important for an ancient miner, as sedimentary rock is far easier to mine with primitive tools (e.g. stone, bone). Finding a malachite vein in a soft crumbly sedimentary rock like sandstone would have been a huge stroke of luck, because it could be mined very quickly with even stone-age tools.

    Other forms of copper (e.g. native copper, porphyry copper, copper sulfide) are more often found in hard igneous rock (volcanic, mountainous), which would have been essentially inaccessible to prehistoric humans. Copper sulfide compounds (e.g. chalcocite and chalcopyrite) are more profitable sources of copper than copper carbonate compounds (e.g. malachite) because of greater copper content. They are the largest sources of copper mining in the modern day. However, the smelting of copper sulfide is more complicated, and the widespread mining of porphyry copper did not occur until the start of the 20th century with the introduction of steam shovels, railroads, etc.

    Below is an example of what native copper ore and chalcocite looks like:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2018
    iampsyx likes this.
  15. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Introduction to Trees and Wood

    Prerequisites/Ingredients:
    • n/a
    Description/Instructions:
    Since the dawn of humanity, prehistoric humans have had an intimate relationship with wood and trees. The earliest tools were probably made out of wood, and certain species of monkeys/chimpanzees have been witnessed using primitive wooden tools. Therefore it wouldn't be a stretch to say that all primates have an intimate connection with trees and wood. Wood is used for making fire, fueling fire, as tools, construction, and virtually everything imaginable. It is thus essential for any primitive human to have a working understanding of trees and wood.

    We begin our discussion on wood by dividing all kinds of wood into two practical types: hardwood and softwood.

    This division is important because hardwood and softwood has different uses. Hardwoods are high density, heavy, very sturdy, generally slow-growing, slow to burn, and relatively difficult to carve. They are commonly used for tools and furniture. Softwoods are low density, light, quick to burn, fast-growing, and easy to carve. Softwoods are often used in modern-day lumber and construction.

    [​IMG]

    You will notice that many coniferous (e.g. evergreen, pine, spruce, cedar) trees are softwoods. Coniferous trees are often found in northern colder biomes (e.g. taiga). Deciduous trees (trees that loose their leaves) are found in temperate climates, and they are typically hardwoods. Tropical and equatorial trees are often hardwood as well.

    [​IMG]

    Now that we've understood that wood can be divided into hardwoods and softwoods, we will take a moment to discuss the anatomy and biology of a tree.

    Every tree grows in two directions: taller (termed "primary growth") and wider (term "secondary growth"). In deciduous trees, the yearly radial "secondary growth" forms growth rings around the branches, stems, and roots. The age of a tree can be estimated by the number of growth rings a deciduous tree has. We see growth rings in these trees because tree sap rises through the trunk in the spring, and descends back into the roots in the fall (causing leaves to wither and drop). The deciduous tree "hibernates" during the winter as protection against the cold temperatures that could cause the tree to otherwise freeze.

    As a tree grows thicker, several different layers of a tree becomes visible. It is important to know all the layers because in ancient times, different layers of the tree were used for different purposes.

    [​IMG]

    For simplicity purposes, the layers of a tree trunk are: heartwood, sapwood, inner bark, and outer bark. The sapwood and the inner bark are the living parts of the tree. The function of sapwood is to transport and conduct water/sap. As a tree ages, the inner layers of sapwood die and is chemically transformed to heartwood. Heartwood is stiff and rot-resistant, and its primary function is to provide structural support for the tree -- the human analogy would be that heartwood is the skeletal bones of the tree. In many species of trees, the hardwood is darker than the sapwood.

    [​IMG]

    Rot is a major issue for most forms of untreated wood. Different species of wood rot at different rates than other wood (some species like cedar are famously resistant to rot, but this is mostly the exception). Depending on the area and climate, untreated wood directly in contact with ground will rot fully within 2 to 4 years. There are several factors that affect the rotting rate:
    • Direct contact with the ground starts the rotting process in weeks -- most important factor.
    • Green or freshly cut wood rots faster (wood dried for 1 to 2+ years is more resistant).
    • Rot is contagious and spreads among adjacent logs.
    • Heartwood is more rot-resistant than sapwood.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    For a species like oak, in the ancient days, it was common to completely remove the sapwood from timber and only use the heartwood in construction. This was because sapwood rots faster, and a beam of timber only lasts as long as the weakest link.

    In the modern day, it is common to use pressure or chemically treated wood, so lumber mills typically do not distinguish between sapwood and heartwood because rot is substantially less of a problem today.

    Next, we talk about the inner bark. The living inner bark of most trees is fibrous, and can be effectively used for many purposes including rope-making and basket-making. The inner bark of trees is most easily harvested in the spring. During other times of the year, it must be processed to separate the inner bark from outer bark.

    [​IMG]

    The outer bark of a tree is sometimes also known as the "cork". This is the bumpy bark of the tree that is visible from the outside. The function of the outer bark is the protect the tree from dehydration and other external dangers. In certain species of wood, the outer bark of trees can be used to make actual water-tight corks. In most cases though, the outer bark is discarded.

    A final thing to keep in mind about wood is that freshly cut timber is "green", and 50% or more of the weight of the timber is water. It can take 1 to 5 years for wood to dry fully to less than 20% moisture content (the minimum recommended drying amount). The water content of wood is a major issue humans for several reasons:
    • "Green" wood is not effective firewood
    • "Green" wood rots more easily than dry wood
    • Wood shrinks, warps, cracks, and bends as it dries
    [​IMG]

    The shrinking and warping of wood is a major issue for carpenters and construction builders, because it would be terrible if the house you built fell down because of structural changes. For this reason, green wood is never used for any purpose in the modern day. Even fresh wood harvested for trivial purposes like making canes, wooden spoons, or firewood must be left to season for at least 1-2 years. Every farm or homestead that cuts their own firewood has a large stock of firewood at least 2-3 years in advance, primarily because the wood needs to sit outside and season for at least that period.

    [​IMG]

    The alternative to seasoning wood is to use dead wood that hasn't started rotting yet. An example of this is standing dead trees (that haven't been chewed up by termites), but it's not exactly common to find dead standing trees everywhere. In societies that consume a lot of wood, it quickly becomes difficult to find dead wood lying around so easily.

    Over the millennia of dealing with wood, humans have gained a significant amount of experience with understanding how wood shrinks while it dries. Lumber is always sawed or hewn to its final dimensions while the wood is "green", because the wood is significantly easier to cut in that state. In the ancient days, sawyers figured out certain cuts of wood that would shrink in the least intrusive way (e.g. a warped plank is no good!).

    [​IMG]

    While wood dries, it shrinks 10% in the tangential direction, 5% in the radial direction, and virtually none in the longitudinal direction. These numbers vary across different species of wood, but the T/R ratio (tangential:radial shrinkage) is usually about 2.

    [​IMG]

    Because of the way that wood shrinks, the ideal way to cut a piece of log into timber/lumber is with a radial riftsawn cut. This minimizes the amount of diagonal skewed shrinkage, meaning the wood is less likely to warp or bend. However, practically speaking, a riftsawn cut wastes a lot of material and would have been difficult for ancient carpenters to achieve.

    Historically speaking, the quartersawn cut is one of the oldest cuts, largely because it is easy to perform, and is a close approximation of a radial cut. The second image below illustrates how a quartersawn cut would be performed. The downside of the quartersawn cut is that it makes timber boards that are half the size of what could be achieved with a plainsawn cut.

    The plainsawn cut is the most common cut in the modern day. This cut maximizes the amount of board space that can be obtained from a single log. This method is more vulnerable to warping and cracking as the wood dries, but in the modern era, we have other methods (e.g. heat kilns, pressure) to prevent wood from warping as it dries.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This article contains a useful table for how different species of wood shrink. I will not reproduce the entire table here, so the link is for your reference. A trend that is interesting to note is that hardwoods (e.g. oak, birch) tend to shrink more than softwoods (e.g. pine, cedar).

    Finally, before I end this article -- while I did make it sound like using green wood is bad and modern carpenters avoid using green wood as much as possible, historically speaking in the middle ages, green lumber was used very frequently for construction and they (mostly) did fine. However, these houses were never intended to last for more than forty or fifty years.

    References:
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2018
  16. genocidegrand

    genocidegrand Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Messages:
    290
    Likes Received:
    252
    Reading List:
    Link
    idk if this thread allow a question or not. please read and delete this if its not allowed.
    but i wanna know how people find ground water under the earth miles2 and miles down there.
    there are cities which is build because of these underground river. but it can't be find from naked eye or watching the surface.
    i believe an underground river will be a huge help when you are building cities on top of it or somewhere near.
     
    lychee likes this.
  17. genocidegrand

    genocidegrand Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Messages:
    290
    Likes Received:
    252
    Reading List:
    Link
    bookmarked!
     
  18. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    Questions very welcome and very allowed!

    I really have no idea how people find wells! There is a topic called Dowsing (Wikipedia Article), which is regarded as a pseudoscience in the modern day. However, it could possibly be a lost art as well -- kind of like how Polynesian navigation techniques may seem incredible today and there are increasingly fewer people who can do it.

    You're welcome to do the research yourself and post an article!
     
  19. genocidegrand

    genocidegrand Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Messages:
    290
    Likes Received:
    252
    Reading List:
    Link
    no
    yep which is why i asked. i tried to find a good reason or how to myself. but no luck so far. at least not credible enough.
    not just wells. imagine if you can build and dig deep into the underground river itself and makes piping or generator in the future.
    it will be much much safer than the usual river.
    in wars, the river can be poisoned and get contaminated.
    the underground river is much safer. cleaner and less contaminated.
    i like thinking about how village or small cities are build.
    whether it's because one of the special resources. like for example mining area. what are the challenges when we wanna make a village for these people in the mining area. logistic for sure. but woods and other stuff will be harder to get too.

    oh btw funfact. there was an ancient cities which is flooded and erased because of underground river. i forgot the name. but they make piping with clay from the higher place with 14 degrees angle and make great architecture and public bathouse.
    the cities become prosperous because of this. but somehow it's erased by the same stuff making them rich!
     
  20. lychee

    lychee [- slightly morbid fruit -] ❀[ 恋爱? ]❀

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    5,393
    Reading List:
    Link
    TECH TREE PROJECT: FLINT DISTRIBUTION

    Contrary to popular conception, flint is not a particularly widespread resource. In the Paleolithic/neolithic era, archeologists have traced stone tools hundreds of miles from their original sites, and there is extensive evidence that primitive humans transported and/or traded flint tool precursors (lithic cores) over long distances. Consequently, to understand neolithic cultures/economies, it's good to understand the source materials for lithic technology.

    Stone tools are made from rocks that have particular fracture patterns:

    - Flint (chert) - most famous
    - Obsidian - volcanos, very sharp, extensively traded over long distances in archaeologic record. Lots of obsidian neolithic tools in museums.
    - Chalcedony - a shiny precious jem, prized as jewelry but can be crafted into sharp stuff. Mentioned in the bible. Notable in asia minor. Unclear if commonly used.
    - Greenstone - similar to chalcedony, includes jade and other hued-stones that were pretty and also crafted sometimes

    Also some harder tools made from "ground stone" (more for hitting things then cutting):
    - Radiolarite - very hard but less sharp than flint, sometimes called "iron of the Paleolithic"
    - Basalt - Most common volcanic rock (think hawaii). Doesn't seem to be mentioned much in neolithic resources (maybe not so sharp?). Good for construction/statues.
    - Quartzite - very hard rock resistant to weathering (harder than granite). I've seen this mentioned with regards to stone ages tools.

    TLDR; know chert, obsidian, radiolarite, and quartzite. It's probably fine to lump radiolarite and quartzite together as "hard rocks but not as sharp". All of these can fracture along planes though.

    Where to find this stuff: If you're in a pinch, wikihow says that you can search river beds. Rivers typically carry all kinds of rocks, but you might have to spend some time searching for the perfect rock and you might return with empty hands. Flint/chert/obsidian weren't exactly common, and they were considered the most precious. Additionally, you needed a certain size rock that was big enough to make certain tools, so a tiny pebble obviously wasn't going to cut it if you wanted a hand axe.

    It turns out that archeologists have identified neolithic flint/chert mines. Cave men weren't particularly good at digging into the ground, so it had to be exposed rock cliffs. Chert is often found in limestone deposits. The most famous kind of flint mines were the kind with a chalk base, which were very valuable for cavemen because chalk is soft and you can dig into it with bone/wooden/stone tools. It also has a very characteristic appearance so even a modern couch potato could identify a chert-chalk deposit:

    [​IMG]

    Here we see chert/flint (the black) sticking out of a chalk cliff. Chalk is soft and erodes over time, so the chert nodules actually stick out over time.

    Archaeologists don't believe that anybody owned these flint mines; however there are evidence of temporary neolithic camps near many of them. It's likely that a hunter-gatherer group passed by, took what they wanted, and then moved on. The flint mines were nice because you could get nice big lithic cores that you could use for better crafting than little river pebbles.

    How common are these mines?

    Here's an map of middle-paleolithic flint mines in northern france:

    [​IMG]

    Basically, you can see that the mines often appear in clusters, and there were areas that lacked mines.

    To quote the outdoors stackexchange:

    [​IMG]

    Depending on where you live, you might not have any flint (color = presence of flint/chert geologically; the picture is southern france.

    I guess that's why neolithic people often carried lithic cores (raw materials for flint tools) hundreds of miles with them. If your flint tools broke, you couldn't reasonably expect to walk all the way back to your favorite flint deposit.