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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Blobby View Post
    Well, bog-iron offers purity levels as low as 1%, so you'd have to process a lot of it. So to produce ~5kg of iron from 5% purity bogs you'd need ~100kg of ore. You'd have to use charcoal, as wood doesn't offer high enough temperatures. Wood to charcoal is a ratio of about 4:1, and you'd need (I believe) the ore - charcoal ratios to be at least equal. Therefore, we're looking at needing around half a tonne of raw wood. All produced and transported with no equipment.

    We also need to remember that charcoal requires cured, seasoned wood. Therefore, no green sticks or damp branches from forest floor. In this case, you'd have to expend energy collecting and stacking said wood to dry out before charcoal creation. Naturally, not all wood will cure in an uncovered stack unless you're in a warm, dry climate. And do it in the right season. So the wood needs would rise to perhaps ~600kg of raw wood for our ~5kg of iron. [It's one of the reasons the Med region ended up deforesting so early in history...]

    Goblin - I think you're vastly under-estimating the calorific needs of the First Generation. These people will be doing heavy physical labour on a daily basis and therefore will require a lot more fuel. If they're in a cold locale they'll need even more [as the human body will expend more energy in keeping warm]. '2,000' is meant for an adult woman who lives basically a sedentary life and is neither pregnant or nursing. No such woman would exist for the First Generation.
    I'm not sure what the ore/charcoal ratio for a bloomery smelter is, but I guarantee it's substantially more charcoal than 1:1. And that's just for smelting, going from that to an actual tool you can do something with is going to take a lot more coal after that. As I said, consolidation takes a lot of time, and then you still need to work your new lump of iron into what you want. The bit I really want to know though is how you're supposed to do all this without a decent hammer and tongs. I've always suspected that people used copper or bronze tools for working iron, which would of course be readily available if you're already living in the bronze age. Trying to very precisely manipulate a couple pieces of red hot iron bloom with a pair of sticks seems like a recipe for failure. Very, very expensive failure.

    And I did say minimum :P I've seen estimates for the caloric needs of Viking era Icelandic farmers that suggest they'd have about the same energy needs as pro athletes, though subsistence agriculture (particularly in somewhere as growing season challenged as Iceland) is probably more physically demanding than being a hunter-gatherer. Or at least a very efficient and competent hunter gatherer; as Yanagi excellently points out, our 2,000 people really lack the skills for that, and are therefore going to burn a lot of unnecessary energy.
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  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    I'm not sure what the ore/charcoal ratio for a bloomery smelter is, but I guarantee it's substantially more charcoal than 1:1. And that's just for smelting, going from that to an actual tool you can do something with is going to take a lot more coal after that. As I said, consolidation takes a lot of time, and then you still need to work your new lump of iron into what you want. The bit I really want to know though is how you're supposed to do all this without a decent hammer and tongs. I've always suspected that people used copper or bronze tools for working iron, which would of course be readily available if you're already living in the bronze age. Trying to very precisely manipulate a couple pieces of red hot iron bloom with a pair of sticks seems like a recipe for failure. Very, very expensive failure.

    And I did say minimum :P I've seen estimates for the caloric needs of Viking era Icelandic farmers that suggest they'd have about the same energy needs as pro athletes, though subsistence agriculture (particularly in somewhere as growing season challenged as Iceland) is probably more physically demanding than being a hunter-gatherer. Or at least a very efficient and competent hunter gatherer; as Yanagi excellently points out, our 2,000 people really lack the skills for that, and are therefore going to burn a lot of unnecessary energy.
    Well, it's a 'wild-ass guess' number. Mainly to illustrate the sheer amount of human energy which would be required to simply gather the precursors. And I personally know how backbreaking such labour can be; and we had use of a wheelbarrow, rope, saw, hooks and shovel [which we used to 'even out' the paths to make traction easier].

    I've personally suggested 'shooting up the tech tree'; to start out with stone/bone, go to flint/obsidian, then copper/bronze, finally iron. Every iteration of tool makes a slightly better tool.

    As for culture... I did mention that. That the First Generation would have to be able to adapt mentally and fast; an example of this is that American-bred folk would have to ditch all squeamishness regarding the consumption of both blood products and organ meat. Quite literally, their fastidiousness would kill them. We'd all have to drop a massive amount of 'mental baggage' in such a situation - which would be at times most painful to accept as it was 'a core part of our identity'.

    It's why I mentioned Diamond's Collapse; in it he talks about several situations in RL history where groups of people engaged in activities which while reinforced their culture actually led them to their doom. To survive, the Firsts would have to quickly ditch anything which was a block to their survival. [There's a chapter on Viking Iceland, if I remember right...]
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  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Blobby View Post
    It's why I mentioned Diamond's Collapse; in it he talks about several situations in RL history where groups of people engaged in activities which while reinforced their culture actually led them to their doom. To survive, the Firsts would have to quickly ditch anything which was a block to their survival. [There's a chapter on Viking Iceland, if I remember right...]
    Viking Greenland.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Viking Greenland.
    Greenland is horrific, the north shore of the Med is much nicer.
    The end of what Son? The story? There is no end. There's just the point where the storytellers stop talking.

  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Blobby View Post
    Well, it's a 'wild-ass guess' number. Mainly to illustrate the sheer amount of human energy which would be required to simply gather the precursors. And I personally know how backbreaking such labour can be; and we had use of a wheelbarrow, rope, saw, hooks and shovel [which we used to 'even out' the paths to make traction easier].

    I've personally suggested 'shooting up the tech tree'; to start out with stone/bone, go to flint/obsidian, then copper/bronze, finally iron. Every iteration of tool makes a slightly better tool.
    So long as you had flint available, and some people with a bit of training, I suspect you could skip to a late stone age level of tool production within days/weeks, although the more complex microlith tools might take a bit longer. The tools you need for flint knapping are pretty much just flint, preferably some sort of hand protection, and a piece of antler or even wood to break off flakes. If you were very lucky and had access to naturally occurring copper ingots, you could maybe even get into the early chalcolithic pretty fast. I know I'd much prefer a copper axe head to a stone one. Bronze is going to take longer, because tin doesn't generally occur in the same area as copper, and if there's actually only 2000 people on the entire planet, then international trade is going to start very, very slowly. IIRC most of the tin used in the Mediterranean bronze age seems to have been imported from Afghanistan, with potentially some also coming from Cornwall.

    (And if they aren't the only people on the planet, then 2000 total randos with no knowledge of local politics or resources are probably going to end up various combinations of speared and enslaved very, very quickly.)

    As for culture... I did mention that. That the First Generation would have to be able to adapt mentally and fast; an example of this is that American-bred folk would have to ditch all squeamishness regarding the consumption of both blood products and organ meat. Quite literally, their fastidiousness would kill them. We'd all have to drop a massive amount of 'mental baggage' in such a situation - which would be at times most painful to accept as it was 'a core part of our identity'.
    I'm reminded of some of the European expeditions into the North American arctic, where apparently the natives were unimpressed with such weird ideas as not eating parasitic grubs out of a caribou's back fat.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
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    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Thought Diamond had a chapter on Iceland too? [As in the example of a society which managed to adapt-survive, though 'skin of teeth' level on occasion].

    There's been many, many instances in RL history where the locals have been somewhere between outraged to confused why these strangers did/didn't do X. History is littered with examples where an invading force either belittled, dismissed or outright ignored 'local advice' on the situation. The lucky commanders managed to get back alive for the court-martial.
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  7. - Top - End - #37
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Blobby View Post
    Thought Diamond had a chapter on Iceland too? [As in the example of a society which managed to adapt-survive, though 'skin of teeth' level on occasion].

    There's been many, many instances in RL history where the locals have been somewhere between outraged to confused why these strangers did/didn't do X. History is littered with examples where an invading force either belittled, dismissed or outright ignored 'local advice' on the situation. The lucky commanders managed to get back alive for the court-martial.
    The described collapses are the Greenland Norse, the ancient Pueblo, the Maya, Pitcairn, and Rapa Nui.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    I checked; there's a chapter in which Iceland is discussed; mainly as the crux of the argument is that Greenland suffered from basically Iceland's problems but on a more serious scale.
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Blobby View Post
    You'd have to use charcoal, as wood doesn't offer high enough temperatures.
    You can use wood.

    Other than that, I don't particularly disagree, except: Making metal tools is possible, and for that reason alone I see zero point in mucking about making tools from flint. I'm not saying 'have 2000 people make metal full time' because they'd starve, then freeze to death, then die from disease.

    But if the point is to rebuild civilisation, the quickest way is to get to ironworking as quickly as possible. One iron spade digs peat to make more spades immeasurably faster than anything you can make from wood or stone. Metal offers exponential growth - and stone or wood does not.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Blobby View Post
    I checked; there's a chapter in which Iceland is discussed; mainly as the crux of the argument is that Greenland suffered from basically Iceland's problems but on a more serious scale.
    Yeah, sorry, I went to check and discovered one of my exes probably has my copy, so I just went from memory.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    You can use wood.

    Other than that, I don't particularly disagree, except: Making metal tools is possible, and for that reason alone I see zero point in mucking about making tools from flint. I'm not saying 'have 2000 people make metal full time' because they'd starve, then freeze to death, then die from disease.

    But if the point is to rebuild civilisation, the quickest way is to get to ironworking as quickly as possible. One iron spade digs peat to make more spades immeasurably faster than anything you can make from wood or stone. Metal offers exponential growth - and stone or wood does not.
    A quick look shows that yes, it's possible to use wood. However, it still needs seasoning and doesn't promise to be able to get to the required heat level.

    I'm not saying 'it's impossible', merely that trying to jump straight to iron first may be inefficient - in time and labour. That by applying modern ideas of efficiency and opportunity cost, you might get more return on first mastering sharp stone/bone tools.

    First off, the 'cost' of developing these are much lower than iron; as another poster pointed out, it's possible our Firsts could start producing items of acceptable level within days or weeks. This means they have cutting/piercing tools - rudimentary knives, axes, spears and arrows here we come. This will 'improve the efficiency' of our hunters [now have weapons to take on bigger prey] and make us all more 'resilient' [as we can now use furs to keep warm]. The stone/bone tools will assist in developing metalworking for example, we can use rudimentary axes to chop thicker woods for fuel, to make carry-baskets, bark sandals etc which will be a great assistance when exploring the possibilities of metal-working. Plus, if our spear-toting hunters are bringing in more food from their hunts, this means we can afford to devote more labour towards experimenting with metal [or leatherworking, pottery etc].

    It's all about harvesting the 'low hanging fruit'. That our Firsts throw their limited labour-hours into doing the things which give them 'the most bang for their buck'. In this respect, they're rather like we are when playing any of the Civilization series - that we can mull over the relative merits of each tech by taking a peek on what it leads to; something our ancient ancestors clearly couldn't.

    And while metal-working would be pretty high on this list, it wouldn't be the first in my book.
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    You really don't need to explain - I'm neither stupid nor a child. I know the path you prefer. I just prefer the one where we jump straight past the entire stone age, right up to iron in one giant leap. It's possible, I know it is, and I see no reason to muck about with flint any more than absolutely necessary.

    Feeding our 2000 colonists day to day is another issue. Having 20 guys work on making iron won't change that. I guess I'm going to say: Regardless of best efforts, colonists will die off until population reaches a level the area can sustain. From day one, no way do we have the ability to sustain our numbers.

    Spreading out will help. But I'm almost certain it simply won't help enough.

    Clearly, having 20 guys work on iron could be seen as a luxury we can ill afford. I just feel precisely the opposite: Iron will push us past non-sustainability faster, and is necessary to survive.

    Also more convenient. And cooler.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    I'm reminded of Doctor Stone reading this.

    One highly "bookworm/walking encyclopedia", along with an established (but small) population with agriculture, took about a year (?) to reach iron tech production and medicine/anti biotics.

    That's with an existing agriculture base to keep him alive.

    Survival becomes critical. None of the plants/animals we rely on are natural. Your first WEEK there becomes ... how in the heck do we get the food we need? Even if you have seeds, you have to plant them, and grow them -- it will be months, at best, before you have your harvest, and possibly a year.
    So you'll insert the horse into the Large Hadron Collider next?
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    Wikipedia suggests a maximum population density of about 22 people per square mile for hunter gatherers, which let's round to 20 to make the math nicer. So you need to spread out over about 4,000 square miles, or nearly four Rhode Islands under basically completely optimal circumstances.
    I'd expect that's for long term sustainability. In the immediate short term, you can support much higher population density at the cost of rapidly depleting local resources. They'd still need to split up and spread out pretty quickly, but it's a much more manageable prospect if they accept that the initial arrival area is going to end up temporarily stripped barren of all edibles.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Blobby View Post
    it is every woman's duty to have children. Lots of them.
    Ideally with a different father for each child, to maximize genetic diversity. That's the part that most present day cultures will really have a hard time accepting.

    I have no idea how important this actually is for a population of 2000, but it would certainly reduce the minimum viable population size.
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    - Keen: Whenever I post something in a forum, I always remember the fact I'm basically speaking to the room. You may know what I'm talking about; but what about other posters, or lurkers, even readers of this thread in some far future?

    Developing metalworking from nothing will be a relatively 'big job'. Locating materials, transporting them, making the charcoal, experimenting with kilns and so on. Devoting just twenty people to work on it - unless they're merely working out if it's even theoretically feasible - would be a waste of time because it would take forever for such a small team to achieve anything concrete. I'm more of the mindset to throw two hundred at the task once the more pressing problems have been sorted and the 'lower fruits' have been harvested.

    - Douglas: If we're in the distant-enough past, local depletion wouldn't too much a bother. Chances are, the two thousand would break into bands of a hundred each, then live off the land as nomads 'till they find a more promising site for some form of food production. I imagine we'll see lots of consumption of meat and fish.

    Polygamy has, in my mind three other problems [leaving out the ethical]. One; it reduces the 'personal investment rating' that some males feel towards their genetic offspring. Two; it makes it harder for people to remember ancestry - which will become more important as generations pass, we've got to work out how much we're related and it may not be recorded on paper. I myself have half-cousins and half second cousins as well as 'the usuals', so I know how confusing it can be. And lastly three; having such a system may prove catastrophic in regards to gender relations; leading males to simply see women as 'breeding stock'.

    With the inbreeding risks; barely any. If we genetic pre-screen the 2,000 [and remove those carrying genetic disorders] and make sure the group is as racially diverse as possible [maximum level of admixture] everything should be okay without resorting to artificial methods. It's smaller than the believed 'founding group' of French-Canadians but they also had the issue that many also hailed from only a particular part of France [mainly Normandy, apparently] so the genetic stock would have been rather similar at the start anyway.
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Blobby View Post
    - Keen: Whenever I post something in a forum, I always remember the fact I'm basically speaking to the room. You may know what I'm talking about; but what about other posters, or lurkers, even readers of this thread in some far future?

    Developing metalworking from nothing will be a relatively 'big job'. Locating materials, transporting them, making the charcoal, experimenting with kilns and so on. Devoting just twenty people to work on it - unless they're merely working out if it's even theoretically feasible - would be a waste of time because it would take forever for such a small team to achieve anything concrete. I'm more of the mindset to throw two hundred at the task once the more pressing problems have been sorted and the 'lower fruits' have been harvested.
    Don't mind me - I didn't mean that you're being condescending. I meant it simply as a tiny poke at you, that you needn't explain.

    Developing metalworking is a relatively 'tiny job'. It requires rather a lot of peat, and rather a decent pile of wood, but constructing the oven - I guess kiln is the proper work - can literally be done in an afternoon. Provided you know how, but that's already determined: Knowledge is not the issue.

    And as I've stated repeatedly, discussing availability is pointless, so I'm just going to assume it's there.

    20 men can dig tons of peat a day, even with improvised tools. They can have raw materials to start working with by the end of the first week. How precisely one bridges the gap of working iron without a (metal) hammer - I don't know. I supposed you make a cast? But I have no doubt that the gap is brideable, or we'd still be in the stone age.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Well, everything's easy when you've got the precursors on hand, no?

    Unfortunately, not many places on earth are so blessed to have it all [not just ironworking, but everything] within easy reach and easily extractable. Perhaps it's because I'm a cynic, but feel it would be more reasonable for our First Generation to assume that there is not ore-bearing rocks nearby - using the simple principle that only a very low % of rock is iron-bearing, therefore the chances of simply 'stumbling on them' is rather low. After all, it's this which led to early trade routes.

    Plus; this is a task which can be done while they're waiting for their first crops to grow. Though this does raise an issue which not addressed yet; that our First Generation will need a decent-sized amount of folk who's only noteworthy attributes are their budging muscles and good stamina. They'll be the folks needed to fell, lug, carry and lift.

    Which leads to an... uncomfortable conclusion. That for the First Generation, their best chances for survival may be to use their skills to make weapons, then enslave locals to use as unskilled labour.
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    How precisely one bridges the gap of working iron without a (metal) hammer - I don't know. I supposed you make a cast? But I have no doubt that the gap is brideable, or we'd still be in the stone age.
    Our world didn't jump straight from the stone age to the iron age, there was a whole bronze age in between. If we're assuming reasonable materials nearby and do want to skip past stone and bone tools, softer and more easily worked metals would probably be easier to start with.

    Personally speaking, I'd say that agriculture and domestication were the two hugest precursors of civilization, and that people with tamed animals and settlements would decimate hunter gathers with iron tools. Those would be my top priorities for spare labor. But you're clearly insistent on your ideal path.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Blobby View Post
    Which leads to an... uncomfortable conclusion. That for the First Generation, their best chances for survival may be to use their skills to make weapons, then enslave locals to use as unskilled labour.
    The initial assumption is that the planet never saw humans. Which also means no domesticated species, and that none of the animals have learned to be spooked by humans. We take both of those for granted a lot in today's world.

    If there are other stone age tribes, some of the most essential early work has been done. Allow intermingling/intermarriage and you can likely kick one of them into early civilization. But while it's an interesting side-question how much a modern smartypants could improve an already existing historical civilization, the idea here seems to be colonizers on virgin land.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    There are no locals, unless by "locals" you mean animals, and by "enslaving" you mean domesticating.

    To anyone saying that it'll go quick, or that you should go straight for iron without bothering with flint, or whatever, let me ask a specific question. Forget for a moment about charcoal; we can get to that later. How will you make fire? I think that everyone here agrees that fire would be a high early priority, but how many methods do you know of for making fire, that do not require tools which themselves require fire to make?

    For flint and steel, the steel is essential: Flint and flint won't work. A burning glass requires, well, glass (or maybe ice if you're clever, but by the time you've got big chunks of ice, if you don't already have fire, you're already dead). Or you could use a focusing mirror, but that requires refined metal, which again, requires fire. Of course, there's plenty of chemistry that goes into making matches, much of which requires fire. You can make a fire bow or a fire piston without using fire, but both of those require extremely good tinder, like charcloth, which you make by... oh, right.

    The way our ancient ancestors made their first fire-making tools was by... using fire. They found naturally-occurring fires, kept them going for many generations, and used that fire that they could not themselves make to produce tools. In fact, it was probably hundreds of thousands of years between when we first used fire, and when we became able to make it ourselves.

    So to even start something as fundamental to our technology as fire, we're going to first have to wait to find a naturally-occurring fire, started by lightning, a volcano, or the like. How frequently does one encounter those?
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
    So to even start something as fundamental to our technology as fire, we're going to first have to wait to find a naturally-occurring fire, started by lightning, a volcano, or the like. How frequently does one encounter those?
    I can't tell if you're serious. I've never even been in the scouts, but I have personally built a bonfire from nothing but what I found in the forest and literally rubbing sticks together.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    .

    20 men can dig tons of peat a day, even with improvised tools. They can have raw materials to start working with by the end of the first week. How precisely one bridges the gap of working iron without a (metal) hammer - I don't know. I supposed you make a cast? But I have no doubt that the gap is brideable, or we'd still be in the stone age.
    Casting iron is going to take a substantially higher level of technology than smelting it, for the simple reason of temperature. A traditional top fed clay smelter never actually melts iron, it melts various silica impurities and creates a high enough temperature with enough available carbon to split the various complicated rust molecules into pure iron plus carbon dioxide.

    You can fully liquify iron in a crucible placed in a correctly built kiln using lots of charcoal and bellows. This is extremely labor intensive, and requires enormous technical expertise, there are very few smiths alive today with the skills to do this in a modern shop. If you do this right, you get a high carbon steel ingot. However it is extremely brittle and difficult to work, and needs very high working temperatures. This would be a terrible choice for initial steel production.

    Bottom line is that you are not going to cast iron right off the bat. You could potentially use stone tooling, a ground and polished stone hammer is a (labor intensive) possibility (although I don't know of anybody actually trying it), and anvil stones are very well attested. Tongs remain a substantially more vexing problem, since they need to survive long contact with red hot iron, while allowing for extremely precise control of the material. I know Neil Burridge has used wooden tools to handle crucibles for bronze casting, but that only requires seconds of contact with the hot material, not mi mutes at a time.

    Then there's what you can actually produce if you somehow get everything working, which will be super labor intensive garbage. Lack of control over the refinement of the ore, and the miserable tooling will produce highly impure, low carbon items, probably riddled with unclosed welds and cold shuts. They will be soft, probably also brittle, and won't take an edge worth a damn. Assuming you have the means to sharpen them. Quite frankly stone tools are likely to be better.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr blobby

    Which leads to an... uncomfortable conclusion. That for the First Generation, their best chances for survival may be to use their skills to make weapons, then enslave locals to use as unskilled labour.
    If there are other people in the scenario, I doubt very much that the First generation is going to be doing much enslaving. They've got no weapons, no knowledge of the terrain, no food stores, and unless they're all somehow ex special forces with degrees in anthropology and experimental archaeology, nowhere near the skillset and bushcraft of the established populations.

    Nope, the folks getting speared and enslaved are the new arrivals.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

  22. - Top - End - #52
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    Casting iron is going to take a substantially higher level of technology than smelting it, for the simple reason of temperature. A traditional top fed clay smelter never actually melts iron, it melts various silica impurities and creates a high enough temperature with enough available carbon to split the various complicated rust molecules into pure iron plus carbon dioxide.

    You can fully liquify iron in a crucible placed in a correctly built kiln using lots of charcoal and bellows. This is extremely labor intensive, and requires enormous technical expertise, there are very few smiths alive today with the skills to do this in a modern shop. If you do this right, you get a high carbon steel ingot. However it is extremely brittle and difficult to work, and needs very high working temperatures. This would be a terrible choice for initial steel production.

    Bottom line is that you are not going to cast iron right off the bat. You could potentially use stone tooling, a ground and polished stone hammer is a (labor intensive) possibility (although I don't know of anybody actually trying it), and anvil stones are very well attested. Tongs remain a substantially more vexing problem, since they need to survive long contact with red hot iron, while allowing for extremely precise control of the material. I know Neil Burridge has used wooden tools to handle crucibles for bronze casting, but that only requires seconds of contact with the hot material, not mi mutes at a time.

    Then there's what you can actually produce if you somehow get everything working, which will be super labor intensive garbage. Lack of control over the refinement of the ore, and the miserable tooling will produce highly impure, low carbon items, probably riddled with unclosed welds and cold shuts. They will be soft, probably also brittle, and won't take an edge worth a damn. Assuming you have the means to sharpen them. Quite frankly stone tools are likely to be better.
    You're almost certainly right about everything except the very last thing. Stone tools are not better.

    Or, no, you're right, they are certainly better - but they are the end of the line. Stone tools will forever remain stone tools, they will never be anything else. Whereas shoddy, crappy iron tools are the first step to better iron tools, which are the first step to steel tools, which are the first step to precision tools ... and so on ad infinitum.

    Also, having thought about it a little - if we're serious about rebuilding technology, not creating a prehistoric utopia, I think it's worth considering a percentage of our 'colonists' to be part of the food supply.

    Nah, kidding, but it would make things easier in some ways.

    If you succesfully skip right past stone - you will save years and years and years of time reaching early industrial tech levels. And you want to move fast, seriously, because until you start picking up speed, you'll be racing against time. You'll be losing colonists all the time - for all sorts of reasons.

    Admittedly, iron isn't much better at creating food than stone. But still. A few steps down the road, that changes.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    If there are other people in the scenario, I doubt very much that the First generation is going to be doing much enslaving. They've got no weapons, no knowledge of the terrain, no food stores, and unless they're all somehow ex special forces with degrees in anthropology and experimental archaeology, nowhere near the skillset and bushcraft of the established populations.

    Nope, the folks getting speared and enslaved are the new arrivals.
    I read the first post as stating that there were no other people (depending on how you view dolphins).
    The end of what Son? The story? There is no end. There's just the point where the storytellers stop talking.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Durkoala View Post
    Now, let's drop them in an uninhabited replica of Earth, around the Mediterranean area. This is a planet that has no resources depleted by humans, and all the creatures that were driven off or hunted to extinction roam freely. The new arrivals have nothing but their bodies and their brains: no clothes, no technology. For the sake of fairness, nobody in our small army has any condition that will render them helpless or dead if deprived of modern medicine. The deaf, bipolar and those in need of glasses and other such things are out of luck, however.

    Given this scenario, someone who would be very useful is a Classics Professor, with a specialty of wherever we happen to drop them, because they may be able to recall where old mines were. Skip the annoying prospecting step... there was a mine HERE, and we can dig HERE.

    Given the absence of humans, our people may have some easier time with early hunting (since they won't be recognized as predators to start) and possibly domestication... gather a bunch of cattle and protect them from predators (except yourself). Kill some mother wolves and start domesticating dogs. That bit of symbiosis is gonna help you a lot.
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    I think my fundamental points about iron tools can be boiled down to the following.

    1: The problem is very hard when starting from stone tools, even given sufficient labor. It may be difficult to the point of practical impossibility; as far as I am aware all cultures that discovered iron working did so already having copper and bronze tools.

    2: By the time you can float 2% or more of your population for a project that won't produce food or shelter in useful quantities for a long period of time, you aren't skipping the stone age at all. You need established methods of producing and preserving surplus food, the ability to remain sedentary for substantial periods of time, as well as a logistics network capable of moving lots of mass around. That isn't 2000 people running around tossing atlatl darts at deer for a week or even a year, that's an actual centralized, probably agricultural, society. Which you aren't going to manage with 2000 people.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    So, in the aforementioned "Island of the Sea of Time", one of the first things they do upon winding up in the past is print a LOT of data off CD-Rom. Because they could count on paper, more or less, but not on CDs working in the future (even though they had power, at the time).

    A related bit is the game Seedship. Lose enough of your technological or cultural databases, or have a low enough amount of resources, and you might wind up with a medieval society, because you can't maintain your technology. This group... 2000 people, with all the knowledge of their world locked in meat libraries, are going to lose a LOT of knowledge in a few years, and a lot more in a generation.
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    I think my fundamental points about iron tools can be boiled down to the following.

    1: The problem is very hard when starting from stone tools, even given sufficient labor. It may be difficult to the point of practical impossibility; as far as I am aware all cultures that discovered iron working did so already having copper and bronze tools.

    2: By the time you can float 2% or more of your population for a project that won't produce food or shelter in useful quantities for a long period of time, you aren't skipping the stone age at all. You need established methods of producing and preserving surplus food, the ability to remain sedentary for substantial periods of time, as well as a logistics network capable of moving lots of mass around. That isn't 2000 people running around tossing atlatl darts at deer for a week or even a year, that's an actual centralized, probably agricultural, society. Which you aren't going to manage with 2000 people.
    It doesn't matter what cultures did or didn't do, because they didn't know. We do not need to slave through the evolution of tools - because we know. We can make iron, and if need be hammer the first tools out with a rock. By second iteration, we'll have the ugliest piece of crap iron hammer the world ever saw, and it's only purpose of existance is to make a slightly less ugly hammer, so by iteration 3, we have an almost-functional smiths hammer.

    Going for flint is fine. By all means. But I am all but certain that if you do, you get stuck there. You invest such a massive amount of time finding, working and using flint, that by the time you have a nice, sustainable society, the people who knew how to make iron are a couple of generations in the past, and you're stuck being a stone age cave man for the next 3000 years.

    Flint is a dead end.

    Iron is a freeway directly to industrialisation.

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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Food is the major problem. Everything else is secondary.

    Assuming these people can figure out to farm, and that's a big if... they won't have modern crops or useful fertilizers. Meaning their harvests will be extremely meagre and breeding new lines just with crossing and selecting takes centuries at least.

    Even if they had something useful for agriculture, some kind of grain that's, say, on a bronze age level, plus some fruit and maybe legumes for protein, it's going to take them month for the first harvest to come in. In those months, they would have to hunter-gather.

    And 2000 hunter gatherers would eat the land bare in weeks, for as far as they can walk. Almost immediately, they would have to split into smaller tribes, of 50-100 people, and start walking as far as they can in different directions. Meaning that any organisation is going to break down immediately.

    So, good luck finding someone who has a few weeks' or even days' time to make iron tools. You'll need most people to either hunt, gather, make tools for hunting, or try to farm for the next year. If you're really successful and local food is plentiful, you'll have one or two people per band who can work on technology. Maybe.
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    Given the absence of humans, our people may have some easier time with early hunting (since they won't be recognized as predators to start) and possibly domestication... gather a bunch of cattle and protect them from predators (except yourself). Kill some mother wolves and start domesticating dogs. That bit of symbiosis is gonna help you a lot.
    Have you seen wild cattle? Even pictures of it? Because this is what an aurochs looks like:


    They don't need your protection and they won't want it.

    As for digging for peat... how? Have you ever dug a hole three meters deep in wet soil? How about doing it without tools? While on scavenged food rations, without protection from the elements? First, you'll need some kind of digging tools. Stout sticks might be a start, but that won't last you long. Then, you'll need large food rations to do such demanding physical work. Which need to come from somewhere. If you have ten diggers, you will need substantially more people to find the food for them. Meaning your digging project is going to use up the entire tribe's resources for a long time, if it can be kept up at all.
    "Après la vie - le mort, après le mort, la vie de noveau.
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    Default Re: How long would it take to bootstrap modern civilisation again from nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    Given the absence of humans, our people may have some easier time with early hunting (since they won't be recognized as predators to start) and possibly domestication... gather a bunch of cattle and protect them from predators (except yourself). Kill some mother wolves and start domesticating dogs. That bit of symbiosis is gonna help you a lot.
    Hunting is going to be easier yes. However there is no cattle. There are animals that after thousands of years of selective breeding could become "cattle". Dogs suffer the same boostrapping problem. You can do it, but when it actually happened it was a slow to start process, that we actually do not really know how it first occurred.

    It is going to take some generations of the wild animals to get ones that are semi-domesticated until you get a domesticated animal. If you are lucky enough that that's a trait that can be bred from what you have. Just because some wolves could turn into dogs does not necessarily mean all wolves could turn to dogs. We might not have any wild wolves left if that was the case. Add to this the geography problem. Chickens are a wild jungle bird in Southwest Asia, horses are a small, fast and skittish animal in the middle of the Asian steppes.

    Other resources have similar issues. Tin effectively can only be found in Cornwall. Copper in Cyprus (though IIRC some existed in Italy). If we start in the Mediterranean. All of our common crops comes from various very distant locales collected together over millennia and centuries of selective breeding. You can't make wheat, barely, rice or any other cereal out of any old grass. You need the right kinds to start offf from.

    What many here seem to forget is that in real life socities had thousands of years of progress and recources to fall back on. As mentioned ironworkers had bronzetools who came from people who had an established base of stoneworking which came with concepts like mining, trade and connections with people in distant places. Had not stoneage people already created trade routes the bronze age would not have come about as easily. And so on. The people who moved from stone to bronze to iron didn't *simultaneously* have to figure out how to get food, clothes and shelter from resources that simply do not exist until they also make those first. They benefited from millennia of concentrating various resources from the earth to be used by the population.

    Knowledge helps inform you of what is indeed possible, it is going to help a lot in pointing a direction forwards. It does not however automatically mean you can just make anything BECAUSE KNOWLEDGE!. You don't have to follow every step of the way humanity developed, but you are going to have to hit a few of those for the exact same reasons humanity did.

    And I think we are going to need a bit more people, especially with diverse practical skills and some redundancy on the knowledge stuff.

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