What was the technological prowess of the first Numenoreans?

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caedmon
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What was the technological prowess of the first Numenoreans?

Postby caedmon » Mon Mar 21, 2016 10:44 pm

I recently read the Unfinished Tales and came upon a section that intimated that the first edain of Numenor didn't have the skill of metal working; and it was hundreds of years before they found metal on the island and figured out how to use it. Has anyone else noticed this?
-Jack Horner

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Re: What was the technological prowess of the first Numenore

Postby Udwin » Tue Mar 22, 2016 9:14 pm

Hmm, I didn't read it along those lines. Is this the passage in question?
Description of the Isle of Númenor wrote:"The Edain brought with them to Númenor the knowledge of many crafts, and many craftsmen who had learned from the Eldar, besides preserving lore and traditions of their own. But they could bring with them few materials, save for the tools of their crafts; and for long all metals in Númenor were precious metals. They brought with them many treasures of gold and silver, and gems also; but they did not find these things in Númenor. They loved them for their beauty, and it was this love that first aroused in them cupidity, in later days when they fell under the Shadow and became proud and unjust in their dealings with lesser folk of Middle-earth. Of the Elves of Eressëa in the days of their friendship they had at times gifts of gold and silver and jewels; but such things were rare and prized in all the earlier centuries, until the power of the Kings was spread to the coasts of the East.
Some metals they found in Númenor, and as their cunning in mining and in smelting and smithying swiftly grew things of iron and copper became common. Among the wrights of the Edain were weaponsmiths, and they had with the teaching of the Noldor acquired great skill in the forging of swords, of axe-blades, and of spearheads and knives"


I feel like there may be something in the Sil somewhere that talks about the Men in the First Age (who would later become the Edain?) meeting Elves and learning metallurgy from them, but I got the impression that once they had the knowledge, the Numenoreans never lost it, but as the passage above states, they just didn't use much metal when they came to the island, as they couldn't bring any with them and were limited to what they could find, and the metal tools they already had?
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Re: What was the technological prowess of the first Numenore

Postby Elleth » Wed Mar 23, 2016 1:12 pm

Udwin, was it you who suggested the barrow-blades were bronze? Those were from the war against Morgoth that ultimately led to the raising of Numenor, were they not?
The eldar I assume had the knowledge of iron and steel so early: Glamdring and Orcrist from the days of Gondolin pass with only comment on their fine craftsmanship and proud history, not their metal.

I confess I'm still agnostic on the metallurgical knowledge of pre-Numenorean edain. It seems quite plausible that they - and those men who never went West - may have not yet known ironworking, though I still struggle with my mental picture imagining it that way.

Ultimately, I think Middle Earth shares the sense of "eternal present" that the real Middle Ages did, where figures from Biblical times were portrayed with clothing and arms contemporary to the medieval illuminators themselves. It makes imagining the earlier ages difficult. But then, I expect the people of Third Age Middle Earth would have had a hard time imagining the days of their forefathers.
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Re: What was the technological prowess of the first Numenore

Postby Udwin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 2:09 pm

Yea, I think I was the first one who brought up the matter of the barrow-blades...and although I may have suggested it, in my research I did find two instances where Tolkien himself outright calls them "bronze swords"!

Although the Barrow-downs were inhabited by (Edainic?) Men as early as the First Age, the swords themselves date to much later--mid-Third Age (between 1300 and 1409TA), post breakup-of-Arnor-proper:
"So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king" (Bk5.6).

I have also found the following passage, covering relations between Men and Dwarves in First Age Rhovanion. Tolkien states that the Men in question were "for the most part akin in race and language with the tall and mostly fair-haired people of the 'House of Hador', the most renowned and numerous of the Edain, who were allied with the Eldar in the War of the Jewels". But I believe the period in question is when the Men are still migrating West, and though a chunk of them will later cross into Eriador and Belieriand, making Contact with Elves along the way, this is long before then.

“But [Men] were glad of the alliance [with Dwarves], for they were more vulnerable to the attacks of the Orks: they dwelt largely in scattered homesteads and villages, and if they drew together into small townships they were poorly defended, at best by dikes and wooden fences. Also they were lightly armed, chiefly with bows, for they had little metal and the few smiths among them had no great skill” (HoME Vol12.X).

Since they are stated to have "little" metal (as opposed to 'No metal'), I can easily imagine them as perhaps Chalcolithic; limited to copper until contact with Dwarves and later Elves.
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Re: What was the technological prowess of the first Numenore

Postby Elleth » Wed Mar 23, 2016 2:50 pm

... hunh.

But aren't we told Numenorians had hollow steel bows? And Narsil was steel, right? Both long predate Arnor's breakup.
I have a really hard time believing the knowledge of working iron died out even in the days of (heh) Angmar.
Even from raw ore, it's just not significantly more difficult than bronze to produce and craft is my understanding. :/

Frankly, I'm inclined to say one of the references has to be wrong - either Numenoreans having steel was a post-dated fairy tale, or the Barrow Blades were of some magical non-corroding steel, or the Barrow Blades were from some "native auxiliaries" rather than the Dunedain themselves, or were much older than the conflict with Angmar.

Where "wrong" means of course that the Professor - as we all do - said contradictory things in his own life years apart, and given the opportunity seeing them all together would update one of the points.

That said, the whole of the legendarium is most easily made sense of by assuming all sorts of technological references are after-the-fact re-contemporizing of events, and the "real story" is bronze age (at most) peoples all the way through. But that to my mind makes it less fun and fantastical. :)
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Re: What was the technological prowess of the first Numenore

Postby Udwin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 3:49 pm

I had thought that as well (actually, I thought the 'real' was an essentially Neolithic story)--that the stories had been 'contemporized' based on the most 'recent' intersection with Middle-earth being the Aelfwine character (900sAD?)...even though that really only fits into the early Book of Lost Tales/Cottage of Lost Play/Mythology for England type stuff. It's a fun thought-experiment, but I don't think we should rely on it.

In a later discussion we had here re: barrow-blades, someone suggested that the post-Arnor, fighting-Angmar Dunedain retained their knowledge of ferrous metals, but had intentionally made the barrow-blades from bronze because it was a more 'magical' material, ideal for attaching spells (for the defeat of Angmar) as suggested in the text.
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Re: What was the technological prowess of the first Numenore

Postby caedmon » Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:50 pm

Elleth wrote:... And Narsil was steel, right? ...


Yes, but Narsil was a dwarvish blade, made by Telchar of Nogrod.


still processing the rest....
-Jack Horner

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Impression: Boater Wesman ( Balku'npâ Adúnerama ) bronze founder living in Archet, Breelander of mixed dúnedain descent. c. 3017
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Re: What was the technological prowess of the first Numenore

Postby caedmon » Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:53 pm

Udwin wrote:...I feel like there may be something in the Sil somewhere that talks about the Men in the First Age (who would later become the Edain?) meeting Elves and learning metallurgy from them, but I got the impression that once they had the knowledge, the Numenoreans never lost it, but as the passage above states,...




The thing I am having a hard time with is how do you deal with tech levels of people who live for 400 years, have skill gained early, But don't have ready access to materials for 250 of those years. Also while all Numenorean lived a long time, there was a huge difference between the ruling classes with Elvish ancestry and those without who only had about 200(?) years.
-Jack Horner

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Re: What was the technological prowess of the first Numenore

Postby Elleth » Wed Mar 23, 2016 7:13 pm

Yes, but Narsil was a dwarvish blade, made by Telchar of Nogrod.

d'oh! Touche. :mrgreen:

I had thought that as well (actually, I thought the 'real' was an essentially Neolithic story)--that the stories had been 'contemporized' based on the most 'recent' intersection with Middle-earth being the Aelfwine character (900sAD?)...even though that really only fits into the early Book of Lost Tales/Cottage of Lost Play/Mythology for England type stuff. It's a fun thought-experiment, but I don't think we should rely on it.


That was a great thread by the way. And a "restored to original" version would make a visually really interesting retelling.. but yeah, then it's not "our" Middle Earth anymore really is it?

In a later discussion we had here re: barrow-blades, someone suggested that the post-Arnor, fighting-Angmar Dunedain retained their knowledge of ferrous metals, but had intentionally made the barrow-blades from bronze because it was a more 'magical' material, ideal for attaching spells (for the defeat of Angmar) as suggested in the text.


... reads a little fannish ret-con in flavor to me, but I suppose it's plausible.
(but then why aren't Gondolin weapons bronze?)


The thing I am having a hard time with is how do you deal with tech levels of people who live for 400 years, have skill gained early, But don't have ready access to materials for 250 of those years.


Tech in Middle Earth is just going to be muddy and ret-conny no matter what. Swords are around for three thousand years and apparently no one ever thinks to put a complex hilt on one?
Ultimately I think one has to say "it's fiction, not scripture: what's the most internally consistent prospect that keeps to the aesthetic sensibility of the work and doesn't outright contradict the text?"

There won't ever be a perfect answer.
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Re: What was the technological prowess of the first Numenore

Postby Ringulf » Sun Mar 27, 2016 1:50 am

caedmon wrote:
Elleth wrote:... And Narsil was steel, right? ...


Yes, but Narsil was a dwarvish blade, made by Telchar of Nogrod.


still processing the rest....


Meanwhile back at Ringulf's shop....

"Narsil was a dwarvish blade, do dah, do dah, No it wasn't Elvin made, oh do dah day!"

"Sorry Lass, I just had to get that off my chest... I am better now, quite my serious and dour self, carry on!" :mrgreen:
A heartening sight by Day or Night, Dwarven warriors bold! To add their Might to any Fight, Precious more than Gold! A Dwarven friend is to the end, Never shall they fail! Their word does not bend, wherever they wend,
through Cavern, Hill or Dale!"

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