Science and technology

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Several scientific and technological aspects have been described in the known world of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. This page is a representation of such topics, focusing mostly on Westeros and Essos, the primary locations of the story, although information as available on other locations in Martin's known world will be stated whenever possible.

When discussing the technological progress of his world, Martin stated that " [..] the unpredictable nature of the seasonal changes and the harshness of the winters must play a role. I do think that magic perhaps makes development of the scientific method less likely. If men can fly by means of a spell, do you ever get the Wright Brothers? Or even daVinci? An interesting question, and I'm not sure I know the answer."[1]

General

Scientific institutes

Main article: Maesters
See also: Citadel, Alchemists' Guild, and Great Sept of Baelor

The maesters are an order of scholars, healers, messengers, and scientists. They educate new students at their "seat", the Citadel, which is located in Oldtown, a city in the Reach. The maesters are sometimes called "the knights of the mind."[2] Boys and young men from all over Westeros come to study, learn, and forge their chains at the Citadel.[3] Novices (students who have yet to earn their first link) and acolytes (students who have earned at least one link of their chain) are educated together. Archmaesters give open lectures, which the students can attend at will. Once a student believes he has sufficient knowledge on a particular subject, he can go before an archmaester to demonstrate his knowledge. If the archmaester judges the student's knowledge to be proficient, he awards him with a link of a metal reflecting the topic.[4] Once a student has earned sufficient links, he can forge his chain and take his maester's vow, after which the Citadel might relocate him. Maesters serving at a castle advise their lords on the operation of their households and lands.[5][6] Some lords trust their maesters to open and read letters and to convey their contents to them, while other lords prefer to do so for themselves.[7] Maesters can be tasked with writing letters for their lords as well, and might be trusted to read and write the letters of those lords who are illiterate.[8] They are in charge of the ravens used as messengers. Although most ravens can only be trained to fly to one castle, a few can be trained to distinguish between two, and rarely even more.[9] Maesters assist in childbirth,[5] treat illnesses,[10] and teach children arithmetic, language, and history.[2][11][12]

A more specialized institute of knowledge is the Alchemists' Guild[13] (also called the Guild of Alchemists[14][15]). This old order of pyromancers, diminished in power during the recent centuries when the maesters began to rise in prominence, still claims to posses vast secret stores of knowledge.[16]

The Great Sept of Baelor, the large sept of the Faith of the Seven atop Visenya's Hill in King's Landing, is a preeminent center of religious education in the realm.[17]

Medicine

Main article: Medicine

In Westeros, medical treatments are most frequently given by the maesters of the Citadel. George R. R. Martin has stated that the medical knowledge of the maesters is more advanced than real-life medieval medical knowledge:

"I've made a deliberate decision when the books began to have the maesters, and have Westeros in general, have better medical knowledge than the real-life Middle Ages. Mostly because I didn't want everybody dying at twenty-six. So it is generally improved, the maesters have improved the standard of hygiene, and they understand certain practices, and they can do things better."[18]

The Westerosi healing arts include potions that dull pain (e.g., milk of the poppy[19] or dreamwine[20]) and potions that either prevent pregnancy or induce abortions (e.g., moon tea[21][22]). Wounds are often cleaned with boiling wine[23][24] or treated with Myrish fire[25] or firemilk,[26] while maggots may be used to eat out rotten parts. Maesters have learned to stitch wounds closed[23] and how to use poultices to prevent infection.[24]

While the nobles have access to maesters, commoners usually do not. They instead rely on local healers,[citation needed] midwives,[citation needed] hedge wizards,[27] or woods witches.[28][29]

The Dothraki khalasars employ two types of healers: barren women who practice their healing with herbs, potions, and spells, and eunuch slaves, who use knives, needles, and fire.[30]

In the Free City of Braavos, healers for hire can be found at the House of the Red Hands.[31][32]

Astronomy

Main article: Astronomy

Astronomy is a topic studied by the maesters in Westeros. Myrish eyes mounted on tripods can be used to observe the stars.[33] At some locations, dedicated observatories can be found (e.g., at Winterfell[34]). The maesters of the Citadel compile maps of the starry sky for their research and studies and their knowledge is useful in navigation at the open sea.[26][35]

The names of constellations can differ between cultural groups. For example, the constellation known by the people of the Seven Kingdoms as the King's Crown[36] is called the Cradle by the free folk living north of the Wall,[37] while they call the Stallion[36] the Horned Lord.[37] The Dothraki for their part believe that the stars are the souls of the deceased, their brightness being a reflection of their exploits during their lives.[38]

The Dothraki, on the other hand, associate the stars in the sky with the deceased. They believe that the stars in the sky are horses made of fire, and that the starry sky is a great herd of fiery horses racing across the sky.[39] The Dothraki further believe that these horses of fire are ridden by deceased Dothraki, and that the more fiercely a person burned in life, the brighter said person’s star will be in death,[38] causing maesters to say that the Dothraki believe the stars are the spirits of the valiant dead.[11]

Songs & Books

Westeros has a deep mythic and historic legacy recounted in song, story, and literature. Not only do these tales recount the epics of legendary heroes and romances, but they also retell romanticised history and fables of fantastic creatures.

Books, scrolls, parchment, and paper have been described throughout the novels as in common use. No society has ever been mentioned that use printing presses, or even wood block printing.

Units of measurement

Main article: Measurement

A measurement is the assignment of a number to a characteristic of an object or event, which can be compared with other objects or events.[40] Numerous units of measurement are described in A Song of Ice and Fire, primarily their usage in Westeros. The Westerosi measurement units are non-metric, growing out of customary use and not abstract principles. Westeros appears to have a uniform system of weights and measures, mentioned interchangeably by characters from Oldtown to King's Landing or Winterfell.

There are several basic units of measurement[N 1] that have been described in usage in Westeros: length, weight, and time. Most other units of measure thus far mentioned in text are units which have been derived from these basic ones, such as area and volume. Additionally, some units of measurements commonly used in the novels are more archaic in their usage, e.g. the term "stone" to indicate weight[41] and the term "league"to indicate distance.[42]

Currency

Main article: Currency

For currency, coins are the manner used most frequently, especially by merchants, owners of establishments, and the noble classes. Smallfolk might use either coins or barter.

Thusfar, no society in Westeros or Essos has been described as using paper currency. Most societies use currency in the form of coins made from precious metals such as gold, silver, or copper (with a few notable exceptions, such as the iron coins used in Braavos). Contracts written on parchment or paper are also accepted, though these are not "currency" as such: for example, the Brotherhood without Banners during the War of the Five Kings would give commoners notes promising to pay them for supplies they took after the war ended.[43] Similarly, Tyrion Lannister drew up contracts promising to pay the Second Sons with gold from Casterly Rock in return for their aid in restoring him to his lordship of it.[44]

A notable exception on this system is the system of the Dothraki, a nomadic people from Essos. The Dothraki are commonly said to neither buy nor sell.[45][46] It is considered to be unmanly.[47] Despite the common saying that Dothraki do not sell,[48][49] the Dothraki do sell their captives on occasion to the Slaver Cities.[50] They call these slaves "gifts", and in return receive gifts from the slavers.[49] Giving and receiving gifts is the common way of Dothraki for doing trade.[48][49][46] However, giving a gift in return might not always occur immediately upon receiving a gift.[51] Common trade is allowed in the sacred Dothraki city Vaes Dothrak, where, by the leave of the dosh khaleen, merchants and traders gather to exchange goods and gold.[47] There, they mostly trade with each other, and little with the Dothraki themselves.[52]

George R. R. Martin has compared the Westerosi coinage to medieval coinage, saying that "Westerosi coinage is probably more complex than actual British medieval coinage", despite some similarities.[53]

See also

Notes

References

  1. So Spake Martin: Technology in Westeros (January 21, 2000)
  2. 2.0 2.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
  3. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Oldtown.
  4. A Feast for Crows, Prologue.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn II.
  6. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 64, Jon VIII.
  7. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
  8. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
  9. The Winds of Winter, Theon I
  10. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos IV.
  11. 11.0 11.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
  12. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 40, Bran III.
  13. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 3, Tyrion I.
  14. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 12, Cersei III.
  15. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Guild of Alchemists.
  16. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 20, Tyrion V.
  17. So Spake Martin: Various ASOIAF Questions (April 21, 2000)
  18. Youtube: George R R Martin visiting SF-Bokhandeln @ 47:20 minutes (published July 2nd, 2015)
  19. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  20. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
  21. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 80, Sansa VII.
  22. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 11, The Kraken's Daughter.
  23. 23.0 23.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 67, Tyrion XV.
  24. 24.0 24.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 31, Jaime IV.
  25. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 32, Arya III.
  26. 26.0 26.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
  27. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 38, Jaime VI.
  28. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
  29. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon V.
  30. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 61, Daenerys VII.
  31. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 26, Samwell III.
  32. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 34, Cat Of The Canals.
  33. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 69, Jon IX.
  34. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 5, Jon I.
  35. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 63, Davos VI.
  36. 36.0 36.1 The Sworn Sword.
  37. 37.0 37.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III.
  38. 38.0 38.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 72, Daenerys X.
  39. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 46, Daenerys V.
  40. Definition of "measurement" as retrieved from Wikipedia on January 26, 2018
  41. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 4, Eddard I.
  42. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 21, Tyrion III.
  43. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 39, Arya VII.
  44. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 66, Tyrion XII.
  45. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 2, Daenerys I.
  46. 46.0 46.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 71, Daenerys X.
  47. 47.0 47.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Beyond the Free Cities: The Grasslands.
  48. 48.0 48.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 50, Daenerys VIII.
  50. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 12, Daenerys I.
  51. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 36, Daenerys VI.
  52. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 54, Daenerys VI.
  53. So Spake Martin: Blackwood-Bracken Feud and Coinage (August 13, 2003)