Friday, September 3, 2010

Archaeology of the Keep

Archaeology is my daily job, so when I’m not writing about Dungeon & Dragons or about Marxism, I practice archaeology.  So, that’s why, when I started studying Keep on the Borderlands with a closer look, I decided to analyse carefully the Keep’s plan itself. It reveals some details which seems me interesting enough to share my thoughts, even if I’m still struggling with most details. Let’s discuss these 7 points first.   

  1. The general outlook of the Keep’s Fortress suggests a taste for symmetry. It seems to be in the middle of the north wall, but a careful look shows it’s not: 6 cases from one corner, 8 from the other. Why? Probably because the Fortress is older than the wall itself. Structure of the wall is tied to topography, so when it was built, it was not possible to find a symmetry because there was already a building. A possible clue on the keep’s inner chronology. I got another alternative I’ll explain later in that post.
  1. Same thing for the Inner gatehouse. Its position on the middle wall is not aligned on the Fortress. Fore sure, middle-age construction is not always obsessed by symmetry, but my experience is that such details reveals generally a lot about phases of a building. Here, the same problem happened than about the Fortress itself: probably, the Chapel was already built when the Inner gatehouse was added.

  1. That north-east tower is really surprising, as it looks to be built directly on the cliff. Sure, it gives a good position above the road, but why such a difficult building? I must admit I don’t have a clear answer to that question, but it worth to be noted. A strange, but possible one is that a first tower was built, then the cliff broke and this tower was destroyed. With a stubborn energy, another one was built at the very same place…
  1. Did you notice the fountain is the only one to be noted in the Keep? Water supply is a major issue for such a castle. Is there wells or cisterns? None is quoted, but the fact there’s a fountain suggest an hydraulic system could have been managed. If not, this makes the Inner yard very dependent of the outer one in a siege. 
  1. Why does the smith’s workshop have defences of a tower? Larger walls could be explained by the danger of fire, but this doesn’t explain battlements and the like. The better explanation I can provide is it is really a tower, a vestige from a first keep or a first version of the outer fortress.
  1. This hypothesis is strengthened by the East wall of the stable and warehouse. This strong wall in front of the main door is a mean of defence, as it puts invaders in obligation to run from the doorgate under arrows from above, even when they forced the first door. This is a common feature for a concentric castle like the Keep. But, it seems already an old-fashioned defence, as big double-doors have been pierced trough the wall, for a better access to the stable and warehouse. A good thing for trade, probably a wise idea from the Guildmaster, it lowers the defensive effect – that’s why I consider these doors as being a later addition. If I’m true about the Old Tower (the smith workshop), the wall is itself probably a part of the first
  1.  Could the Inner bailey have been build before the outer one? Maybe.  This is the point I’m still struggling with. I’ll provide in another post my conclusions about it, but here’s the point: plan of the Outer bailey building seems less structured than the inner one, as if it was a village later included in a wall. It could even have been built in two different periods, the “smith tower” being a fossil of the first one. 


biopunk said...

Enjoying these posts immensely, especially since I am apparently quite close to the keep, as the wyvern flies...

Re: Water supply is a major issue for such a castle.

There is a cistern located in the cellar of the keep. No size is given, but as the rest of the stores of provisions are described as "vast", one could assume this cistern to be quite sizable.

My question is: where would the middens be located?

Nicolas Dessaux said...

@Biopunk: Yes, there's still some technical issues to be solved. It seems, re-reading it once again, that not all aeras of the Keep are described, and not all people as well. For example, such a big number of soldiers suggest large kitchens with a wide numbers of cooks; the castekllan personnal service is not described; and so on... But the sample of the 'Guildhouse' shows that Gary's intend is that evry DM makes his own plans and maps of the keep, so most buildingq should be expand and precised. Probabkly the number of people living in the Keep should be doubled at least.

KenHR said...

Just found this blog...great stuff! I like your approach, very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

rainswept said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arkhein said...

Your analysis of the Borderlands is fascinating and brilliant. I do hope you pick it up again one day!

- Ark

Anthony N. Emmel said...

Regarding #2, I believe it was Frank Mentzer who helped finalize the maps for B2. He said in an interview that when they were laying out the maps , he realized there was no chapel in the keep. So he penned up a description and sent it to Gary who approved. The Inner Bailey gate was moved to fit the chapel in.

Thus, it is a case of the gate actually coming first. ;)