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HappyDaze

It's how old? My parents' house is older than that.

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Thinking about archaeology in Star Wars...

So the Star Wars galaxy has some old civilizations. By that, I mean really, really old. Consider that the Empire of Xim existed around 25,000 BBY when it went to war with the Hutts. This means that both of those civilizations had high-tech building materials way back then. We have no structures on Earth that are comparable, so how long would cities built of such materials last (assuming they were made to resist the elements of wherever they were built)?

Coruscant shows us that the old stuff just get built over, but if it is, it is obviously still standing and structurally sound. Do we get ghost towns like those found in the western US, but instead of 150 years of slowly decaying dried wood they're built out of materials that last millennia? If so, there are likely to be ancient structures all over the place retrofitted again and again over the ages.

Just some rambling thoughts.

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I would guess that recycling becomes a possibility at some point.

But there are also a lot of really old structures out there. The Twenty Wonders of the Galaxy are all from 10,000 BBY or before, and many are still standing in “contemporary” times.

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I vaguely recall one of those  "after humans" shows that went on the premise of every human on Earth vanishing for unspecified reasons and the show followed everything left behind.

Vulnerable things like roads were overgrown in a few decades. Steel structures had a few hundred years before they'd be collapsed. It was stone and concrete that had the big 10,000+ year lifespans. Stuff like Mount Rushmore and the pyramids would supposedly be around long enough that whatever intelligent life evolved after us might still be able to kinda make it out.

In spess you might also have more materials in structures that we don't use in serious quantity in our average struct. Plastic, depending on the type and environment can hold up a long long time, easily hundreds of years. Glass can stick around for centuries as well, maybe even millennia.

And of course you can do space material too. Plasteel and ceramite is up in the air...

 

 

It does bring up interesting narrative options. Structures on Tatooine are largely space-concrete. So their lifespan could be measured in centuries easy. Does Tatooine look so beat up because it's been around since the old republic was called the new republic?

An archeological dig could be bringing up glass beer bottles and plastic porta potties instead of pottery shards. Imagine a McGuffin that's just a plastic Pokemon figure that's highly sought after by collectors... 

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I was picturing abandoned mining camps with prefabricated buildings that were left behind when the enormous strip mines were tapped out. Centuries or even millennia later these structures might still be standing near the old pits as the world's ecosystem struggles to recover. Of course, the Mining Guild still technically owns them and might someday decide to squeeze the current "squatters" for a few centuries of back rent.

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As an archaeologist I can say that a lot of cities on this planet are built on the ruins of former civilizations. Cities “spring up” for a variety of reasons, things like trade, food/water sources, etc., so that when a location goes out of favor there could be conditions that bring it back into favor and cause newer construction to take place over the old stuff.

Writers of fiction tend to gloss over how this would work realistically in order to have a better “cool factor” with their world building (which is understandable). But if you want examples look at Paris, Jerusalem, etc. North America is even working establishing crazy underground structures. New York City is built on historical piers and ships, Monteal has something like 20 miles of tunnels for shopping and transit, and even Chicago has tunnels winding under it, some as deep as 350 ft. One day all of these things could be built over far in the future.

There’s even some new theories out that the pyramids at Giza are built over old ruins that existed centuries prior. Pretty much the structures “encase” these older structures. Regardless of the validity of this, the use of the Aswan dam on the Nile has flooded plenty of ancient locations, some of which were moved, some were not.

Speaking of moving, there could also be the subtle moving of these ancient places due to confusion and economic issues. It’s a strange concept to grasp, but an example is Bunker Hill in Boston. The monument for Bunker Hill is actually located on Breed’s Hill (where most of the fighting happened). It was named the Battle of Bunker Hill due to some confusion as to the location. The actual Bunker Hill has condos built on it. Who knows how many historical places have something similar happen to them?

So how would this all work for “real” in Star Wars? Well... that’s the point of fiction isn’t it? To inspire you to get creative and try and justify the crazy ideas presented. And there’s plenty of real world examples you can pull from to back up your ideas.

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There are also things that get buried, such as the stone farmhouses uncovered in Orkney which predate the pyramids by a couple of millennia. Tends to prolong how long they last.

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2 hours ago, Flavorabledeez said:

As an archaeologist I can say that a lot of cities on this planet are built on the ruins of former civilizations.

How would you imagine this would change if civilizations had long-enduring materials (other than stone) for the last 25,000+ years and that building/materials technology was largely static since then? Would you even need to build on ruins, or would you just keep doing upkeep and modifications to keep using the structures of your long-dead ancestors?

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5 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

How would you imagine this would change if civilizations had long-enduring materials (other than stone) for the last 25,000+ years and that building/materials technology was largely static since then? Would you even need to build on ruins, or would you just keep doing upkeep and modifications to keep using the structures of your long-dead ancestors?

It gets crazier if you're a historian. They have been using the same system of writing on a galactic scale for at least 27 000 years. That's 23 000 more years than we have had written history on earth. That's 15 000 more years than we used agriculture. 27 000 years of recorded history is mind blowing, and it's not even the oldest points they can trace it back to. The Columi, who are still around, had a galactic civilization and traveled the stars 2 million years before a New Hope. 2 million years, that as if we found out that Homo Erectus actually had a advanced civilization , then decided to hide away in an antarctic base and then show up again fully capable of using their old stuff and translate all of their writings. It's insane, it's crazy. And the Columi aren't the first either.

 

Which is why I tend to try to not think about it too much. Anyway, the point I was going to make is that as technology change and galactic disasters happen there is probably going to be abandonment of settlements, people forgetting their more advanced technology and then building over earlier sites again. This has happened several times on our world, it could probably happen in the SW galaxy as well. We can even see that it has happened, as the Infinite Empire proved to be anything but (although lasting for 10 000 years they're pretty impressive and again that means they lasted longer than we have had civilization here on earth), their tech was largely lost and the infrastructure they built up was left to rot. Since they were rather brutal and hated overlords there was probably also some taboos about mucking around with their things too much, nobody would want the Rakata to come back.

 

So yeah, buildings and settlements would probably be abandoned for various reasons. Entire planets might be abandoned with cities on them being overgrown by fauna or destroyed by natural catastrophes only to have the planet be resettled 15 000 years later (which could mean one abandoned at the fall of the Infinite Empire gets resettled, that would make it 10 000 years old by ANH). So it would probably change a lot between different planets, some might have people living in buildings that have been kept up to date and renovated for millennia,  but others might have lost track of where cities were located after a collapse of civilization and then built on top of a previous city.

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18 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

How would you imagine this would change if civilizations had long-enduring materials (other than stone) for the last 25,000+ years and that building/materials technology was largely static since then? Would you even need to build on ruins, or would you just keep doing upkeep and modifications to keep using the structures of your long-dead ancestors?

Since that span of time is difficult to contemplate historically, you could think of it in terms of how we incorporate geologic features into civilization — the land changes so much more slowly than rules and reigns that we either blast the mountainside or build up it. Thus, both possibilities you mention are likely depending on each planet's circumstances.

But I do think it's worth emphasizing that the practical explanation for technological and cultural consistency over tens of thousands of years might be better left to suspension of disbelief, and instead just drawing comparisons to real-life modern use of buildings and/or planning 500-1,500 years old. The temple on Yavin IV, for example, is described by Alan Dean Foster in the Star Wars novelization as a structure left over from people who'd mysteriously disappeared. Older than old, but useful and repurposed. That, I'd say, any GM or player can get their head around.

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Interesting questions . . .

Looking to the past for examples seems to be our best benchmark, but I have a couple of other thoughts.

When I was preparing and studying for my Real Estate license I was amused at the modern conceit to real estate is that people purchase and sell property that is fixed and unchanging.  But even a casual glance at geology will completely undermine that premise.  Even in the USA we have neighborhoods, where legally your neighbor technically owns half of your living room and you own half of the next door neighbor's living room . . . (because the land has shifted over time).

So one of the issues that we haven't discussed yet is the fact that planets aren't static foundations and they constantly are changing.

In the middle east, we do have cities and structures that are built on top of each other.  In Jerusalem you can literally dig your way down through time.  The deeper you go the older the civilization.  It is literally a city built atop the the previous structures.

But why?  Jerusalem has been essentially at the same location and similar sea level but how did it get to the point where every 10 feet is 100 years of history?

Before I hit you with some answers, it's important to keep the geological mechanics in mind when considering the buildings that are abandoned.

For instance, off the coasts of most major cities lie the sunken ruins of bygone civilizations as the oceans slowly rose (as they evidently have been doing since initial formation).  And we're talking throughout the world!  Japan, the Caribbean Sea & the Med all have remnants of civilizations flooded over time.  (IIRC I think there are also sunken Peruvian ruins but I may be mistaken).

Meanwhile, Mountain peaks are thrust upward.  As I recall the Rocky Mountains increase their height by six inches per year, in spite of the wind, water, and ice erosion that assails them constantly.  Which means that they are actually growing FASTER than that.  

And to my point, if you build a durable building on a planet it's not going to stay there unaffected.  It might get buried by dirt, sand, or water.  It might get thrust upward slowly over time.  And even later it could be uncovered again.

Here's an important thing to remember, the Pyramids are largely still intact because they were built in a remote inaccessible area.  And the biggest destructive force that has assailed the Pyramids wasn't the wind or sand but Humaniti.  Apparently the nose of the Sphinx survived for nearly 4,000 years before Napoleonic artillery shot it off about 200 years ago . . . :o

 

And from another tact, if you empty a facility someone (or more typically, something) else almost always moves in.  And even salt foxes are notorious for tearing up infrastructure.

And as a Real Estate agent, you actually can't collect rent from a tenant at sufferance (aka squatter) until you establish tenancy in law (via a lease).  

But the reality is that if you do stumble across one of these relics of architecture,  you're less likely to need a lawyer to file an eviction as you'll need to hire an exterminator . . . or mercenaries.  ;)

 

So as a GM I think a couple of questions to consider when discussing ancient ruins are; What kept this structure from being destroyed over time? Either by natural forces or rival interests.  Or negligent tenants.

I think that the two factors that would contribute (besides the durable building materials) would be occupants who kept up with the upkeep OR what kept the natural forces from interacting with the structure.

For example Defiant Core is built off of the remnants of a downed starship.  The factors which made it possible for the rebellion to get their hands on major end components from the ship and to adapt them to Defiant Core is the fact that the reactor leaked, irradiating the local area and the leakage of highly toxic chemicals, both of which kept flora & fauna from accessing or staying in the ship for long.

 

Interesting topic.  Thanks!

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18 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

I was picturing abandoned mining camps with prefabricated buildings that were left behind when the enormous strip mines were tapped out. Centuries or even millennia later these structures might still be standing near the old pits as the world's ecosystem struggles to recover. Of course, the Mining Guild still technically owns them and might someday decide to squeeze the current "squatters" for a few centuries of back rent.

So let's see.

First hand I know the roof is the important thing. My employer has a bunch of old 100+ year old ranch houses on our property. Mostly adobe and stone structures, a couple of which need to be kept up. Once the roof goes, the whole thing starts to collapse pretty soon after. The stone walls hold up ok, the adobe melts fast. The places we keep the roof on, either because we still use the building or because it's historically relevant, are fine. In need of a good cleaning out in a few cases, but totally inhabitable with some repairs.

We've also got some old 75+ year old reinfored concrete structures. They are pretty much fine. Some of them were built for one thing and never used again. They are showing wear, and full of rodent poop, but with a good cleaning up and some modifications could be repurposed. The ones built for more long term use but abandoned are mostly ok (again, depending on if the roof was concrete or not). A good cleaning out and some minor repairs and good to go. Some we actually have done that with, and even recertified them for their original use. And the stuff we've kept up is still working 100%.

Honestly it's the newer stuff that isn't holding up. The metal prefabs and trailers are all falling apart in one way or another. Mostly from wind related damage along weak points.

 

Putting that in spess and fast forward a bit and you can run with it.

 

Without regular service, your metal and plastic prefabs will fall apart in a few decades. If the location sees your "squatters" they'll probably repurpose the materials from them, but probably won't try and salvage the building itself. In the 25,000 year time frame these structures will probably be barely there, if not totally collapsed and covered over. 

More permanent structures are probably going to hold up for 30-50 years depending on the weather and how well the roof holds up. After that it will start to collapse. The foundation and walls will probably hang in there for a while, especially if it's well built resilient materials like stone, concrete, or brick.  Squatters coming in every few decades and reroofing would be a little that would do a lot. But in the 25,000 year time frame that's unlikely. So most likely there might be a few mostly covered/overgrown collapsed stone/brick walls, or the material will be harvested to build a new structure.

Really heavy stuff like reinforced pourcrete would be around for a long time. Thats where you could have something go up with the first prospector ship and still be there 25,000 years later. Every few hundred years someone comes in, patches over any cracks, lives there  for a few years, then packs up and leaves, and the place stays vacant for another few hundred years. In a place with a somewhat mild and very consistent climate it might not take any real upkeep at all. Possible the last mining guildy just closed and locked the door and walked away, and no one else showed up since. As long as you don't have any water infiltration the interior would hold up, more or less. You'd probably have an increase in the ground level outside, by a few inches to a few feet. In Arctic or desert it might go higher. So getting in might be tricky, and what's inside might be fragile, but you could also reinhabit it if you so desire. Maybe even get it working again.

Something built super resilient, intended to be around a very long time could hold up for thousands of years. Think about how we've got lots of long live species in the Galaxy. The Hutts might be especially knowledgeable about construction techniques that can hold up for over 1,000 or more with no maintenance or issues.

 

Soooo what might an old 25,000 year old mine look like?

Mostly just several odd small hills covering old ruins. Heavy machinery would also be covered, though it's upper components might poke out depending upon it's size, and how quickly dirt builds up. And perhaps one or two concrete buildings would be there also partly buried, though potentially with something inside, assuming they hadn't collapsed.

 

 

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9 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

How would you imagine this would change if civilizations had long-enduring materials (other than stone) for the last 25,000+ years and that building/materials technology was largely static since then? Would you even need to build on ruins, or would you just keep doing upkeep and modifications to keep using the structures of your long-dead ancestors?

The idea of technology being static for even most of that time just rips my suspension of disbelief right out of the picture, so admittedly it’s hard for me to wrap my head around it.

Now, a civilization lying about that kind of thing to show its superiority? Completely believable. Nationalist archaeologists/historians have been and will always be a thing and could be used to continue the idea of this (if you want an example, see North Korean archaeologists and their unicorn cave).

But hey, you asked, so I’ll give it a go as is: Most of the old structures would be torn right down in favor of what the owners would want unless said structure has historic value. If that’s the case, they would still see changes as long as they were approved of by the society. Depending on how the society is would also dictate changes to the structures. I could see a long family line of rulers either adding onto a colossal structure or moving entire rooms to different locations to fit their needs. So essentially things would change shape, but not so much function.

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3 hours ago, Mark Caliber said:

 

Here's an important thing to remember, the Pyramids are largely still intact because they were built in a remote inaccessible area.  And the biggest destructive force that has assailed the Pyramids wasn't the wind or sand but Humaniti.  Apparently the nose of the Sphinx survived for nearly 4,000 years before Napoleonic artillery shot it off about 200 years ago . . . :o

You make some excellent points about geological factors and its effects on cities/structures, but this just isn’t true. The pyramids of Egypt are not isolated. The most well known ones are just west of the Nile River (around 2 miles). The Nile has always been a busy river, even after the collapse of the Egyptian empires.

And the Sphinx losing its nose to Imperial French target practice has been widely dismissed as not true. The generally accepted theories are either vandalism around the 1300s or erosion. 

It’s easy to make these mistakes though given how the remains of ancient Egypt are often depicted.

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9 hours ago, Flavorabledeez said:

The idea of technology being static for even most of that time just rips my suspension of disbelief right out of the picture, so admittedly it’s hard for me to wrap my head around it. 

Thankfully this is only a problem with the non-movie stuff. Easy enough to ignore.

You could lean into it, make it part of the setting that there is a ceiling to how far tech can advance and that the SW galaxy already achieved it a long time ago, but that seems a bit to science-fictional for the pulp action feel of SW.

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This is a pretty cool topic. 

Just to add, does anyone know how long a building constructed out of carbon nano-fibers could potentially last? I have no idea, but I’d guess a very long time. Now, given that we aren’t nearly as advanced as most of the civilizations in SW are, and we have materials that can conceivably last quite some time,  it’s conceivable that their building materials are that much more advanced than ours. 

A world like Coruscant could only exist if their buildings were made out of materials that are incredibly strong and could exist indefinitely as long as they weren’t otherwise damaged or abused. I’d also imagine that worlds such as Coruscant budget huge amounts of resources towards the maintenance and upkeep of their megastructures.

Edited by AnomalousAuthor

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7 hours ago, AnomalousAuthor said:

does anyone know how long a building constructed out of carbon nano-fibers could potentially last?

The material is less important than the actual construction technique and climate in a lot of cases.

It's like I mentioned with metal or plastic. Both those materials take hundred of years to degrade and wear away naturally. But after only a few decades they can show a lot of wear. Even though individual panels might still be (more or less) fine, other environmental effects would cast the connection points to degrade. So the materials would hold up but the structure itself not so much.

That's a good bit of "squatter" color you can add to a narrative, and make part of the story. The local natives live in huts, but they have walls and roofs made of durasteel, plasteel sheeting, and carbon nanotube beams and roofings. All materials salvaged from a nearby ruin decades ago. If you're looking for those ruins, and the last village you checks out was all straw and mud huts, this would be a major indicator you're int he right neighborhood.

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Toilets and sinks. Read an article, our toilets and sinks will be here a long time.

Baked ceramics.  Even using primitive kilns there are examples of pottery and statuary from nearly 30,000 years ago.

This figurine is 26,000 years old.

main-qimg-5b563bb497579f9704c78750e434da

Use Star Wars industrial tech and createsome kind of material that can be extruded onto a skeletal structure it then in turn entombs and preserves, and building structures that survive 10s of thousands of years isn't really far fetched at all.

Edited by 2P51

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On 12/2/2018 at 3:34 AM, Stan Fresh said:

Thankfully this is only a problem with the non-movie stuff. Easy enough to ignore.

You could lean into it, make it part of the setting that there is a ceiling to how far tech can advance and that the SW galaxy already achieved it a long time ago, but that seems a bit to science-fictional for the pulp action feel of SW.

I'd argue that they have the technology, merely that they refuse to use it.  Very safe-tech.  Galactics are demonstrated as having the technology to build world-killers.  They just don't do so as a regular thing.  *shrugs*

Edited by Sunrunner

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Mervena ions is a brave a archaeologist travling all around the galaxy  with his plucky crew of

Wynnik: the brave hotshot pilot

Remek: Zolagist and lover

Varalas Mollek: Trusty side kick and bodyguard.... 

and jim the IT guy

 

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