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Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » What was the black rock used in building by the Men of Numenor? (Page 2)
Author Topic: What was the black rock used in building by the Men of Numenor?
Roll of Honor Fingolfin of the Noldor
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Since there in no unbreakable blak mineral we have to assume that spells were at least partially responsible for its strength.
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Mithrandir
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but how do WE KNOW that there is no unbreakable black material? it could be made up....i mean...its Middle Earth.

------------------
Or Nole!
Uzbad Khazad-dûmu
laurelindórenan lindelorendor malinornélion ornemalin
Ash nazg durbatulûk
Kadô Zigûrun zabathân unakkha...


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Roll of Honor Fingolfin of the Noldor
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Well if he just made up that mineral then what would be the point of this disscussion; I just proposed that mormoriaon is possibly that black material with a spell on it to prevent it from fracturing.
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Roll of Honor Fingolfin of the Noldor
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I found another quote in regard to orthanc sock:
quote:

...the Orthanc-rock; but it defeated them. It is very smooth and HARD...(Flotsam and Jetsam TT)


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Roll of Honor Boromir's Woman
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I know this is an old topic, but as a geologist, I wanted to add something to the discussion.

It could not be obsidian because obsidian is very easily broken. That is why it was used to fashion arrow and spear points.

If the black stone is a pure mineral, it must be one with strong internal bonds as well as high hardness - the idea of black quartz would work in this sense.
If it is a rock, it could be either igneous or metamorphic but it is unlikely that cooling fractures would not be found on the surface.

Therefore, to get the smooth surface of Orthanc that is that resistant to damage, you must have the addition of magic. In other words, I do not think the material corresponds to a natural rock or mineral of our world.

So the possibilities are:
1. natural material + magic

2. manmade material (which I know nothing about)

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Roll of Honor Mad Uncle Rupert
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This brings to mind a rather obscure thing I heard about a few years ago. There are several castles in Scotland that have outer curtain walls coated in a thick, black, glasslike material. The theory is that after construction, massive fires were burnt around the walls melting the Sandstone walls into glass.

I'll see if I can find some information on this.

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Roll of Honor Ecthelion of the Fountain
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ok i know this is vague, but i was watching a pbs specail (public broadcasting for all the non usa ittes) and in the britian there were remains of this hard black rock, and it was made, the crew attempted to make it, again i dont remember of what, but you fire it for a loooooong time at high temps and this shiny substance is the end product castles with entire walla made of this stuff were found, but the people on the show could only make about a soccerballs worth,,

am i completely lost, or does anyone else know about this?

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Dark Link
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In my opinion it was probably a substance created by Tolkien to increase the the magic of middle earth, and even if not, refering to the unbreakability of orthanc, the men might not have got the stone from the elves but why couldn't the elves have taught them how to build with the mineral in such a way that it could not be fractured?
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Roll of Honor Belegurth
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The Silmarillion says that the Eldar of the West (Valinor) sailed to Númenóre several times, so they may have taken some of that material there, and Orthanc is a tower of the númenórian realm in Middle Earth, right?... so it might have been possible to carry a lot of this stone there before the descendant of the fair island.

[ 03-06-2002, 07:45 AM: Message edited by: Belegurth ]

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Dark Link
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I can't remeber who mentioned the palantiri, but in the unfinished Tales, it said that they were made by Feanor, so that answers that question. I also remembered that Tuor saw alot of some kind of black material while he was dwelling at nevrast, so could that be the same substance?
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Roll of Honor Mad Uncle Rupert
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Ecthelion of the Fountain: That's what I'm talking about. As I recall, it was a thing about the existence of Dragons or some such nonsense.
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Orofacion of the Vanyar
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It would make the most sense that it was constructed or carved out of a native material and some spell or magic involved in its defensive capabilities. Diecasting (sp?)is a technique used in metalwork which creates an extremely strong work. And seeing as how Orthanc was smooth and strong this makes the most sense, that it was poured into existence. Kinda funny to think about, pouring a structure.

[ 03-07-2002, 04:17 AM: Message edited by: Orofacion of the Vanyar ]

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Dingalen
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Your method of approach is making this so difficult to analyse!
You assume that it must be an existing material, because..."Prof. Tolkien would not make up something like that". Or another fraction just blatantly announces "it is magic" - which might explain the stone's properties, but not its nature.

The right question to ask is just in our mithril discussion some months ago:
"Which material existing in reality inspired Prof. Tolkien for the stone of orthanc?"

Because also mithril does not exist in reality - not with the properties attributed to it. It is not the name in elvish for some existing element. But Prof. Tolkien did get his idea for this metal from somewhere. His sense of realism was far too profound to make it up from scratch.
I think the same would apply to the stone of orthanc. Prof. Tolkien must have been inspired by some glass-smooth, hard and resistant material. And the stone of orthanc is not a metal - otherwise some character in the books would have noted it. The good Prof. was not somebody to withhold such information from his readers. Maybe the answer is as simple as obsidian - that he imagined the numenoreans to have found ways to cast molten rock into structures of volcanic glass - and maybe strengthen it by magic, too. Maybe he imagined some kind of super-concrete, which was so dense that it could be polished to glass-smoothness. We can only guess. The only clear thing is, that the gondorians and arthedain lost this secret technology/magic in the course of a few hundred years after they had established their domains, because there are no later structures built of this magical stone. Orthanc, the stone of Erech and Minas Tirith (Anor) were all constructed at the latest during the lifespan of Isildur (or his immediately succeeding heirs).

I think Mad Uncle Rupert is onto something here, that gives a bettter handhold than mere speculation: It is quite likely that Prof. Tolkien has seen those scottish castles with their glassed walls - being so impressed with the idea and the view, that he invented the stone of orthanc on its example.

[ 03-07-2002, 08:44 AM: Message edited by: Dingalen ]

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Celeborn of Lothlórien
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well..guys..remember that this is fantasy and Tolkien could have made the Black stone or whatever it was up!!!! []

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
~The White Tree of Tol Eressëa
----------------------
A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!
Silivren penna míriel
O menel aglar elenath,
Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees
The starlight on the Western Seas.

~Elves- Grey Havens

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Roll of Honor Boromir's Woman
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I would love to know more about this black stone of castles in Scotland if someone could find a reference - or maybe the name of the TV special.
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Roll of Honor Mad Uncle Rupert
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I'm still looking for info on the castles. It's been a pain! I did find some references in Welsh folklore on Celtic Glass castles, but as yet no 'real' info. I'll keep looking.
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Luin Eriol
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First off, I feel the need to make a statment. Throughout this topic, it has been sounding like the Numenoreans crafted the Palantiri. Not so.
I quoe from the "Tolkien Bestiary" (pronounced 'bestiary'), "...and Feanor made many jewels, of which the Palantiri or "seeing stones" where some..."
This is nowhere near exact words, because I am calling them from memory and can't find the book. Hopefully soon I can give you the full quote.

As to the material, when Numenore sank, it talks about the "mountain at the island's center" erupting. From this we can conclude that volcaic material was present on the island, obsidian included.
But, you are all trying to apply Fourth Age standars to somethng that happened in the First and Second Ages. Of course the tone was not natural, but I don't think magic "spells" were cast on the material either.

I think that they found a way of, well, 'distilling' I guess you could say, the volcanic glass to bring out its better and more valuable traits, while ridding it of the undesired aspects.

In my humble opinion []

-----------------------------
Luin Eriol, "the blue one who dreams alone"

[ 03-09-2002, 11:47 AM: Message edited by: Luin Eriol ]

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Leire
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Hey Fingolfin,

I couldn't agree with you more. The properties of minerals are NOT such that it would be unbreakable. No such mineral exists. And, please, whoever suggested obsidian, go take a geology class. Obsidian is a glass type material, and is therefore very ill suited to building. What is really important to remeber in this conversation is that Tolkien himself was a philologist, and thus extensively studied on things of historical, philogic, and linguistic value and totally clueless in the sciences. He probably didn't have a clear picture himself of what kind of rock or mineral it could be! He was capturing an ideal; a figment of the imagination, much like the Beowulf poet who had no idea what the melting point of the metal that Beowulf had used in his shield was, only that the shield would fail him. Just enjoy the story for what it is in this regard, after all fantasy requires some suspension of reality. =)
-Leire

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Roll of Honor Mad Uncle Rupert
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I don't think anyone will find a substance like the Ornthanc material in the real world. The stone can be just about anything, from improved volcanic glass, to some sort of special concrete. Lacking a clear discription of the material, we can only guess what it was.

On the other hand, we may be able to deduce the inspiration of the material. As such, it almost certainly wasn't anything created using some 'Industrial' method. Things in Tolkien's works that are of an industrial make are universally ugly, reflecting the Author opinion of the turn his society had made.

So we have to look for something from folklore, or something for history. This is what has brought the 'glass' castles of Scotland to mind. They are real (I Swear) and the work was done using main strength and artifice, and not machinery. Though they are not well known, it is quite likely that a Gentleman of the period, especially one as interested in literature and folklore, might well have heard of them. This may have been the inspiration

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Cassandra
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The Orthanc and Minas Tirith stone is probably spell enhanced obsidian. You can't get a grip on polished obsidian, so that explains the smoothness. Also, two perfectly polished blocks of glass would have almost a nonexistant seam between them. It can't be a metal, because when the Ents rammed Orthanc's walls the material chipped off. You dent metals, not shatter them.

If anything is a meteoric material from an asteroid, then it must have come from Gondolin. Dude, just look at the map, and you see Gondolin is sitting slab-dab in the middle of an impact crater. Come on, a ring of mountains, and a hill in the middle? Sounds familiar? Don't know? Just look at the moon! []

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Dingalen
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Don't worry about the reference for the glass castle for me, Mad Uncle.
I was in Rottweil, in Germany, last weekend and visited their medieval "black gate". The clue is: The gate is build from light-brown sandstone - but its outside walls look burned to a height of app. 5 metres back & front. So I took a closer look and the surface of the stone is glassified. And the glassified surfaces show far less weather-related corrosion than the other parts of the gate.
Although Prof. Tolkien never was in Rottweil - if the scottish glass castles had a similar appearance, any historian would be intrigued by the glassified walls which resisted time much better than normal sandstone. I definitely think, you have a point there.

And Fimbrethil, you are right. You can join glass and obsidian seemlessly. And either cast or cut to large blocks the brittleness of the material would be balanced a bit. A large, solid, strain-free block of glass only chips at the surfaces and edges. Don't be fooled by how easy a window-pane breaks - glass with a thickness of say 30cm can take quite some punishment. Ceramics and glasses are very brittle in thin layers - because they have no elasticity. But with increasing wall thickness their great hardness (tensile strength) begins to show. But where Prof. Tolkien would have witnessed this effect?

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Cassandra
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Oh yeah, when I say "spell enhanced" obsidian, I don't mean enhanced hardness, I mean enhanced to eliminate flow. Glass is a colloid, and it "flows" like an ever-sticky liquid, and Orthanc had stood for 3000 years. A real glass tower would have deformed greatly during such an interval.

As for the tower barely chipping from Ents, have you ever tried beating a block of glass with wood? What breaks first?

About the seams, you should be able to fuse blocks of glass together. Even if they didn't have blowtorches, they probably still had a way to do it.

[ 03-11-2002, 12:09 PM: Message edited by: Fimbrethil ]

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Dingalen
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Glass is a colloid? Do you know what a colloid is? Like in "colloidal dispersion"?
A colloid is (dispersion of) fine solid/liquid particles suspended in a liquid or gas, stabilized from agglomerating or coagulating (respectively) and ultimately precipitating by its surface charge (which repels other colloid particles or droplets). What you mean, is that glass is an amorphous solid - actually like a liquid with such a high viscosity, that its flow takes decades to be noticable. Actually, that again is only part of the picture - because it is only applicable to synthetic glasses. As soon as you have regions of slower cooling (like the core of a big molten chunk of glass), you will get crystallization there - resulting in a "real" solid state compared to the glassy one. I.e. : One that doesn't flow. Quartz in place of glass...
As for melting together two pieces of glass/obsidian/quartz - the melting point of glass is 1400°C - it becomes malleable at ca. 800°C - so you do need blowtorches to melt them together. Plus a temperature chamber to slowly cool the heated part to avoid getting strain into the material. Because if you don't, the pieces will be ripped apart when the material contracts with cooling. It is not so easy to build a glass tower, see!

That's beside the point anyhow, because I do not think, that Prof. Tolkien had something like this in mind, when he envisioned Orthanc. More likely, he envisioned the numenoreans to be able to sculp or cast molten rock - no matter the real technical problems.

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Roll of Honor Mad Uncle Rupert
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Right! We're looking for inspiration here, I think, as facts cannot exist.

I am, however, interested as to why obsidian can be 'enhanced' while glass cannot.

(Okay, so it's my pet theory!)

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Cassandra
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Glass can be enhanced.. obsidian is just another word for glass, err a type of glass. Yes I meant amorphous solid.. oops!

Obsidian is black glass, and Orthanc is black, so it's natural to believe it's made of obsidian and not some other glass. The movie artists didn't seem to consider this glass option though...

[ 03-12-2002, 07:40 PM: Message edited by: Fimbrethil ]

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