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Religion0
10-04-2015, 08:42 PM
So I have a rather basic nomadic people who really don't believe in carrying around anything but what you absolutely need, to the point of mostly hunting bare handed. An exception to this would obviously be knives.
But, what with not having forges, they can't make steel knives. So, assuming flint is a readily available resource, are steel knives sufficiently better than flint that it would be worthwhile for them to trade their way to and value?

WeaselFire
10-04-2015, 10:05 PM
Yes, they're better. Better for the people in question would likely depend on what they needed to trade for them. Flint is only one of the possibilities, Aztecs/Incas used obsidian for knives and swords. Holds a sharper edge than steel. Copper and bronze were also used for knives before steel.

The real question would be how the trade would affect your plot/world building. If trading is desirable, then have them trade. If not, then have them use flint and give them a reason, like the better chi found in natural objects.

Jeff

Dennis E. Taylor
10-04-2015, 10:07 PM
I think you can safely assume that people will trade with another group that has something they don't. The question is the price. If the people with the steel knives require a half-ton of gold in exchange, or something that your nomads couldn't carry, then it would be a no-go. Or an ambush...

OTOH, if the nomads have something that the metalworkers really want, like maybe they have a secret diamond mine...

King Neptune
10-04-2015, 11:39 PM
So I have a rather basic nomadic people who really don't believe in carrying around anything but what you absolutely need, to the point of mostly hunting bare handed. An exception to this would obviously be knives.
But, what with not having forges, they can't make steel knives. So, assuming flint is a readily available resource, are steel knives sufficiently better than flint that it would be worthwhile for them to trade their way to and value?

yes much better

In fact and in prehistory, nomads worked metals, and by lucky accident they even made steel instead of wrought iron sometimes. A furnace for refining iron ore can by made from a hole in the ground and a blow pipe. If they were in an iron area, then they could collect a bunch of ore, collect fuel, mostly wood, and use limestone as flux, and if there were no limestone, then they could use ashes. If they were near the ocean, then they could use shells. They could heat the ore to the point where it reduced to metal and either keep heating until it melted, or they could hammer it and reheat and hammer it more.

You would be shocked at what has been used for making iron in some places in Africa, and those methods are still used sometimes.

King Neptune
10-04-2015, 11:55 PM
On the other hand, flint knives are amazing things. I remember reading that one enthusiast was going to have surgery, so he made some blades that would fit into a blade holder such as surgeons use. The surgeon used the flint and admitted that it was superior to steel in sharpness. The problem is that flint is very brittle, so the edges chip readily.

snafu1056
10-05-2015, 01:45 AM
Sounds like these people are super-primitive, so I'd think the sheer strangeness, shininess, and durability of steel would dazzle them. Hell, plain old iron would probably dazzle them. In many nomadic cultures iron was considered a supernatural substance, and ironworkers were seen as quasi-holy figures.

King Neptune
10-05-2015, 02:31 AM
It is true, The first smiths were magicians, but they were so useful that it was not unusual for the tribe to break the smith's leg, so he would be lame and unable to leave.

snafu1056
10-05-2015, 05:26 AM
Ouch. Talk about a back-handed compliment.

King Neptune
10-05-2015, 04:35 PM
Ouch. Talk about a back-handed compliment.

Yes, very, but it also applied to the God of smithery, Hephaestus, who was lame.

benbenberi
10-06-2015, 01:46 AM
Hunting empty-handed with nothing but knives?

Even among low-technology nomads there's a lot more hunting technology than that. Spears, axes, slings, nets, atlatls, bows-n-arrows... these all long predate metallurgy.

Flint itself is a geographically-restricted resource that in prehistory was the foundation of many long-distance trading routes.

And metal blades are much better than flint - harder, more durable, usually shinier. Definitely a thing worth trading a lot for. For that matter, metal pots were even more highly valued, because a metal blade is just another blade that does the same thing as other blades (only better) -- metal pots are superior in kind as well as quality to most of the low-tech alternatives. Your nomads WANT the pots.

(A general point: when you think about a culture's relationship to technology and tools, don't imagine that weaponry defines the universe, or even a very large piece of it.)

blacbird
10-06-2015, 03:02 AM
On the other hand, flint knives are amazing things. I remember reading that one enthusiast was going to have surgery, so he made some blades that would fit into a blade holder such as surgeons use. The surgeon used the flint and admitted that it was superior to steel in sharpness. The problem is that flint is very brittle, so the edges chip readily.

Even better than flint is obsidian (the two are NOT the same substance, and are formed in entirely different ways). Obsidian (volcanic glass) can be sharpened into an edge so fine that it is still used in medical scalpels today, I believe. But flint (a form of sedimentary chert) is more widely available in nature than is obsidian. Pre-industrial people obviously used whatever material they could find.

But Native Americans were very quick to discover the virtue of steel knives and other implements, and quickly obtained them via trade (or, sometimes, plunder) from the first European immigrants.

caw

frimble3
10-06-2015, 05:28 AM
Hunting empty-handed with nothing but knives?

Even among low-technology nomads there's a lot more hunting technology than that. Spears, axes, slings, nets, atlatls, bows-n-arrows... these all long predate metallurgy.

Not to mention 'game jumps' or 'buffalo jumps', where the animals were chased over the edge of a cliff, where their broken limbs would make them easier to kill, no matter what your knives were made of.

Religion0
10-06-2015, 11:17 PM
Thank you so much for all your help!
I would like to clear up that for these guys travelling light is essential, so something being shiny, well, so's that stream over there. They do trade for things they can't make that has proven their worth.

Thing I'm thinking that might work against steel or iron knives is that if one breaks then they can't fix it and it becomes expensive junk, but flint lying on the ground is easy to replace. I'm thinking they might have a mixture of the two, with the steel being used for things that might break the flint.

GeorgeK
10-07-2015, 12:06 AM
On the other hand, flint knives are amazing things. I remember reading that one enthusiast was going to have surgery, so he made some blades that would fit into a blade holder such as surgeons use. The surgeon used the flint and admitted that it was superior to steel in sharpness. The problem is that flint is very brittle, so the edges chip readily.For that reason it depends on one's ability at flint knapping. A skilled person with ample supplies of knappable stone would probably prefer stone tools for butchering a carcass since in a low tech society they may not have a reasonable way to hone steel and sharpness is very important when it comes to ease of butchering. As far as combat and or hunting goes, steel is much more durable, so if I were in that society I'd probably hunt with the steel and butcher with stone.