17 thoughts on “Mapping the Geology of Skyrim

  1. Geek.

    I only say this because when someone did this for WoW, it was so utterly useful that I wondered why no-one had done it before.

    And because I’m jealous because I don’t have the time to do it myself.

  2. I am going to put this out there to start with…

    Iron is by far the most abundant ore across all of Skyrim. I am going to tentatively name this the ‘basement’ rock.

    In a couple of areas there are inferred ‘contacts’ with both corundum and quicksilver. As corundum is the next most abundant rock in Skyrim I am going to suggest that this is they layer directly above the iron. The quicksilver overlies at points both the iron and corundum, indicating some sort of unconfomity. (Exciting!)

    Lets have some thoughts…!

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  4. While it may seem like an absurd (or perhaps terrifying) prospect for geologists, one of the natural forces in shaping Skyrim (and the continent of Tamriel, and the entire world of Nirn) must needs be magic.

    But that doesn’t have to mean “oh, it just happened this way.” Magic is FAR more interesting when it behaves according to consistent sets of rules.

    The alchemy list shows that many plants and animals can be harvested for components that have magical effects when properly combined. How was this power infused? And more importantly, is the ebb and flow of this energy akin to the water cycle (and therefore erosion) or perhaps geothermal energy (and therefore continental drift?)

    In the same vein, the existence of the Lunar Forge suggests that minerals can be “tuned” to Nirn’s rotation and to the presence of moons in her sky. Magical energies may behave similar to electromagnetism or gravity.

    Finally, it may be useful to map the standing stones and Dwemer ruins in conjunction with this project. Both appear to constantly tap energies, and these effects may be location specific.

    • Hi Howard,

      Thanks for the comment!

      As much as I agree with you, my main reason for this project was to be educational – so instead of being exact to Skyrim it is meant to reflect real life processes when I actually map it.

      However, if this is made into a mod for the game, then this is the point that some more lore and magic can come into it.

      • Oh I understand completely. I’m coming at this from the science-fiction & fantasy angle, where internal consistency of mythos and in-world physics can be made to drive story in interesting ways.

        It’s far more useful as a tool for teaching geology the way you’ve laid it out. :-)

  5. Jane,

    I’ll be contributing more later, but a logical starting point is to look at the type of volcanism taking place here.

    There are no shield volcanoes in Skryim — or Tamriel as far as I know. For the uninitiated, shield volcanoes are built when runny fast-moving lava is erupted. This lava tends to be high in the iron and magnesium common in oceanic crust and forms a gently sloping volcano as the lava moves a great distance from the vents. Think Hawaii or Medicine Lake in California.

    Almost due East of The Throat of the World, is the large stratovolcano that destroyed Morrowind, Red Mountain. As we know, stratovolcanoes tend to form on continents where an oceanic plate is being subducted beneath a continental plate. The lavas here tend to be more pasty (viscous) and don’t move far from any vents, helping to form a high conical-mountain.

    So, we’re probably dealing with continental crust as opposed to oceanic. And this means rocks that are relatively high in silica and form pasty, viscous lavas. Candidates would be andesite, dacite, rhyolite, granite, and diorite. Of course, as you have already hinted at, this type of volcanism would be consistent with copper, gold, and feldspar formation. But why would iron be so common? The iron-ore could be formed as a result of iron-rich fluids being forced from magma chambers as they cycle through more basaltic stages.

    Of course, the volcanic activity would also help account for other high mountains in Skyrim and Tamriel, but I agree with you about crustal extension. Most of the mountain ranges run roughly North to South in Tamriel, indicating to me that the continent is being pulled apart mostly East and West. This would form a series of horts (mountain ranges) and grabens (valleys) that run mostly North to South in Tamriel. In fact, in Cyrodiil, Lake Rumare runs parallel to this series of horsts and may indicate seawater intrusion as the crust extends and subsides.

      • Sure thing! I hope my interpretation was useful given your aim. I didn’t take a stab at stratigraphy and specific petrology, because, frankly, there’s just not much to infer that from.

        I wanted to offer a plausible interpretation by looking mostly at geography and geomorphology that you might use to help you build some of your mod and add a plausibly present mineral or two.

        I didn’t drag in the rest of Tamriel because I so much think it necessary. Rather, it just helped things make more sense. The continent does look like it’s being rifted apart! :)

        I’m interested to see where you take this. Sorry I haven’t had time to contribute more as promised.

        P.S. Isn’t iron ore unlikely to be a basement rock/mineral as it is chemical sedimentary? Would something metamorphic be more likely?

        • On second glance, I’m not so sure about the rifting hypothesis at all. The North/South orientation of the mountains just isn’t what I though it was once I used a an accurate topographic map. See what I have to say at the Dark Creations board.

          So much fun!

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  7. Interesting project
    as pointed out by paleoshane you may need to take into account al properties of the geology of the rest of provinces of Tamriel before continue: the volcanos of Morrowind, provably related with the geology of the eastmarch,the moultais and lakes of High Rock…
    you may be interested in developing the project as if you were a scloar from another oblivion plane(t) unable to travel to tamryel directly; however yo wan to know and understand is geology an you can only get information from probes, superficial maps an occasional voyages
    can the dwemmer caves have a natural origin?

    • Thanks for the comment lionmag!

      When mapping, to understand the order in which rocks were deposited and understand where they came from a knowledge of the surrounding geology is not necessary. However, when you come to ask why in relation to the geological history, this is where putting the area in context comes into importance.

      First, I will be looking at interpreting what sequence the rocks are laid down in the area then understanding how these individual rocks form to generate a basic hypothesis of the geological history. It is at this point that I can then look at other areas of Tamriel and try to interpret how they all got there.

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  11. Interesting! Have you talked to any of the game designers? Maybe there is something in the source code that indicates a “pattern” in the game’s geology and you could tell if it’s realistic or not….

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