Hey everyone, my posts tend to drag on a bit sometimes, so I’ll try to keep it short on words and with lots of pictures! While wandering around the tech alpha, I noticed the devs have made the same mistakes with their barrels and tubs as most ‘medieval’ themed games do: they’ve based their barrels and other staved vessels on late 19th/ early 20th century construction techniques and materials.
I know this seems like silly nitpicking. It kind of is! Still, I feel it’s important enough to be worth critiquing, even if it probably won’t ruin my enjoyment of the game if not addressed. People have pointed out smaller errors in armor designs. Personally, I think errors in material culture such as inaccurate barrel construction would stand out a lot more to your average medieval person if they were to play KCD.
The mistakes are mainly twofold:
1.) Hooping materials: This is the major issue. With few exceptions, up until the late 19th century staved vessels were bound by hoops made out of vegetal material. Poles of ash, hazel or chestnut were made into hoops bound at the ends by osier (Salix sp.) fibers. These types of hoops are the rule in pre-20thC archaeology, art, and even photography. The exceptions seem to be staved vessels with special purposes or status. Buckets often had metal hoops. The barrels at the Sutton Hoo ‘royal’ ship burial also had metal hoops, as did some barrels found in 16thC Spanish treasure ship wrecks. Other hoop materials, such as rope, I have yet to see outside of 20thC decoration pieces.
2.) Shapes and sizes: This is harder to describe with words, so I’ll show it more in the pictures below. Essentially, medieval barrels pre-1500’s appear to be narrower in proportion than KCD barrels. Larger barrels were narrower, and also taller.
KCD Barrels, Buckets & Tubs
Barrels on left appear to have hoops made of vegetal material, but not clear. Both types quite squat. Ones on right have inaccurate metal hoops
Not sure if this type of bucket had metal hoops. Tubs in the background certainly wouldn’t have
As far as I am aware, there is no evidence for rope being used as a barrel hoop. Aside from Skyrim!
The barrel shape is probably more accurate, but again, metal hoops. Bucket seems plausible. Curiously though, there is no archaeological or artistic evidence for rope being used as a bucket handle. They were either proper metal handles, or a short wooden pole passing through both holes
14thC barrels used to line a medieval well in Odense, Denmark. Notice surviving wooden hoops
Well preserved late 16thC barrel. Notice wooden hoops with osier ligatures
In situ medieval bucket, showing metal hoops
Medieval bucket with original iron handle. Hoops are modern, reconstructed based on the fact that had they been metal they would have survived like the handle did. So they were probably a softer wood
Art and photos
Medieval art showing barrels, buckets and tubs. All from between 14th-15thC. Notice how aside from a bucket, everything is hooped with wood. There is possibly only one barrel, top left in the first image, that could arguably have a metal hoop.
Photograph taken in 1865 of an army wagon during the US civil war. Notice barrel in foreground with wooden hoops, and bucket on wagon with metal hoops
Here are some good online sources with pictures and info on pre-modern cooperage:
1.) Change and Diversity Within Traditional Cooperage Technology - Great article discussing what the title says!
2.) Ancient cooperage picture database - Links to pictures (mainly artwork) of old barrels, tubs, buckets, etc. From Roman to pre-modern times. In polish. Forum post where I found the link.
3.) Coopers on Larsdatter linkpages - Page dedicated to images of coopers, from the Larsdatter Medieval and Renaissance Material Culture linkpages.
4.) Odense barrels - Information on the context of the medieval barrels found in Odense in 2014.