When were those cave paintings on Dragonstone made?


In this past Sunday’s new episode of Game of Thrones, Jon Snow leads Daenerys Targaryen into the caves beneath Dragonstone. He wants to show her the dragonglass before it is mined, along with another discovery he’s made: deep inside a cavern, his torch illuminates ancient carvings made by the Children of the Forest depicting the Children, the First Men and the White Walkers. Jon explains that even though the Children and the First Men had been at war for centuries, they joined forces to fight the White Walkers, just as Jon and Dany must do now.

The carvings confirm that the Children and the First Men once lived and fought together, but they also raise several questions. Exactly when were these carvings made? At what point did the Children and the First Men become allies? When and why did the White Walkers attack the other inhabitants of Westeros? Let’s cobble together a rudimentary timeline based on what we know from the show and from the collected knowledge of the internet.

The Children were the original inhabitants of Westeros and lived primarily in forests and caves. When the First Men crossed the Arm of Dorne into Westeros roughly 12 thousand years ago, they cut down the forests and burned the sacred Weirwood trees. Fighting back, the Children waged war on the First Men, a war that lasted for around two thousand years.

The Children did not fare well in this war, as the First Men were able to achieve and maintain the upper hand in the conflict because of their horses, bronze weapons and superior size and strength. To protect themselves against the First Men, at some point the Children created the White Walkers by driving a shard of dragonglass into the heart of a First Man.

The Children intended to use the White Walkers to turn the First Men’s own dead against them. But eventually, the Children and the First Men fought to an impasse. Weary of all the strife, they signed a pact with each other. The Pact gave control of the open lands to mankind and control of the forests to the Children, and the two races lived in peace, side by side, for four thousand years.

Now, somewhere in here, the Children lose control of the White Walkers, although it’s not clear why or how or when. All we know is that when they come back into the story, it’s with a vengeance.

Approximately eight thousand years ago (so about two thousand years after the signing of the Pact), the Long Night descended upon Westeros. Old Nan tells Bran in Season One that the Long Night lasted a generation, and that those who didn’t perish from famine or the cold had to face the White Walkers. The Children and the First Men banded together in what became known as the War for the Dawn, and after discovering that dragonglass could kill the Walkers, drove them back. It was then that Bran the Builder, with the help of the Children’s magic, erected the Wall as a barrier against the Walkers and the Night’s Watch was formed.

The Children, never populous, suffered major casualties in the War for the Dawn, and their numbers dwindled until the Andals invaded Westeros six thousand years ago. The Andals, who followed the Faith of the Seven, considered the Children’s belief in the Old Gods to be blasphemy, and persecuted them. At this point, the few remaining Children in Westeros sought safety beyond the Wall.

So what does this tell us about the carvings beneath Dragonstone? Not a whole lot, but it’s logical to assume they were probably made between six and eight thousand years ago. The Children all but disappeared from the known world after the Andal invasion, and, at least according to Jon Snow’s interpretation, the carvings depict the war against the White Walkers. These two events bookend the timeline during which the Children would have been able to tell the story of the War for the Dawn and still be living in and around modern-day Dragonstone.

As for when and why the White Walkers turned against their creators and attacked the Children and the First Men — who knows? Hopefully we’ll find out before the story is done.

Next: We go shot by shot through the trailer for 'Eastwatch'

As a creepy addendum, let’s note that the spiral pattern wee see in the Children’s paintings…

…is echoed in the way they arranged stones around their sacred tress…

…and in the way the White Walkers arrange corpses.

So it’s creepy all the way down.

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