In this idea I have, metals are gathered and held by various higher class entities in my world and trees are off limits for the most part, what would be options for the natural technological development for the lower classes in my world? I plan on progressing from a medieval time stance and going forward so it’s not stagnant in technology, what would be other materials to work with to develop the lower class technology level aside from say stone? What would humans work with?

Would rock/stone be the only option?

Humans looking to develop their technology essentially without metal or wood(or magic), what would be other technology levels developed with materials? I know there’s stone but I want to think of other options and how far those could go. Thank you in advance for answering!

(Edit): Clarification

Thinking about my question more, nothing has been set in stone with this idea but I believe the technology level would reach that of the medieval period before not having access to more wood or metal afterwards. Hopefully that doesn't confuse at all.

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    $\begingroup$ "I plan on progressing from a medieval time stance and going forward so it’s not stagnant in technology" Medieval technology uses a lot of wood and metal, so I don't understand what you mean. Do you mean the world starts with medieval technology but then never gets more wood or metal? $\endgroup$ – Daron Feb 6 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ What would humans work with? the SAME stuff they worked with to get from the stone age through bronze age(whoops) and iron age(oh carp!) to get to the Medieval age. p.s. without wood, and without mining (metal is kinda obligatory for any mining), HOW will they make fires? Cook food? Keep the wolves away from the campfire(oh dangit.... their... whatever they gather around socially, when preparing food) $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 6 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ Without metal or wood, you have no plow. Without a plow, you have no reliable food supply for settlements, and folks are primarily nomadic hunter-gatherers. If your tribe spends all day gathering (since hunting requires cooking) and then moving on, you have no upper or lower classes, and no sages to study magic. You will have very few people at all. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 6 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ @user535733 Don't need a wood or metal plow, just poke hole in the ground with a stick and.. koff.. I mean, with a bone. Hmm, i wonder if a scapula makes a good plow? It make a nice shovel, that i know. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 6 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ @PcMan and how do you kill an animal with large scapulae? Spears!! $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 7 at 19:17

You are neglecting a vital aspect in your set up: without access to wood you will have less access to fire, and without fire you can practically forget about technology. While for some home usage wood can be (and was) replaced by less noble combustibles like dung and straw, you can't use them for anything which has slightly high requirements in terms of energy.

Even baking clay to make pottery, which for some applications could replace wood, requires fire. And sun baked clay is way less performing than fire baked clay.

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    $\begingroup$ You could make normal fire using non-wood plants. Grasses, reeds, camel dung, etc. For the high-temperature needs bone makes a nice hot fire. But.... demand would outstrip supply massively. How easily mineable are coal seams, without any access to metal tools for mining? $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 6 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ @PcMan "demand would outstrip supply massively". That's the point of "without access to wood you will have less access to fire". Sure, you'll have some. but not much. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 7 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ You could have a land with geisers or deep lava pits to get some heat that could overcome this issue. Also would fit in a non-tree wasteland. In geology a fault would give a similar outcome, in my town we have a 73ºC natural water fountain. $\endgroup$ – Sxubach Feb 8 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan, the problem is not just if other plants could be used, but how much you would need. Even a small wood burning kiln can consume over 1 cubic meter of firewood in a single burning. Wood burns WAY longer than grass which is important since you need to slowly heat and cool ceramics over the course of nearly 20 hours to keep them from shattering from heat stress. High temperature fires burn up a large bundle of grass in seconds so you would need an entire silo of grass being constantly feed in just to fire a few small pots or to cook a meal for that matter $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Feb 8 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki would need to process the grass. Shred & compact into briquettes. And even then, both burning temperature and smoke will be a problem. A pottery (and especially a porcelain!) kiln does not want huge billowing plumes of thick smoke. Also remember in OP scenario wood does not disappear, it is merely utterly forbidden. Meaning virtually all the land is covered in forests, not grasslands. Material shortage!! $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 9 at 6:34

Bones and Pottery. Later, composites and (natural) plastics

It depends slightly in what the Gods define as "trees". A redwood is a tree. So is a majestic Oak. But what about a crabapple, at 6ft tall shrub-shaped? Or a dwarf willow, which is smaller than the average Twinkie snack?
Is Bamboo a tree? This is a very important question!!

Assume anything that generates what we would cal "wood" is a tree. Thus no trees, many larger shrubs are forbidden, bamboo is forbidden but reeds are not.

SO, no wood, and no metal.
What you have lost:
*Abundant cheap strong building material
*Abundant cheap tools
*Easy access to large fires. You still have easy access to small/campfires by using grass and dung.
*virtually all access to HOT fires
*the ability to shape and cut hard stone. This includes making blocks of hard stone, and mining in most rock. Shaping hard stone like granite is virtually impossible without access to hard metal tools. (much!)Softer rocks like limestone and sandstone can be shaped by abrasive methods, but they make very poor tools. And hard-rock tools would need to be ground down to shape using the most ridiculously labor and time intensive methods.

Pottery. And that fancy pottery called Porcelain. And that enormously fancy pottery called Glass.
You still have access to good clay, and the means to shape it.
Basic curing can be done with a grass fire.
Hard curing pottery will be problematic, grass and shrub and dung fires are simply not hot enough.
You could use bone for the fire, but the amount you would need to burn to fire pottery would be prohibitive. Figure 20kg of bone burnt to fire each 1kg of hot-fired pottery or porcelain or glass. You would run out of bone very quickly!
But what about charcoal? oops, that's made out of wood.
But what about Coal? Yes coal would work just fine. Unfortunately the amount of coal that can be accessed without using any metal tools is severely limited. On Earth the vast majority of open-air coal seams were completely depleted by the early middle ages, and that was by a culture that had access to wood and charcoal for fires!

Still. You can make household level tools and appliances out of roughly shaped rock and semi-fired pottery and bone.

Later, when you develop the technology, you will be making a LOT of your tools and materials out of composites. NO, not industrial era fibreglass and carbon fiber! But rather from bone and grass with somewhat natural glues. Pressure-molded grassfiber & shellac axles. Layered woven reed armor. Plastics made from pressure-treated insect Chitin. That sort of thing.

It would not be easy!

Edit 8 feb for OP question edit.

technology level would reach that of the medieval period before not having access to more wood or metal afterward

Instant, global catastrophe. People would LOSE access to both metal and wood, which they have had since antiquity, which they have build their technology around, which 100% of their infrastructure is based upon.
Mass starvation and death would follow, and Human culture would regress to (early) stone age.

It's like being both blind and deaf. An enormous handicap, but if you grew up with it, you can possibly cope. Possibly.
But virtually no-one can cope with everyone losing all sight and hearing at the same time.

Nor could society cope with losing access to metal and wood in an instant.

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    $\begingroup$ You don't need abrasive methods to shape stone. You just need to hit it hard enough in the right spot, and a chunk will just break off. This process, referred to as knapping, is how paleolithic people made their stone tools. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Feb 7 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 for rock with a smooth crystalline nature, like Flint or Basalt or Obsidian, yes. For soft rocks with a grainy structure, like Sandstone or Limestone or Chalk, you need to abrade it into shape. And for hard rocks with a grainy structure like Granite, you are up the creek without a paddle, if you do not have access to something harder than that rock to nibble away at it. An, unfortunately, these very hard grainy textured rocks are the only ones with suitable physical characteristics to make something more complex than a blade or chisel out of. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 7 at 11:37
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 you try making a wagon axle out of any of the knappable rocks. SImply will not work. You will not be able to achieve sufficient smoothness and roundness, and the resultant axle will break so easily. A suitably polished granite axle works just fine. if you can manage to make it without bankrupting the village. It is these sort of things that will prove hard to replace, absent metal and wood. Axles. Chisel heads. Bearings. Drills. almost none of these can be made from stone or bone or pottery or glass or composites. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 7 at 11:40
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    $\begingroup$ "A suitably polished granite axle works just fine. if you can manage to make it without bankrupting the village." Until it snaps in half because stone only handles compressive forces well. Also, chisel heads and drills can both be made out of flint stuck on the end of sticks or bone - this is how Stone Age societies made their chisels and drills, after all. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Feb 7 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ you need charcoal to get ceramics and glass. people stuck with grass for fuel can barely manage to cook their food. you need a LOT of grass to boil water. the biggest thing you loose is most of your fuel fuel sources and all the efficient ones. also bone makes for pathetic tools bone looses strength quickly outside an animal. In the real world bone tools are limited to antler and small objects. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 7 at 17:41

In theory, the lower classes would have many options. Peat provides a good energy source and apparently can be used to make charcoal for iron forges. (In response to comments: Other carbon options include biochar from fiber crops such as hemp, or lampblack collected as a byproduct of routine low-tech life (vegetable or whale oil lamps). Even if "trees" are off limits, they could scrounge driftwood and coconut shells. But the way you describe it, any attempt to generate metal - even from peat and loose ore - will get them in trouble. Note that metal is most of the periodic table; they could push their limits with some things like silicon and boron, but many technologies are excluded simply by the premise. Still, they might get to some nonmetallic conductors like polythiazyl made from sulfur and nitrogen, and thereby to electrical technology, and hence maybe to silicon based semiconductors.

Of course, the caveat to all this is that the upper classes make the rules. The moment the lower class finds any way to better themselves, the rules will be changed and they'll be locked up or killed for being "uppity".

  • $\begingroup$ "they could scrounge driftwood and coconut shells". Not in Medieval Europe... and there's not much driftwood. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 7 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the question said "in my world". Okay, maybe that's not what it meant by that. Maybe you can use hemp for your charcoal? $\endgroup$ – Mike Serfas Feb 7 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ Depends whether the use of "medieval" in the question implies a literal European-style medieval world or just an approximately similar level of technology. However it's hard to see how even that level of development would have occurred without access to metal and wood. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Griffiths Feb 8 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ @NathanGriffiths the problem is that medieval is a contraction of "medium aevum": middle age, and there's only one "Middle Age" in Western culture. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 8 at 0:23
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeSerfas the problem is that you need a lot of organic mass (and not just any organic mass, either; the drier and denser the better) to make technology, and tall (that vertical axis really reduces the area needed to grow the organic matter), thick, dense, low-resin trees cut and thoroughly dried are just perfect because they were everywhere. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 8 at 0:32

Some answers here say that grass-and-dung fires aren't as hot as wood fires.

Speculating here, but perhaps they will find a way to press grass-and-dung into pellets which burn hot.

And they might have a very productive grass-like plant which grows fast. They could collect the matter in big vats and produce pellets with heat and pressure.

This wouldn't solve the problem of missing wood as construction material but I think people will figure out getting things that burn hot enough for pottery.

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    $\begingroup$ nono. wood fire temperatures can be reached easily enough. There's a bit of an issue to achieve low-smoke fires, but that's not a showstopper. The problem is to match coal and charcoal temperatures. The sort of heat needed to make high-fired pottery, and glass. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 7 at 11:47
  • $\begingroup$ Why not charcoal the pellets? $\endgroup$ – nalply Feb 7 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ how are you compressing pellets without metal or wood? how are they getting lots of heat and pressure when they have only limited fuel? you need a LOT of grass to get similar heat to even a small amount of wood $\endgroup$ – John Feb 7 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ Don't underestimate the inventiveness of people. Carve small depressions into two flat stones and put the wet pellets into them, then press. Put a lot of stones onto the press. After successfully making pottery, use a pottery press instead. — Long time ago I read a short story about a planet missing metal. Iron on that planet was rare as gold. Aliens did a lot of technology with pottery including steam machines (dangerous). Humans visited them and realized that these aliens were more clever and practical than humans. Humans tried to hide metal things from them but were found out. $\endgroup$ – nalply Feb 8 at 7:20

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