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After doing some research to find natural resources in a swamp, I found that a swamp wasn't really able to do anything beyond it being good for fish growth, as a sort of natural water and air filter, and as a place for some iron ore (hematite) deposits as water flows through.

Now, naturally there would be different animals than in a normal swamp,. and it would be more dangerous to the layman, I'm looking for natural resources, something with magical properties, or some 'unobtainium' (gold, silver, mithril, etc., etc.) that makes sense in your standard fantasy setting.

What would reasonably be found within a swamp that would make it a valuable asset worth fighting over?

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  • $\begingroup$ Is there a significant difference between what might be found in a normal swamp and a fantasy swamp as mentioned in your title? It might be a prime source of magic or some kind of unobtainium if you're leaning towards the fantasy angle. $\endgroup$ – Wylia Feb 23 '16 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ Well, naturally there will be different animals, and it would probably be more dangerous to the layman, I guess I was just looking for a reasonable magic or unobtainium that makes sense in your standard fantasy setting. Basically, I want to make it something worth fighting over beyond just 'it's extra land over there'... $\endgroup$ – BaseHobo Feb 23 '16 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it would be best if you added that middle part into the question to help narrow down the possible answers. And welcome to the site. $\endgroup$ – Wylia Feb 23 '16 at 23:26
  • $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome to the site. I also would like to see your comment up in the question. Otherwise it's good. $\endgroup$ – J_F_B_M Feb 23 '16 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ Swamps, despite whatever is said, are not water filters. A shady rover might be, but a swamp is essentially a giant muddy puddle. A puddle you very much do not want to drink out of. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 24 '16 at 0:58
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Peat. Peat is a precursor to coal, and a valuable fuel source in its own right. Prehistoric people may have fought over it for this reason alone.

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  • $\begingroup$ One of the main components in peat is spaghnum moss, which was used as a sort of poultice during WWI. This might be an interesting line to pursue. $\endgroup$ – BaseHobo Feb 24 '16 at 14:57
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Exotic Flora/Fauna (Plants & Animals)

Biodiversity

Generally jungle/swamp regions have higher biodiversity. So if you need or want exotic biological materials (e.g. for potion making), then the swamps could be very valuable indeed.

Mineral Wealth

Generally mining for minerals in a swamp is a losing proposition, however, a couple of exceptions to this rule are known.

Gold Mine
If the swamp filled/flooded an extinct volcanic caldera, much mineral wealth might lie below the swamp. A formation similar to that described exists in the US state of North Carolina and was the source of the only major gold mining on the US East Coast.

Iron (et al) Mine
Furthermore, biological action in some swamps concentrates elements like iron (see bog iron).

Strategic Location

If for example, two major landmasses are connected by a swampy land bridge, then it isn't so much the swamp as the location that you will want to keep.

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    $\begingroup$ A swamp might be a lousy place to mine, but it's an excellent place to dredge. Imagine a river network running through gold-rich (but inhospitable) mountains down into a wide, swampy floodplain. The best way to find the gold is dredging and sifting the swamp water. The same applies for various kinds of gemstone. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Feb 24 '16 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, swamps are great places to look for iron. Look up bog iron to be specific. More easily collected than mining a vein of ore from a mountain and generally easier to refine. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Feb 24 '16 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ Your prompting also got me to include the references for what I was referring to. Most people didn't know the US had a gold mining industry on the US East Coast and why we found gold there. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Feb 24 '16 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ I used a temporary account to create this (as it was my first one in the WB stack exchange), and now that I have an actual account, it's not letting me select an accepted answer. I would like to say that I accept this as the answer though. $\endgroup$ – BaseHobo Feb 25 '16 at 15:24
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Mythical treasure

There might be some kind of myth that exists that says that there is valuable treasure in the swamp. Therefore, people would spend days searching the swamp for the treasure.

Lumber

Often swamps contain trees. From trees comes wood/lumber, probably one of the most useful items you can have in the construction of a structure or a tool. Obviously, wood could make the swamp a good spot simply because trees don't grow in many places outside of the swamp.

Water

Maybe the surrounding area is a desert that receives very little rainfall and has no natural bodies of water. Swamps often contain water, although fresh or not remains to be seen, and this watered could be filtered or drunk, depending on whether it is saltwater or freshwater, and whether it is contaminated or not.

Animals/Plants

Perhaps that type of alligator that lives in the swamp has hardy meat that can last for days without rotting. Perfect for tribal dinners. Maybe that rare petunia-like flower in the swamp has some divine medicinal properties. You might just want to harvest all of the flowers from the swamp.

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  • $\begingroup$ The best part about this comment is that the players in my RPG actually just killed a 40 foot long crodocile at the edge of the swamp and promptly returned to town and sold the meat, bones, and hide. $\endgroup$ – BaseHobo Feb 24 '16 at 14:46
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There's always the archaeological angle — ruins buried under or overgrown by the swamp, which could be attractive for purely material reasons, such as rumoured/actual solid gold idols/sarcophagi, as has already been mentioned by fi12; or if you're going for a magical angle, devices of incredible power or caches of forgotten knowledge.

For a less pulpy feel, it could just be the ruins themselves that are of some deep significance — an ancient holy city (because we know all too well that these tend to cause conflict), or the ancestral capital of a nation gripped in some hysteria about former imperial glory — consider the stories of Saddam Hussein developing an obsession with the Babylonian empire. While confirming that connection I also learned that Saddam Hussein did actually drain a marsh, only for much more mundane reasons: either to reclaim arable land, or to divert the water towards some people he felt like persecuting.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not any kind of geoscientist but I feel like it's quite plausible, since both swamps and great cities tend to be found next to rivers. $\endgroup$ – Toadfish Feb 24 '16 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ I feel like you directly copied my answer. I was the first to mention gold treasure in the swamp $\endgroup$ – fi12 Feb 24 '16 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ @fi12 you did mention gold, but I was mainly talking about ruins as a location, and gold as one of a few things you might find in those ruins. $\endgroup$ – Toadfish Feb 24 '16 at 12:26
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The value of things found in a swamp worth fighting for depends on:

1- the size of the swamp.

2- the location of the swamp.

3- the information/technology level of the people in the world.

These are the things which are worth fighting for, for a modern day swamp and modern day technology level. Edit them according to the technology level of the people in your world.

1- Rare/Valuable Fossils

La Brea Tar Pits are one of the richest source of highly valuable fossils in the modern world. Thousands of fossils have been discovered and excavated from these tar pits and thousands more are in the process of excavation. Notice that these tar pits are solid ground now-a-days, but in your world, you could have the fossils buried in the depths of a (large) swamp.

2- Route To Ore/Mine

There is a goldmine in an area and long ago some medieval ruler started to dig it up for gold and later had to stop work because of a war or geographical changes. The mine is still completely intact underground and there are large quantities of gold still present there. On the entrance of the mine, now there is a large swamp! If two or more tribes/groups/companies know about this, they will definitely like to invest their resources for claiming the ownership of the mine.

3- Home To Rare Migrant Wildlife Species

There is a species of very large and beautiful bird which is very rare. These are migratory birds and migrate between two continents. In this continent, these birds only nest around a specific area for laying eggs and settling for a few months. This area is in the form of a swamp. The feathers of these birds are highly prized as ornamental objects and nobles are willing to pay high prices for buying one of those birds as a pet. Once again, different tribes/companies would have their eyes on the ownership of that swamp and would not hesitate fighting for it.

4- Water Properties

Let us say there is an ore of some rare mineral under the swamp and the water of the swamp has immense medicinal properties (cure of some otherwise incurable disease). Even with the technology level of today, you cannot produce that mineral compound easily in the lab and the swamp has large amounts of that mineral dissolved in the water. I'm sure pharmaceutical companies would not mind waging proxy wars in the area for claiming ownership of that swamp and its healing waters.

5- Historical/Religious Importance

This is self explanatory. The swamp might have been home to some saint or some mythical creature in the folklore and having ownership of it is believed to bring goodluck and prosperity.

6- Important Trade Route

Let us say that the area around the swamp is an important trade route and any village/tribe who has control over the swamp can put their war boats/canoes there and tax all caravans. Every tribe/city around that swamp would want to have their control on it and would not mind going to a war for it.

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