Armor and Weapon Comparison: Europe, Asia and others

Jan 2015
2,843
MD, USA
#21
Yeah, unfortunately, something like this could go on for hundreds of pages, and never really be usable. It's just trying to cover way too much, and it can't be organized by region or armor type or era, if you lump it all together here.

Also, the transition era from Bronze Age to Iron Age in Europe and the Mediterranean region is a chronological disaster, and many artifacts are poorly or badly dated. All of those European cuirasses, for instance, are simply translations of the Greek "bell" cuirass (like the one from Argos) with different decoration. Hence they are all early Iron Age, 8th century BC or later.

There was some mention of comparative weights of different kinds of armor--that is all wildly variable and depends on what can be subtle differences in thickness. We can't say that bronze scale armor is "heavier", because it won't be if the metal is thinner. We also have to be careful about discussing how organic materials are "lighter" than metal, because they simply will not give as much protection for the same weight. In other words, an organic armor that protects just as well as a metal one will be *heavier* (and much thicker), not lighter. Just sayin'.

Comparative armor study can be fascinating, no mistake! But trying to compare everything to everything just can't be done on a forum like this.

Matthew
 
Likes: Todd Feinman
Aug 2014
4,033
Australia
#23
It is impossible to know the weight of armour by using museum catalogues. Take the Dendra panoply for example. What we have in the Nauplion Museum has been heavily restored and a lot of material has been removed. In various publications its weight is listed at anywhere from 15 kg to 18 kg but it would have been a lot heavier in its original condition. I own one of the most accurate reconstructions and it weighs closer to 25 kg, and that doesn't include the textile liner we know it had.

Look at mail armour. Virtually none of the examples we have today weigh the same as they did when they were in use for three main reasons.

1. Iron expands in volume as it oxidises. This effect is exaggerated in mail because of the high ratio of surface area to volume.
2. A lot of material is removed from an excavated item when it is cleaned up and restored.
3. Mail wears down during its lifetime and the links become thinner. Often we only see mail at the end of its lifetime rather than at the beginning.

The only examples of mail from which we can get useful measurements are those that haven't been subjected to any of the above three conditions.
 
Likes: Todd Feinman
Aug 2014
4,033
Australia
#25
The most effective and versatile armour ever invented is mail. It saw continuous use in virtually every metal using culture on the planet for the best part of two thousand years.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,835
Sydney
#26
there is an economic argument good armor not only needed a hight level of technolgy
but also a high level of spending ,
most of the foot soldiers could only afford what they could get from scavenging after a battle

IE loosing not only made one weaker , it also made the winner stronger from the spoils
 
Jan 2015
2,843
MD, USA
#27
there is an economic argument good armor not only needed a hight level of technolgy
but also a high level of spending ,
most of the foot soldiers could only afford what they could get from scavenging after a battle

IE loosing not only made one weaker , it also made the winner stronger from the spoils
That can be very overstated. Since battles did not usually end with one side being wiped out, most of a losing army would survive to flee. Those killed or wounded enough to be unable to escape might be 10 to 15 percent of a force. And presumably that would be heavily weighted towards the UNarmored men in a force, since the armored men would be better protected. So there might be very little armor recovered from the fallen, along with a scattering of shields, some of which would be damaged. Not enough to equip another army, for sure.

Also remember that many cultures did things like sacrificing captured arms in bogs or lakes or sacred groves, or dedicating them in temples. Or there might be strict rules regarding who was awarded battle spoils, in which case they were more likely to go to the more proficient warriors, who were already more likely to be well-equipped in the first place.

On the other hand, I have heard that in the later middle ages there was a booming industry in second-hand equipment, so "professional" looters would be on hand to collect items for their inventory! Though of course that also means less free gear lying around for the peasant militia guy to find.

Loot *could* be a source for equipment sometimes, don't get me wrong! I just don't think it was expected to be a significant source, most of the time.

Matthew
 
Jul 2015
277
Japari Park
#28
Scale is more flexible than lamellar; you can sometimes see both being used in the same armour; e.g. Chinese armour. Scale was used for the flexible portions of some spolioi, too. for chariot archers or horse archers, it provided good flexible protection, presenting two or three layers of metal or hide to arrows, javelins and sling shot.
It should be noted that what Chinese called "scale armor" in their native tongue would still be classified as lamellar armor in modern definition (nine out of ten times anyway). i.e. it's just a lamellar armor with plates shaped like fish scale.
 
Likes: Todd Feinman
Oct 2013
6,083
Planet Nine, Oregon
#29
It should be noted that what Chinese called "scale armor" in their native tongue would still be classified as lamellar armor in modern definition (nine out of ten times anyway). i.e. it's just a lamellar armor with plates shaped like fish scale.
A surprising amount of scale is like that in other cultures too; a backing wasn't always needed in some forms of "scale". Lamellar was possibly the earliest form of armour, not a new development chronologically, though it was probably seen as an improvement on scale later:
The discovery of 4,000-year-old Siberian knight armor made of bone
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#30
It is impossible to know the weight of armour by using museum catalogues. Take the Dendra panoply for example. What we have in the Nauplion Museum has been heavily restored and a lot of material has been removed. In various publications its weight is listed at anywhere from 15 kg to 18 kg but it would have been a lot heavier in its original condition. I own one of the most accurate reconstructions and it weighs closer to 25 kg, and that doesn't include the textile liner we know it had.

Look at mail armour. Virtually none of the examples we have today weigh the same as they did when they were in use for three main reasons.

1. Iron expands in volume as it oxidises. This effect is exaggerated in mail because of the high ratio of surface area to volume.
2. A lot of material is removed from an excavated item when it is cleaned up and restored.
3. Mail wears down during its lifetime and the links become thinner. Often we only see mail at the end of its lifetime rather than at the beginning.

The only examples of mail from which we can get useful measurements are those that haven't been subjected to any of the above three conditions.
Reproduction mail armor should be roughly representative in terms of weight. Even if it is butted mail, the lack of rivets shouldn't significantly effect the overall weight. Even when you take rust into account, what would be the impact on weight? Maybe 10%, 20% at most?

Probably the greatest impact on weight on mail would be the size of the rings and and the thickness of the wire used. Heavier gauge wire, with tighter rings would be heavier than mail using lighter rings. Since, even after centuries, I still think we have a good idea of the thickness of wire used, and hence the overall weight of the mail armor.
 

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