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Kevin S.





Joined: 25 Aug 2009

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PostPosted: Thu 03 Dec, 2009 8:06 pm    Post subject: At What Range Would the Roman Scutum Be Safe From a Longbow?         Reply with quote

The longbow power would be 70 -100 lbs or maybe even 120 lbs.

Has there ever been such a test?
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Dec, 2009 8:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
At What Range Would the Roman Scutum Be Safe From a Longbow?


At least a thousand years, give or take Laughing Out Loud

Cheers

GC

Sorry, at first impression I found it humorous
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Andrew Pribor





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PostPosted: Thu 03 Dec, 2009 8:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:
Quote:
At What Range Would the Roman Scutum Be Safe From a Longbow?


At least a thousand years, give or take Laughing Out Loud

Cheers

GC

Sorry, at first impression I found it humorous


No offense, but that IS funny ( & quite true)

"The Bow brings grief and sorrow to the foeman; armed with Bow may we sudue all regions."
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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Thu 03 Dec, 2009 9:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

lol. I understand what you guys mean. However, I am just really curious about it.
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David Wilson




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Dec, 2009 11:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think a more valid test would be a Roman scutum against an eastern-style composite bow, or, if you really want more power, a ballista (these are threats that the Roman army actually did face)..... anyway, the scutum is probably more than enough protection against most archery... UNTIL you have lots of archers shooting at you (one's bound to get around there, sooner or later!). But the ballista? At reasonable ranges, it will likely penetrate the shield and the guy behind it....

Anyway, that's IMHO, ymmv, and I don't want to be the guy testing this theory (well, I'll be the archer, someone else can be the legionary...) Eek! Laughing Out Loud

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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Dec, 2009 9:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, this won't be the reply that you want, but "it depends!" The types of wood used to make the scutum varied, as did the thickness. We're still arguing about what was used to cover the face (felt, leather, rawhide, linen, glue, gesso, paint, etc.). The wood was frequently thicker in the middle than at the edges. The shield is also curved, so the chances of a square hit are lower. There is a metal and/or wooden boss, and there might even be applied metal decoration.

I won't even start on variations in the arrows!

But the bottom line is that the shield itself is not supposed to be "safe" from any weapon. It's supposed to keep YOU safe from the weapon, by taking the force and the damage. I'd much prefer 20 arrows poking half their length through my shield, even if it means a couple holes in my arm, to 20 arrows feathering my corpus!

I can't think of any published tests offhand of more-or-less accurate longbow and medieval-style arrows against a more-or-less accurate Roman scutum. Most serious scholarly tests would stick to weapons and defences from the same era, after all. Probably any number of people have shot various arrows at various scuta, but it's also likely that their conclusions varied from "invincible" to "worthless"!

Like I said, not what you're looking for, but...

Vale,

Matthew
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R.M. Henson




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Dec, 2009 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Try watching this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsZnTCQptWc

It's not a Scutum, but the test involves nothing but a simple shield constructed from a light wood, glue, and sheep hide. It's a very light shield but proved effective in absorbing blows.

In my opinion the Scutum is much more sturdy than the Anglo Saxon flat faced shield, as it was curved for structural strength, and was reinforced with canvas, hide, and iron. I doubt even a English longbow would be able to get through it.

Also, as I recall, there were test done with woven wicker shields covered with tar and canvas that were effective as well, and those are nowhere as sturdy as a scutum.

Apparently the key to it was the hide or canvas that covers it. Without it, the shield was almost worthless.

I'm unsure of the bow poundage in the video, but they are firing at the shield pretty close. Closer than you would normally find an archer in relation to a foot soldier.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Dec, 2009 6:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:
Quote:
At What Range Would the Roman Scutum Be Safe From a Longbow?


At least a thousand years, give or take Laughing Out Loud

Cheers

GC

Sorry, at first impression I found it humorous

Actually, as I understand it Iron Age Germans would have shot at Caesar's milites with bows which any 15th century Englishman would have recognized. I think the oldest longbow found in Europe is Neolithic. The difference is that Celtic and German armies probably didn't use massed archery, and most archers in the early army would be using hunting bows with a moderate draw weight not war bows with a powerful draw.

In an article in Barry Molloy ed., The Cutting Edge (Tempus, 2007) Scythian bows with a draw of 22-25 kg at 60-65 cm shot a variety of arrows at replica Dura Europos scutums (from the 3rd century CE). The range was 12 m. Arrows were unable to penetrate more than 5 cm unti the shield had absorbed several dozen arrows and was starting to break up. But the bows you're talking about are much stronger and fire heavier arrows.
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Adam Rudling




Location: Coventry, England
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PostPosted: Sat 05 Dec, 2009 5:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For what its worth we - The Vicus - demonstrate a variety of draw weight bows versus a range of target boards.
The most powerfull bow we have is 115lb eastern style & at 30 meters / yards it doesnt really penetrate a 12mm / 0.5 in flat ply board.
We did have a target made up from lime wood, but a variety of pila & arrows chewed it up pretty quick - mostly the boards split from the pila & javelins.
Am not sure of the heads shot from that bow but we have a variety of replica roman period arrows.

When I get my skills up to the task I'll make some accurate wooden scuta ( we can argue about hte coverings when I get that bit done ) & then test them again.
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Adam Rudling




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Dec, 2009 5:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also to point out most of our scuta are the usual 9mm ish thickness & thats plenty to lug around , but will stop the arrows from the 115lb bow most of the time sans 3-5 inches max - mostly ....
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sat 05 Dec, 2009 9:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Plutarch wrote that Parthian arrows at Carrhae riveted shields to the arms that held them and nailed feet to the ground.
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Karl Randall




Location: South Korea
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2009 5:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just did some testing on this very subject (well, not the longbow, but scuta and protection against missiles) at the beginning of the year.

I was unable to get veneer of any thickness (curse the availability of proper lumber in this country) and so I used high grade birch plywood 2mm thick, both in 2 layers and 3 layers. I also did versions in both curved and flat shapes. Flat shapes tended to be used by the auxiliaries. Also, late imperial shields were thinner, averaging 5-6mm thick verses the comparatively thicker republican shields.

My shields tended to be a bit too thick for their respective period, but the results were basically identical regardless. A couple of caveats regarding my results. First, I did not have access to any high-speed cameras or fancy testing equipment. Second - it is uncertain if scuta were faced with leather or rawhide, but as I simply could not find any rawhide, I was stuck using leather. Linen was used for the backing. If I had to do the whole thing over again with any material I wanted, I would use hardwood veneer (probably oak), rawhide, linen and felt. I would likely use heavier arrow shafts as well (I was stuck using fiberglass, again due to issues with material availability).

Using a 50 pound draw bow and nearly identical arrowheads to those found in the video, arrows penetrated quite easily, even at a distance of 30 meters (anything beyond that and my aim started to go). No deflections, no "point only" penetrations - the arrows were transfixed after having penetrated 15-30cm. A curved shape didn't seem to help. That being said, the arrows were stopped before passing completely through.

A few comments on the video test. First, they don't mention the draw weight of the bow used. Second, the shield seems to remain fixed and is unable to rotate at all after being hit. Now this second point has no bearing on arrow strikes, but if hit with an ax or sword, the shield would naturally tend to rotate in-hand. In my own testing I had kind of prop-stand that was intentionally rather wobbly to mimic shield movement when being hit. For arrow strikes this didn't matter a bit, but when hit with a pilum the shields rotated significantly with the impact.

I would be greatly interested in repeating my tests if rawhide could be found out here in Busan, South Korea but so far I haven't had any luck. Should any of you have enough lying around that won't be used I'll spring for shipping.

Given that a war bow would likely have a 70 pound draw minimum, and there's a good chance an average war bow would have a draw weight of some 120 pounds, there is no way I'd trust a shield - even one of the British chap's, to keep me safe.

In conclusion, my tests and the video are not necessarily contradictory - rawhide might very well make a significant difference, but that the details posted regarding the test are slightly deficient.
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2009 9:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The limited testing I have shows that a shot fired from a longbow will not go clear through 1/4 inch thick wood. You might get up to 4 inch penetration with a 100+ lb bow at close range. Depends on the wood. What happens is that as the arrow goes through, it is gripped on the sides and the resistance slows it down. It can not go clean through 1/2 inch of foam for the same reason. It might go clean through plate. If you can penetrate the surface of plate armor, you will probably get more penetration then against wood. Once the head of the arrow penetrates plate, there is less resistance on the shaft of the arrow.

The Romans did use very formidable ballistas. A ballista bolt has the mass to build up the momentum so it can go deep enough into a shield to kill the man behind it.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2009 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the word "penetrate" needs to be clearly explained in these tests. Gerald of Wales described arrows from a Welsh bow penetrating an oak door 4 fingers thick. Later in the passage he says that the tips from the arrows were just visible on the inside of the door. Sure it was "penetrated" but the whole point of these tests is to discover the likelihood of the victim being injured by the arrow. If a soldier is carrying a shield and an arrow only manages to penetrate it by 15cm then he is not going to suffer anything more significant than a forearm injury.
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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2009 4:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm curious about something. I know that people bother to label some bow as "Welsh", "English", etc to disinguish the characteristics and abilility between the bows. However, I can never seem to find out the distinct ability of the "Welsh" longbow.

How much draw-weight can the Welsh Longbow achieve?
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Karl Randall




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2009 7:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I'm curious about something. I know that people bother to label some bow as "Welsh", "English", etc to disinguish the characteristics and abilility between the bows. However, I can never seem to find out the distinct ability of the "Welsh" longbow.

How much draw-weight can the Welsh Longbow achieve?


Great question.

The answer is no one knows. There aren't any surviving examples of Welsh longbows. Anecdotal evidence also remains limited, but it appears that at least some were made from elm. Until someone gets a 4" thick piece of oak and starts shooting arrows at (as mentioned previously in this thread) it we won't be able to get much more of an answer. Until longbow artifacts of the Mary Rose were examined in detail and modeled we really didn't know the answer for the English longbow either.

That being said, hunting weight bows have generally stayed between 40-50 pounds of draw weight throughout most of human history and across the majority of ethnic and cultural groups. There are exceptions: one group in Africa hunted elephants, and their bows tended to hover just over 100 lbs in draw weight. The Pygmy bushmen also of Africa however used "D" bows of some 30 pounds that were quite short - but they relied more on the use of poison to achieve a kill than arrow penetration. Modern compound bows tend to be a bit more powerful because they are easier to hold at full draw.

War bows generally started at 70 lbs draw weight (Cherokee Indians) and went up to about 200 lbs. A rough average would likely be 120 lbs draw weight for a war bow but that number is off the top of my head (from what I have read regarding existent war bow artifacts, of which not many survive and only represent a small handful of cultures) and so may not be accurate.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 11 Dec, 2009 3:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:
I'm curious about something. I know that people bother to label some bow as "Welsh", "English", etc to disinguish the characteristics and abilility between the bows. However, I can never seem to find out the distinct ability of the "Welsh" longbow.

How much draw-weight can the Welsh Longbow achieve?


I used the term "Welsh bow" to describe "a bow used by a Welshman". I meant no connotation as to the type of bow. The only Welsh bow specifically described by Gerald were those used by the Venta. He said that they "are not made of horn, ivory, or yew, but of wild elm; unpolished, rude, and uncouth, but stout; not calculated to shoot an arrow to a great distance, but to inflict very severe wounds in close fight."

Edit: I used this translation
http://www.buildinghistory.org/primary/gerald2.shtml
but I think it is wrong. IIRC the correct translation says that the bow was equally useful both at long distances and close in.


Last edited by Dan Howard on Fri 11 Dec, 2009 3:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 11 Dec, 2009 3:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Karl Randall wrote:
Anecdotal evidence also remains limited, but it appears that at least some were made from elm. Until someone gets a 4" thick piece of oak and starts shooting arrows at (as mentioned previously in this thread)

"Four fingers" is not equal to "four inches". It is probably less than three inches but it depends on who is measuring.
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Karl Randall




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PostPosted: Fri 11 Dec, 2009 5:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Agreed - my bad on that one, four fingers...

Again, as far as a "Welsh bow" we have no idea, and so Dan of course has the best answer possible given current knowledge - a bow used by a Welshman. But that wasn't really the question. Judging by the description it was *probably* a self bow, but beyond that we can't say. In so far as its power, any bow that can penetrate oak four fingers (albeit at an unknown distance) likely packs quite a wallop, which would also make it useful at greater ranges.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 11 Dec, 2009 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:

I used the term "Welsh bow" to describe "a bow used by a Welshman". I meant no connotation as to the type of bow. The only Welsh bow specifically described by Gerald were those used by the Venta. He said that they "are not made of horn, ivory, or yew, but of wild elm; unpolished, rude, and uncouth, but stout; not calculated to shoot an arrow to a great distance, but to inflict very severe wounds in close fight."

Edit: I used this translation
http://www.buildinghistory.org/primary/gerald2.shtml
but I think it is wrong. IIRC the correct translation says that the bow was equally useful both at long distances and close in.


Why do you think it's wrong?

Sounds normal enough for a high-draw-weight heavy-limbed self bow. High draw weight means that you can get a lot of energy in the arrow, heavy limbs mean that, despite this, you won't get the exceptionally high speed needed for really long range (assuming that Gerald's "great" really does mean "great" - if it doesn't, I'd suspect the translation too). Optimum performance with heavy arrows, to be able to have high energy without great speed, giving excellent penetration, which perhaps even a ballista would not be ashamed of (Gerald).

It's been a deliberate design choice elsewhere. E.g., Manchu bows, heavy Japanese bows.
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