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Kevin Coleman M.




PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2015 5:23 pm    Post subject: ringmail armor         Reply with quote

Does anyone have any information or photographs on the use of ringmail armor? I am particularly interested in whatever use it may have seen during the Viking Age. I am aware that chainmail was largely where it was at, at that time, but ring seems like a pretty serviceable stopgap for the man who can't afford a good, stout byrnie.
As I recall, most archaeological finds that have revealed viking armor have always turned up chainmail, which seems to indicate that the average raider would have most likely had padded or leather armor or none at all. Popular culture, for all its inaccuracy occasionally presents a plausible middle ground as seen in this shot from Vikings. Ragnar is clearly wearing a coat of tight rings stitched to a leather backing. Apart from the goofy raven, I am inclined to think that this wouldn't have been an uncommon option.
I am also interested in the armor's effectiveness. Was it a serviceable medium like a good brigandine, or is this more like Jack-Chains, which seem to have been worn, but with little real effect.

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Peter Spštling




Location: Germany
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2015 6:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFyXUUJumAM
Dude, don't watch that stuff '^^
There are reasons why they used maille, if they even had one. The stuff you ask for was often mentioned by authors in the late 19th and early 20th century. They didn't know what actually was depicted, like on the bayeux tappestry, so they made up all kinds of armor. Which was always rings or small plates sewn to a piece of textil.
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

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PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2015 7:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The first archaelogical an literary evidence for armor meant has been dated to be couple hundred years after the Viking era. Also, there is extremely little evidence indication that there was lammelar armor or leather torso in Northern Europe during the Viking Era. Also, from a technical standpoint, ring mail is utter crap, since the rings aren't attached to each other, but attached to leather strings, it leaves a metric ton of gaps in between the individual rings.So,a sword cut,axe chop, or spear could potentially bypass the armor or spear point break open the lacing and drive the rings into your body while entering into your body. I think the only thing ringmail would is some small blunt force protection and slowing a fighter down. A cheaper armor back then was a helmet and coif for your heck and neck, to cover the most important bit which sticks out above the shield when in use. The cheap torso armor was a well made shield. Finally there are shit ton more inaccuracies than you mention.

Last edited by Philip Dyer on Sun 06 Dec, 2015 7:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Joe Fults




Location: Midwest
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2015 7:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you like it don't let historical plausibility stop you from liking it. Its a reasonably nice costume and character effect for a general audience. Its cool, its just not historical. Which should be just fine.

Could it have any utility...well...perhaps better than nothing (perhaps not much better)?

The argument for it is going to come down to "...you can't prove that it was never done just because you can't find evidence of it!" This is a bad construct but a classical favorite in these debates. The argument against is normally "...prove that it was ever done." This is always very, very difficult from what I've seen. People have been trying to argue, without providing proof, that "ring mail" existed someplace other than Hollywood and D&D for years on internet forums. I've not seen anything to prove it.

Use in Viking period at all is unlikely based on my limited knowledge as a hobbyist.

Use at all in a historical context (outside this television show) is unlikely based on my limited knowledge as a hobbyist.

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2015 7:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The closest thing to ringmail I can think of that was actually used is the eyelet doublet and at least one surviving example has iron rings sewn into the eyelets. They don't look anything like what that character is wearing but it's plausible Vikings could have made something essentially similar and they were regarded as real armor.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2015 8:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This might help
https://www.arador.com/armour/chain-mail/

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2015 8:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Ruhala wrote:
The closest thing to ringmail I can think of that was actually used is the eyelet doublet and at least one surviving example has iron rings sewn into the eyelets. They don't look anything like what that character is wearing but it's plausible Vikings could have made something essentially similar and they were regarded as real armor.

No it isn't plausible at all.

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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2015 8:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Plausible becomes a trap in these kinds of discussions.

Its plausible that I could run a 4 minute mile. With great effort and training. Its also highly likely that I would promptly die after doing it (or while doing it). Still, its plausible that I could run a four minute mile. In reality I've never run less that a six minute mile and that was 25 years ago. That is the fact of how close I've come, which is not very close in reality, so what's the value of the plausible claim?

If you're asking to use in a general audience costuming context? Fine, plausible works. However, that is not generally why people ask here. If you're planning to do something where historic accuracy matters at all, in costume or debate, proof is going to be required.

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Dec, 2015 11:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Running a 4 minute mile may not be a bad analogy. It's totally plausible that a Viking could make an iron ring and stitch it into an eyelet but manufacturing an eyelet doublet would take an extremely long time, I'm not sure it would really save you any labor over going all the way and weaving a mail shirt. I'm not really sure how the economics on that worked out but I've heard that in centuries past labor was relatively cheap and raw materials were expensive. In any case there is a pretty big difference between being technologically plausible and being supported by archaeological evidence. I don't know of anything that suggests Vikings actually utilized eyelet armor. As far as what is likely, if a Viking didn't have the resources for a mail shirt it's more likely that he relied on heavy clothing and a shield.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 6:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You may want to look up the definition of "plausible". Your vikings can't drive down to the hardware store and buy a bag of mass-produced iron rings. Anyone in that time who could afford a few thousand iron rings could also afford proper mail shirt.
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Last edited by Dan Howard on Mon 07 Dec, 2015 6:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 6:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to add another (friendly!) kick, there is pretty good evidence that there was no "stopgap" or "middle ground" for early medieval armor in Western/Northern Europe. There was mail for those who could afford it (not many!), and for everyone else there was nothing besides a scattering of helmets. Shields were universal, of course. But the "default" was no armor, and no one thought of going into battle without body armor as suicidal. Padded defences first show up (as far as we can tell!) around the 12th century, and leather "armor" is only mentioned a couple times as something either nut-job wacky and therefore unique, or garments that have been enchanted to stop weapons.

The TV show is fantasy, really, using historical names and places for whatever reason. It's safest to assume that everything in it is NOT historical, just as a rule of thumb.

Matthew
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Agreed with Matt. There was no such thing as "light" armour for poor troops. During the time in question they either wore mail or regular clothing.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 7:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Agreed with Matt. There was no such thing as "light" armour for poor troops. During the time in question they either wore mail or regular clothing.


Dan I'd like to draw upon your knowledge of mail armor and ask you if there ever was cheap mail. Mail of mediocre quality that was better than nothing but not much else. Seeing the labour and metal requirement for mail armor it appears wasteful but I still wonder if there was cheap or low quality mail.

Oh I have to add, in Europe.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 12:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There was cheap mail: e.g., inherited mail, stolen/looted mail. There would have been expensive mail, so some mail would have been relatively cheap. Consider new cars. There are relatively cheap new cars. Currently, here they cost AUD12,000-15,000. They're cheap compared to $40,000 cars. Is a $12,000 car cheap? Is mail that costs 3 months pay for a soldier cheap?

I don't think we know enough about price vs quality of mail to say much about this (hopefully somebody can surprise me with a source that does give such info!). But it's likely that heavier mail with denser weaves would cost more: more material and more labour. Note that there is a minimum level of quality before mediocre mail is better than nothing. If it doesn't keep out the most common weapons on the battlefield (spears, arrows), it isn't better than nothing - it's extra weight to carry around, so worse than nothing.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is more like comparing a $150,000 sports car with a $200,000 sports car. One is cheaper than the other but neither is affordable by the average person. In order to equip one mailed fighter you need the combined wealth of multiple viillages.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also a "cost-factor" is simply that Northern Europe climate is moist. So often when you are outside in your mail it will rain. I know from some reenactors that after 6 hours outside your mail gets stiff as a board as rust sets in fast.
Afterwards you can have the "fun" of oiling all your thousands of rings after a whole day in the field and know you have to do that day after day if you wear it on the march in bad weather conditions.
People who could afford mail could also afford servants to do that job exclusively for them. A poorer guy would be happy to have cloth armour instead of that extra workload I'm certain.

It's also the reason why Scandinavians quite likely didn't wear their mail when sailing, but had them wrapped to protect them from saltwater. Films with vikings jumping from ships into the coastal waters getting their mail soaked in saltwater.....good luck cleaning that afterwards.
They would certainly avoid that if they could. Get the boat up on land first, then put your armour on, when they is no risk for water contact.

This is partly speculation, but could have been the actual case of strategy chosen:
Harold Godwinson caught the Norwegians under Harald Hardrada by a surprising forced march at Stamford Bridge in 1066 when the Norwegians were NOT wearing their armour, which is pretty significant in this discussion as they likely were protected from the elements at camp.
It was not because the Harald and Norwegians were stupid, but because they were smart keeping their armour in excellent condition for the upcoming battle.
Harold was just even smarter in doing a seemingly impossible forced march and probably gambled that if he surprised the Norwegians they would likely be unarmoured and he might have a big chance of winning even though his own men would be exhausted. His gamble worked.
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Julian C.





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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 2:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think it has any real protective value. Probably just a matter of cutting production costs. Here's a video addressing EXACTLY that suit from Vikings:


https://youtu.be/9qcQ0GaJ0EU
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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 2:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would no more use this programme for information on Viking culture than i would Asterix for the Romans or these for the 1620's...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR94ZSOV18o

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNygUT83F6U&index=1&list=EL643vp7hfRkQ

see also The Last Kingdom for Saxon stuff.

Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Julian C.





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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 2:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Talking about highly historically accurate fiction:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZym6Ju5YDo
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2015 3:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Also a "cost-factor" is simply that Northern Europe climate is moist. So often when you are outside in your mail it will rain. I know from some reenactors that after 6 hours outside your mail gets stiff as a board as rust sets in fast.
Afterwards you can have the "fun" of oiling all your thousands of rings after a whole day in the field and know you have to do that day after day if you wear it on the march in bad weather conditions.
People who could afford mail could also afford servants to do that job exclusively for them. A poorer guy would be happy to have cloth armour instead of that extra workload I'm certain. .

Except that there is no evidence that cloth armour was ever used during this period. In any case, rain and moisture are an issue for all kinds of armour. One of the big problems with leather and textile and scale/lamellar armours is that they have lots of laces, straps, and stitching, which constantly need to be replaced. Leather and textiles rot to pieces far more quickly in wet weather than mail can rust. Their weight increases considerably when wet and they will freeze in cold weather. They also harbour ants and lice and are impossible to keep clean in the field. Mail has none of these problems.

Quote:
It's also the reason why Scandinavians quite likely didn't wear their mail when sailing, but had them wrapped to protect them from saltwater. Films with vikings jumping from ships into the coastal waters getting their mail soaked in saltwater.....good luck cleaning that afterwards.

You just rinse it with fresh water and spread it out to dry. Mail requires less maintenance than any other armour ever invented. Even with rust, it is only a problem if it is in storage for long periods of time. When it is being worn, it self cleans via abrasion. I'm currently making a mail shirt with rings that are bright orange with rust. By the time I have finished one row, the previous row of links are abraded nice and shiny without a speck of rust left on them.

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