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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Dec, 2015 3:35 pm    Post subject: Scale Armour (Brunea): Why they fell out of favor?         Reply with quote

I recently had found this image that reconstructs an scale armour used by Norman knights, which made me particularly curious. Although scale armor in the Carolingian Age have been far more common than mail, the pictures of Osprey's books and other reconstitution books give little or no attention to them. Nevertheless, they appear to have some kind of advantage over mail armor, probably the price or manufacturing time, I don't know for sure, but I'm curious to know why they give so little attention to them.

I wonder what were the advantages and disadvantages of scale armor over the mail armour. What would be the reason for its decline? Based on Europe and the Near East in the Middle Ages, where it was more common and where it lasted longer?

Viking/Scandinavians actually wore armor of scales? I often see in EMA reconstructions of scandinavian warriors wearing armor of scales and lamellar made of leather or metal plate.

This even existed? It says that it was Norman in origin.





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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Dec, 2015 5:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scale is commonly *depicted* in Carolingian art, but there is virtually no archeological evidence so it's very hard to tell if scale was *more* common than mail. I suspect it was not. The problem is that ANY metal armor was too expensive for most anyone except the upper class. And the upper class was wealthy enough to afford any armor they liked. Since mail was simply better than scale overall, mail would be what they picked!

Scale is good protection, don't get me wrong, but mail is simply better protection, without any potential weak spots, and it's far more flexible as well. Plus it's vastly more durable--scale tends to come apart because the stitching chafes and the backing rots, just from everyday wear. It's stuffier, too.

I suspect that helmet you show is complete fantasy. I've never seen any Western European armor constructed like that. It may be a loose interpretation of an illustration that is supposed to show mail, or even a scale neckguard. Couldn't tell you about the "Norman" below that--it's a nicely done reconstruction, but again, I'm not sure what it's based on. Clear depictions of scale armor *do* exist, so I don't think we can rule it out by any means. Lamellar is more of a stretch.

For the Vikings, as far as we can tell it's just mail. Modern reenactors can't always be trusted! Too many of them want to "do something different", so they drag in all kinds of speculation and rationalizations...

Matthew
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Dec, 2015 11:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is more than one mention in the sagas of something called a spangabyrnja. The most likely interpretation of this is scale armour. It seems to have been pretty rare. Mail was far more common.

The word "brunea" is just another variant of brunia, brünne, bronje, broigne, byrnie, byrnja, etc. It refers to mail armour.

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Kyle Eaton





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PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2015 1:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As a professional Google page turner/searcher, a historical enthusiastic cultic college student with no flavor of degree, of stubborn opinions, and most starving of 3D artists, I conclude from my observations of reading about Brunea is that it is a vague term for armour required for Carolingian aristocrats to wear for military campaigns. Brunea is also considered awesome loot for Vikings besides Frankish swords. Whether something was considered expensive during the medieval timeperiods is all based upon agreed and shared views of many individual observations that could easily be proven wrong if a text or two of specific descriptions and statistics gets discovered. I would also like to mention that the majority of people didn't follow a set monetary system and if that were the case, prices could rise and drop. I have read a few books (like 2 or 3) of authors, and read through several online places of cults, forums, and research articles that define brunea as either scale, chainmail, both, or armour in general. I would only refer to brunea as a carolingian word for body armour because that is the most acceptable and truthful of answers. I would highly recommend to understand brunea as a very flexible and broad word for body armour created during the Carolingian time period unless you want to argue with people that have biased views. The illustrations (frescoes, bible drawings) that depict the Carolingian helmet and other various forms of armour can be interpreted by anyone in the past viewing those same drawings. There was no standard of industry during the medieval era that created one kind of armour. The popular interpretation of the brunea and the carolingian helmet is not impossible for someone in the past to interpret it similarly. School textbooks in the United States and other similar sources describe the Carolingians and their empire as a revival of Roman civilization (which anyone and everyone could argue for days about).

Short answer is that you can neither claim nor disclaim whether brunea was defined as scale unless a found and trusted archaeological statistical evidence says otherwise. If the scale armour is depicted in drawings, it could have existed.


Last edited by Kyle Eaton on Thu 17 Dec, 2015 1:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2015 1:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes the word means "armour" but was almost always reserved for mail regardless of which language you are looking at. Whenever scale armour is mentioned the word is usually qualified such as with the above-mentioned spangabyrnja. I don't think we have enough Carolongian texts to reach a conclusion about Carolingian armour.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2015 1:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kyle Eaton wrote:
Whether something was considered expensive during the medieval timeperiods is all based upon agreed and shared views of many individual observations that could easily be proven wrong if a text or two of specific descriptions and statistics gets discovered.


Sorry, not sure what you're getting at, since that's true of EVERY aspect of history. And we generally LOVE any new information that expands our understanding of the past! But the *fact* that armor was expensive in the early middle ages is not likely to be shaken by new findings, since the evidence we have is consistent.

Quote:
I would also like to mention that the majority of people didn't follow a set monetary system and if that were the case, prices could rise and drop.


Every society had a monetary system that everyone used. Not everyone had a significant amount of *coinage*, certainly, so bartering was certainly common enough. But requirements for military service are always set up by wealth, in strict monetary terms, and there are also decrees that set prices for arms and armor as well as inventories that list items and their monetary values. So No, you would not see a nobleman bartering cows for a shirt of mail, nor the armorer having to drop his price to a few chickens because he somehow had more armor in stock than he could sell!

Quote:
There was no standard of industry during the medieval era that created one kind of armour.


Never said there was. But it was a culture ruled by tradition, custom, and fashion, aside from the fact that mail suited their needs and infrastructure better than anything else available. As I said, scale armor was known, as were helmets forged from iron plate, and a few other rare items here and there. It was not, however, a world where everyone just "did what they wanted" by any means.

Good luck with those stubborn opinions.

Matthew
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Kyle Eaton





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PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2015 8:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Yes the word means "armour" but was almost always reserved for mail regardless of which language you are looking at. Whenever scale armour is mentioned the word is usually qualified such as with the above-mentioned spangabyrnja. I don't think we have enough Carolongian texts to reach a conclusion about Carolingian armour.


After I last posted an hour or two ago, I wanted to edit my post to say that brunea is a vague word for maille. Anyways, is it weird to say that I am fan-girling over the fact that Dan Howard replied to a thread I typed in? I love your book! I keep my copy on a nice shelf!
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Dec, 2015 1:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Kyle. I'm glad you like the book. I hope it comes in so handy that it falls apart from overuse.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Dec, 2015 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
For the Vikings, as far as we can tell it's just mail. Modern reenactors can't always be trusted! Too many of them want to "do something different", so they drag in all kinds of speculation and rationalizations...


Even with lamellar armor known as Klibanion/Klivanion? I mean, the Kievan Rus and the Scandinavians have had close contact with the Byzantines, and many warriors to serve in their Varangian Guard, where many of them wore lamellar armor, which at the time were the best armor that Byzantines could have forged.

By the way, I always wondered why the byzantine lamellar never seem to have had adhesion in european regions beyond Serbia, Bulgaria and Russian's States

What would be the advantages of the scales over mail? It is true that they provide better protection against arrows, spears or even shock bashing weapons? They would be simpler to produce or easier to repair broken plates? This has something to do with the fact that these armour are preferred by nomadic peoples such as the Turks and Mongols? It is possible that the scales have fallen into decay because of their weight and the simple fact that there was already a "industry" more active mail pieces?


Last edited by Pedro Paulo Gaião on Thu 31 Dec, 2015 8:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Dec, 2015 1:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
What would be the advantages of the scales over mail? It is true that they provide better protection against arrows, spears or even shock bashing weapons?


For a given weight, I'd expect mail to be better against arrows and spears. Because
(a) as a point goes into a mail ring, it will stretch it, and that takes energy,
(b) the mail will move when an arrow hits it, so arrow energy will go into kinetic energy of the armour, rather than breaking the rings,
(c) the mail doesn't have the non-protective weight of lacing and/or backing.

Scale might well be better against bashing weapons.

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
They would be simpler to produce or easier to repair broken plates? This has something to do with the fact that these armour are preferred by nomadic peoples such as the Turks and Mongols? It is possible that the scales have fallen into decay because of their weight and the simple fact that there was already a "industry" more active mail pieces?


To make mail, you need to be able to make wire. You need better quality iron. You can make scales out of iron you can't draw wire from.

Field repairs may be easier with scale and lamellar.

"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: Sun 20 Dec, 2015 1:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Even with lamellar armor known as Klibanion/Klivanion? I mean, the Kievan Rus and the Scandinavians have had close contact with the Byzantines, and many warriors to serve in their Varangian Guard, where many of them wore lamellar armor, which at the time were the best armor that Byzantines could have forged.

We don't have the faintest clue what armour the Varangians wore. There are no texts and the only illustration I'm aware of shows the Varangian bare chested. If you want to re-enact a Varangian then the safest option is to use the armour of his homeland, which means mail in most cases.

Quote:
What would be the advantages of the scales over mail? It is true that they provide better protection against arrows, spears or even shock bashing weapons? They would be simpler to produce or easier to repair broken plates? This has something to do with the fact that these armour are preferred by nomadic peoples such as the Turks and Mongols? It is possible that the scales have fallen into decay because of their weight and the simple fact that there was already a "industry" more active mail pieces?

It's only real advantage is that it is quicker and cheaper to produce than mail. Pretty much any armour is quicker and cheaper to produce than mail.

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Last edited by Dan Howard on Sun 20 Dec, 2015 1:51 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Dec, 2015 1:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
[Field repairs may be easier with scale and lamellar.

All you need to repair mail in the field is a small length of twisted wire. Even if you wanted to do it properly you only need a small pouch of links and rivets, and a crimping tool. It can be made as good as new in a few minutes.

Quote:
To make mail, you need to be able to make wire. You need better quality iron. You can make scales out of iron you can't draw wire from.

This is the key. People today underestimate how difficult it was to make wire using the available technology. A single mail shirt requires one-two thousand feet of wire (double this if it is all-riveted instead of demi-riveted).

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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Dec, 2015 6:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Matthew Amt wrote:
For the Vikings, as far as we can tell it's just mail. Modern reenactors can't always be trusted! Too many of them want to "do something different", so they drag in all kinds of speculation and rationalizations...


Even with lamellar armor known as Klibanion/Klivanion? I mean, the Kievan Rus and the Scandinavians have had close contact with the Byzantines, and many warriors to serve in their Varangian Guard, where many of them wore lamellar armor, which at the time were the best armor that Byzantines could have forged.


And that's exactly the excuse they trot out! My usual reply is, "So portray a Varangian instead!" As Dan points out, we don't know what the Varangians actually wore, nor do we know how many of them were armored--it might not have been many more than would have had armor back in Scandinavia. We don't know how many of them, if any, might have brought that Byzantine armor back home with them. And we don't have any real reason to suspect that it "caught on" and was used by more Scandinavians than had used it in Byzantine service. You can see how that line of reasoning stretches thinner at every step... To portray a Viking, hey, why not use *Scandinavian* evidence? (Or any *evidence* at all, for that matter!)

And what makes lamellar the "best", in any case? It's not as flexible as mail, so it's typically just a sleeveless vest--you have to lace on separate "plates" if you want it to cover the shoulders or thighs. The lacing chafes and rots.

Quote:
What would be the advantages of the scales over mail? It is true that they provide better protection against arrows, spears or even shock bashing weapons?


Protection mainly depends on the thickness of the metal, which obviously can vary for any form of armor. You can make scale armor so thin that it won't stop anything, or thick enough to be bullet-proof. (The latter may get a tad heavy, though, ha!) Same with mail. Scale and lamellar always need more maintenance than mail, because they come apart just from wearing or storing it. Sure, it may be less effort to make, and you can make scales from horn or rawhide or even bone. So I would never say that scale armor wasn't worth making, or would not be used if mail was available, since that is clearly not the case! It does make more sense for a culture that doesn't have as much ability to make high-quality iron and to draw wire in large amounts.

Matthew
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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Sun 20 Dec, 2015 6:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most of the medieval depictions of scale armor show it being worn in addition to mail. I suspect it might have been the earlier iteration of the pair of plates, providing something more rigid over the torso.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2015 5:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:

This is the key. People today underestimate how difficult it was to make wire using the available technology. A single mail shirt requires one-two thousand feet of wire (double this if it is all-riveted instead of demi-riveted).


Is the wire heated prior to drawing it through a drawing plate? And is there a way to speed up the process with the aid of water powered machinery? Having recently read Mathias Goll's work on armor and the short description of plate manufacture it becomes clear how much plate production benefits from high capital investments in water powered forges, trip hammers and high labor cost in competing mail industries.
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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2015 6:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wire is generally drawn cold, but too many silica stringers in wrought iron will casue the wire to break, as well as chew up the drawplates. The armorer Rudolph of Nuremberg is given credit in many technology texts for "inventing" wire drawing in 1306, though it seems likely his invention was using a water mill to mass-produce iron wire. Wire drawing of precious metals had been around for many centuries before that.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2015 8:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Roman wire was drawn. There are at least two surviving draw plates dating to the Roman period and the dimensional consistency of Roman wire can only be achieved with drawing.

Quote:
Is the wire heated prior to drawing it through a drawing plate?

It needs to be annealed after each pass through the drawplatebut, as Mart said, it was cold-drawn.

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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2015 10:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well that sounds like, excuse the pun, a drawn out process. Makes me wonder if the preparatory work of making mail is significant compared to the assembling of the ready made rings.
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Kyle Eaton





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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2015 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

@Matthew Amt: The people often consistently depicted wearing lamellar is a body of water across from Scandinavia and were partly originated from the Swedes. There is a well known trade route that spans from Scandinavia straight to Constantinople. The people from Scandinavia alike to Harald Hadrada have been hired as mercenaries in the Byzantine Empire and traveled back to Scandinavia. There is evidence in the Birka ringfort of lamellar plates created for repairs. The mass grave in Visby has a suit of lamellar with the design obviously derived from the neighbors to the South and East. The same reason for the Visby mass grave was because of the Hanseatic League's involvement of whom is recorded to have a warehouse in Novgorod. There are artifacts that show evidence of ideas, concepts, and designs imported from the South and East of Scandinavia. The pieces to this puzzle are missing somewhere underneath the table, but the image to this table-top puzzle is not too difficult to figure out. Lack of evidence doesn't always equate to lack of existence. Vikings are described as anyone living in Northern Europe with access to a boat and weapons and make the choice to go "a viking." The description of Vikings includes the Rus.

About chainmail, would people be more likely to pass down suits of chainmail over time and people just replace broken individual rings? I thought that was one of the many reasons why chainmail was so popular to produce?
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Dec, 2015 12:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kyle Eaton wrote:
@Matthew Amt: The people often consistently depicted wearing lamellar is a body of water across from Scandinavia and were partly originated from the Swedes. There is a well known trade route that spans from Scandinavia straight to Constantinople. The people from Scandinavia alike to Harald Hadrada have been hired as mercenaries in the Byzantine Empire and traveled back to Scandinavia.


Sure, that's all well known. None of it means that lamellar became a *common* form of armor in Scandinavia. Hardrada's shirt of mail is well documented--no mention of him wearing lamellar armor that I've ever heard of. I believe there is an account of a Scandinavian warrior literally throwing out a "spangenbyrnie" in contempt because he thought it was crappy armor. Hmm...

Quote:
There is evidence in the Birka ringfort of lamellar plates created for repairs.


Dan will probably chime in on this point, but as I understand it the Birka finds are all from one area which seems to have been occupied by foreigners.

Was lamellar armor known in Scandinavia? Certainly! But is there any reason to suggest it was common, or anywhere near as common as mail? Nope.

Quote:
The mass grave in Visby has a suit of lamellar with the design obviously derived from the neighbors to the South and East.


Finds from the 14th century hardly help with the Viking era. Obviously different cultures influenced each other all the time! But much about any particular culture remained distinctive, and we have plenty of evidence about the *typical* equipment of Viking warriors. My point is that dragging in highly debatable foreign influence--somehow always from the same area--is counter-productive and gives the wrong impression. Most of the Viking reenactors I've know are focusing on *westward* activity, not eastern. It's funny that they never talk about Saxon influence or Frankish influence, only Byzantine. Viking influence on Byzantine fashions seems to get neglected, too!

Quote:
Lack of evidence doesn't always equate to lack of existence.


Ha, yeah, I hear that one way too often! It usually means "You can't prove me WRONG so I can do whatever I want to!" Which of course is entirely the opposite approach for good research or reenacting.

Matthew
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