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Nicholas Penner





Joined: 27 Jan 2016

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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2016 7:51 pm    Post subject: Armor made from sea shells and crustacean exoskeletons         Reply with quote

First off, I should make clear that I am trying to do some research for a fantasy book that I am writing. I have asked this topic before on a couple of writing forums, but did not learn much.

Arms and armor made from sea shells and the exoskeletons of crabs. Sounds crazy, right? Why would anyone use these when you have metal to work with? Well in my book I am writing, the world has little metal to mine that is easily accessible to the people there. Mostly because this is a fantasy world of mine where I just decided that most of the metal would be very deep underground, and also the inhabitants of this world are still in sort of a very late stone age.

But what they do have plenty of are resources from the sea, the main humanoid inhabitants dwelling almost exclusively on large coasts. Specifically, there are sea shells, and lots. Most are about the typical small to hand sized shells, slightly fewer closer to the size of a medium dog, and even fewer the size of cars. And there are lots, the sea floor and shores almost covered in a whole layer of the things. There is some creation mythology there that explains why sea shells were so important and how and why there are so many of them.

And then there are the crabs. Roughly cow-sized crustaceans that look pretty similar to stone crabs. There are lots of these guys, and are natural enemies and hunting game of the main coast dwelling race. Again, a fantasy world.

Now, enough of the build up, lol.

How would armor made out of sea shells and crab armor stand against stone age weapons?

The shell armor is really simple: Shells woven onto garments and strings to form very simple chest plates and such. No fancy shell mail, shell gauntlets or anything.

As for the crab armor: They basically do the same thing with this. Large pieces of the exoskeleton are used like a very simple and primitive plate mail, but only covering the chest, shoulders, limbs, and top of head, as well as shields. I should also make clear that this armor is much rarer and only worn by guards and elite soldiers.

How would these fair against stone, wood, and bone weapons? And remember, this is the stone age. There are really only spears, clubs, axes, slings, and knives.


Any suggestions would be great.
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Addison C. de Lisle




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2016 8:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neat idea! I like it!

It seems to me that shell as a material would stand up to cutting weapons better than impact (being a brittle material at least in the form we know it). Stone knives were short and didn't become weapon-specific stabbing instruments until at least the Copper Age, from my readings. So it seems to me that in terms of weapons this armor would encounter, it would offer good protection against slices from short knives but perhaps less from arrows/spears, that might find the gaps between the shells. I don't imagine it would offer much protection from clubs or club-like weapons. Maybe the crabshell armor is better because it could be made from one piece, or plates as you suggest?

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2016 9:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think sea shells would be quite heavy for the protection they would give. Bone, wood, and hide are all likely to give better protection for a given weight.

But it could be done. Perhaps made like Toraja armours, which are made with hard seeds, bone, etc. Some examples:
http://www.seabean.com/folklore/SulawesiWarVest/
http://eriksedge.com/weapon_images.php?id=232
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=16458

"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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Michael Brudon




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2016 10:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think its easier if you make up your own properties for the shells and crabs rather than worry about earthly comparisons. using our species is probably problematic since at large sizes- as in the case of the japanese giant spider crab its either too brittle or the giant clam shell too heavy for its relative strength.

Its possible you could employ lighter ones as 'one hit and dipose armours' like tactical hardplates in body armour are used against firearms. But against lower lethality implements(stone age stuff) its probably not worth the weight. Otherwise timos links might work.

I think an angle would be to read up on arthropod exoskeletons, and tweak what properties you want to make your own species armour work for you. You could even impress the readers with the science behind it.

For example insects use chitin armour and various minerals and protiens for differences in strength. Adding a lot of calcium carbonite increase it to the level crabs have, too much and brittleness become a problem though. Also they all have multilayered structures as part of their shell layer, so you have a lot of poetic licence to work with here Happy
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Michael Wiethop




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jan, 2016 10:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Armor made of sea creatures is common enough in fantasy cultures near coastlines (or living underwater), and adds to the whole coastal theme.

Now, being an inlander myself, I don't really have too much personal experience with sea creatures, but I recall seashells being hard but brittle. I imagine that a vest covered in them, if struck hard enough, might just send sharp shards of shells into the body of the wearer, causing extra harm. Or the shards would fall down or go outwards. Or whatever substance the vest is made of would stop the shell shards. A vest covered in them might provide some limited protection but would be tedious to make and might be heavy.

As for crab shells: I really don't know much about the properties of crab chitin. Realistically, I don't think crabs could get to the size of a cow and be able to breathe or move, due to their respiratory systems, oxygen availability, and the square-cubed law, but this is fantasy, so it can work. Chitin seems pretty tough, and if it were thick it would offer great protection against stone weapons, but it would probably be heavy and would only be good for helmets, shields, and breastplates.

If you don't know of them already, you should look into armor and weapons from Pacific cultures like Kiribati. This armor, for example, is made of densely woven coconut fibers, while the weapon (spear? sword? club?) is hard wood lined with shark teeth. Some helmets from Kiribati were made of the dried skin of pufferfish, though they seem to have been for visual effect rather than protection. The huge neck guard attached to the back was supposedly to protect the men in the front from stones thrown over their heads by the women behind them.

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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 4:31 am    Post subject: Shell protection         Reply with quote

Here is another link on Vikingsword.com ethno forum that might be helpful

Shell Shields

Also one of my favorites

Puffer Fish Helm there may well be other items in this collection.

Hope it helps

Craig
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 5:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maybe some big shark's skin might work better and still fit your ideas?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 12:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Shell protection         Reply with quote

Timo is right about sea shells making poor armour. Everything can be turned into armour if it is thick and heavy enough. However, there comes a point at which the weight becomes too high to be viable. Sea shell is one of those materials. In addition it is way too brittle, so any protection it manages to provide would disappear after a single hit. Chiton isn't much better - about the same as poor quality leather. If you want some realistic modelling for low-tech armouring materials you might want to check out GURPS Low-Tech. It went through a reality-checking and peer-review process that is more rigorous than many academic textbooks.
http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/books/Low-Tech/


Craig Johnson wrote:
Also one of my favorites

Puffer Fish Helm there may well be other items in this collection.

Hope it helps

The pufferfish helmet was more decorative than protective. Underneath was a coconut fibre helmet, which is where most of the protection came from. The Kiribati coconut armour panoply is modelled in the GURPS Low-Tech supplement.
http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/books/loadouts/lowtecharmor/

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Nicholas Penner





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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 1:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Maybe some big shark's skin might work better and still fit your ideas?


I have considered this, and need to do more research on the strength of leather from sea creatures like sharks.


I have also noted the brittle nature of sea shells. The armor was always meant to be easily replaceable. Broken plates could be replaced with the vast amount of shells available, and easily attached to the garment. I will admit, however, that I did not consider the shards of shell piercing the wearer's skin upon breaking...I suppose I could have some...shark leather maybe for a vest of some kind, and the shells are add ons that shouldn't pierce the leather upon breaking.

A lot of you have provided good links for further research, which I am in the process of checking out.

I really appreciate everyone humoring me hear as I fully expected to be ridiculed once I started talking about shell and crab armor, and giant crabs, lol.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 1:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is no point inventing armour that can only stop cutting attacks. Pretty much anything can stop cutting attacks; a winter coat will stop cutting attacks. Proper armour will stop points - primarily spears and arrows.
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Michael Wiethop




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 2:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You could even have your troops be unarmored save for shields--historically, in most time periods and cultures, most people were largely unarmored. Instead you could write about their weapons, training, mindset, command, and logistics--I find that works of fiction that go into serious, realistic detail like that are more believable and fascinating than ones that simply focus on the characters' arms and armor. Works that have a lot of armored characters also tend to "cheapen" armor--rather than it being a somewhat rare item that offers great protection, these works make it common and weak, so that people die when characters hit them with a weapon. I can't think of too many works that have our hero struggle to kill the villain's henchmen because they're all armored. Instead, the baddies (and goodies) are often all wearing armor that protects them very little. By making armor common and ineffective, these works of fiction have basically transformed it into heavy clothing, so that the characters now have a boring choice between cheap, light, mobile clothing, and heavy, slow, useless armor. Realism is more original, fun, and believable, in my opinion.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 2:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Wiethop wrote:
You could even have your troops be unarmored save for shields--historically, in most time periods and cultures, most people were largely unarmored. Instead you could write about their weapons, training, mindset, command, and logistics--I find that works of fiction that go into serious, realistic detail like that are more believable and fascinating than ones that simply focus on the characters' arms and armor. Works that have a lot of armored characters also tend to "cheapen" armor--rather than it being a somewhat rare item that offers great protection, these works make it common and weak, so that people die when characters hit them with a weapon.

Good point. Historically armour was usually reserved for the elite. The majority of an army had a shield and perhaps a helmet. The main exception was when there was a patron (a wealthy landowner or the state) providing armour for the lower ranks.

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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 2:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some African cultures made shields from rhino leather, while I do not know if those were really protective the name has a certain flair.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 3:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
Some African cultures made shields from rhino leather, while I do not know if those were really protective the name has a certain flair.

Apparently rhino hide doesn't make very good armour. The Chinese needed anywhere from five to seven layers of it to be effective.

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Tyler Jordan





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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 8:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Carapace armor would stop one or two good hits at any rate, and is dead cheap to manufacture if you have huge crabs readily available. (you're already harvesting it with your food) Perhaps they have a way to treat and line it so it isn't as brittle, as well. Either way, they're probably designed like shields. Expendable and easily replaced. The inside could be lined with leather or textile to keep it from sharding and hurting the wearer.

Talking about shields, a giant crab carapace or claw would make a pretty good one, if it was thick enough.
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Eric S




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 9:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Pretty much anything can stop cutting attacks; a winter coat will stop cutting attacks.
Does anyone else believe this????
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Eric S




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jan, 2016 9:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Pieter B. wrote:
Some African cultures made shields from rhino leather, while I do not know if those were really protective the name has a certain flair.

Apparently rhino hide doesn't make very good armour. The Chinese needed anywhere from five to seven layers of it to be effective.


Actually, rhino hide shields were used a lot in India and they were highly valued for their protective abilities.

Quote:
Indian shield, made from Rhino hide, which is believed to be the best hide for these shields and counted better and more expensive than shields from Elephant or Buffalo or Hippo. These type of shields were used extensively in North West India and mostly in Rajastan, the center of their manufacturing and decorating. The shield is 13 inches in Diameter and the hide is about 3/8 inch thick. It has a shallow dome shape with four brass bosses, dated probably to the late 18th Century.


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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jan, 2016 1:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric S wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Pretty much anything can stop cutting attacks; a winter coat will stop cutting attacks.
Does anyone else believe this????


http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/brittney-griner-...d=26762766
Quote:
WNBA star Brittney Griner was cut on the elbow by a man in a knife attack Monday in Shenyang, China, but didn't need to go to a hospital, her agent told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Griner and two of her teammates were walking from the practice arena to the team bus when a man appeared with a knife, sources told espnW's Kate Fagan.

The assailant began yelling, swinging the knife wildly, and chased Griner and the two teammates onto the bus, sources said. During this, the man stabbed at Griner and caught her on the elbow, slightly nicking her.

Agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said the 6-foot-8 Griner was wearing a winter coat and that the knife barely cut her skin. Griner didn't require stitches.

Griner took to Instagram on Tuesday to say she's doing fine.

The agent said the man also stabbed at one of Griner's teammates but that she was wearing two jackets and the knife didn't go through.


Now, a two handed ax would be a different story, but thick fabric can be effective vs. slashes.
https://www.spyderco.com/forumII/viewtopic.php?t=46590

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Eric S




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jan, 2016 2:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mart Shearer wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Pretty much anything can stop cutting attacks; a winter coat will stop cutting attacks.
Eric S wrote:
Does anyone else believe this????


http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/brittney-griner-...d=26762766
WNBA star Brittney Griner was cut on the elbow by a man in a knife attack Monday in Shenyang, China, but didn't need to go to a hospital, her agent told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Griner and two of her teammates were walking from the practice arena to the team bus when a man appeared with a knife, sources told espnW's Kate Fagan.

The assailant began yelling, swinging the knife wildly, and chased Griner and the two teammates onto the bus, sources said. During this, the man stabbed at Griner and caught her on the elbow, slightly nicking her.

Agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said the 6-foot-8 Griner was wearing a winter coat and that the knife barely cut her skin. Griner didn't require stitches.

Griner took to Instagram on Tuesday to say she's doing fine.

The agent said the man also stabbed at one of Griner's teammates but that she was wearing two jackets and the knife didn't go through.


Mart, maybe Dan will provide proof to back up his statement, and do you actually believe this is a true statement Mart?

This was a knife not an antique sword that was specifically made for slashing, what kind if knife, how big, how sharp, a butter knife maybe?.... "the man stabbed at Griner and caught her on the elbow, slightly nicking her"......."the man also stabbed at one of Griner's teammates but that she was wearing two jackets and the knife didn't go through".....I own several examples of antique swords (tulwar, pulwar, kilij, katana, saif) etc that I dare anyone to try this with and see the results. I could also show you examples of people being killed with air guns and pellet guns but I would not suggest using one if you actually needed to defend yourself.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Jan, 2016 1:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The first one that comes to mind are English complaints of their swords failing to cut through Russian coats during the Crimean War.
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