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Jamie Baker





Joined: 08 Sep 2006

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sun 10 Sep, 2006 5:23 am    Post subject: Early Medieval Leather Armour         Reply with quote

Hi there,
I'm trying to do some research into the extact form of leather armour in the early medieval period, I have been so far amazed at the seeming lack of concrete (or even vague) information on this so was wondering if anyone could help. Detailed descriptions, diagrams or photos of reliable reproduction/museum pieces are eagerly sought. The period I'm interested in is 850-1100 and geographically/culturally norman/saxon/viking or french at a push. I plan on hopefully making a piece/set of armour for re-enactment purposes but my group are pretty stringent on authenticity so I'm trying to get reliable source information to base it on.

A big thankyou to anyone who can help
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Nick Trueman





Joined: 27 Mar 2006

Posts: 246

PostPosted: Sun 10 Sep, 2006 5:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi

Your going to be hard pressed finding any lamellar finds for those cultures. There is only one find in Birka, sweden fpr leather lamellar armour. And that was of steppe origin.
You will have to do rus, and associated steppe peoples persona to be able wear lamellar. There are plenty of examples from russia for this period.
Your best bet is to do rus/viking, even better do khazar or magyar!

Sorry my eye is really sore to continue, this pic is from a steppe nomad burial, prob turkic. Not sure if it is metal or leather.



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Chuck Russell




Location: WV
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PostPosted: Sun 10 Sep, 2006 6:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

ya i really dont believe its there for you to find. there is 1 piece of leather armour from i believe the 14thc (continent find) (rerebracer) but thats about it. only armour that is historically found is mail.

what group is this for?
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Jamie Baker





Joined: 08 Sep 2006

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sun 10 Sep, 2006 8:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nick Trueman wrote:
Hi

Your going to be hard pressed finding any lamellar finds for those cultures. There is only one find in Birka, sweden fpr leather lamellar armour. And that was of steppe origin.
You will have to do rus, and associated steppe peoples persona to be able wear lamellar. There are plenty of examples from russia for this period.
Your best bet is to do rus/viking, even better do khazar or magyar!

Sorry my eye is really sore to continue, this pic is from a steppe nomad burial, prob turkic. Not sure if it is metal or leather.


Well I wasn't thinking of lamellar as I didn't think it was particularly viable in that region, I was thinking more of a cuirass or jerkin/cote type piece?
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Jamie Baker





Joined: 08 Sep 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 10 Sep, 2006 8:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chuck Russell wrote:
ya i really dont believe its there for you to find. there is 1 piece of leather armour from i believe the 14thc (continent find) (rerebracer) but thats about it. only armour that is historically found is mail.

what group is this for?


thats what I'm fearing, leather doesn't last very well.

I'm with Regia Anglorum btw
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Sep, 2006 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unfortunately there seems to be very few documented finds of leather armour or even much in period art or written material dealing with leather armour.

My personal " belief " is that there must have been some leather armour used early in ancient history or even in pre-history and maybe in the so called Dark ages and early Medieval periods. Well we do know about some part of armour using cuir bouilli or the later Renaissance use of buff coats.

The problem is that anything we make would be based on " nothing " ! Lets say we knew that leather armour was used with certainty but with no information the look, style, way it's put together, wouldn't be any more accurate than " Hollywood "
or Xena style armours: Some of it might even be well designed and functional leather armour but the odds of it looking anything like what might have been would be pure guesswork.

You might look at this old discussion thread that would give an idea of what was discussed before here: This will at least cover a lot of the assumptions and objections to some assumptions already discussed and save a lot of time not going over the same territory. Also, after reading this you might find some questions or aspects that were not covered and formulate some new ones we could discuss and try to help with. http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=1510

Note: It always useful to do searches on this site as subjects like this may already have a lot of discussion and solid information or leads to information may already be there. Hope this helps.

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Jamie Baker





Joined: 08 Sep 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 10 Sep, 2006 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well that was very interesting but it does appear to be little of no real evidence of the form of leather armour (I'm personally of the view it would have been used lower down the social/economic scale as it certainly was in most other periods of history).

I noticed that someone mentioned an illustration and/or information on a piece of leather armour in an osprey book? does that mean there is some information on the form fo the armour in a later period?
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Chuck Russell




Location: WV
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PostPosted: Sun 10 Sep, 2006 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

later period ie 15thc there is some reference for leather in tournie armour in Rene's book i believe. at least thats what i've been told. i havent personally read it
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Sep, 2006 4:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Apparently there is an Anglo-Saxon reference to a "battle sark". IIRC the author reckons that it consisted of strips of leather/rawhide sewn to some sort of foundation like scale armour. I can't recall the source and I haven't read anything else to support the existence of it, but a google search for "battle sark" and "Anglo Saxon" might turn up something.
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Al Muckart




Location: NZ
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PostPosted: Mon 11 Sep, 2006 1:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jean,

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

The problem is that anything we make would be based on " nothing " ! Lets say we knew that leather armour was used with certainty but with no information the look, style, way it's put together, wouldn't be any more accurate than " Hollywood "
or Xena style armours: Some of it might even be well designed and functional leather armour but the odds of it looking anything like what might have been would be pure guesswork.


I don't think this is necessarily the case. There is plenty of iconographic evidence for armour styles, and in the Romance of Alexander, for example I can point you to rerebraces which look very similar to the single extant find. From there you can make reasonable guesses as to what other pieces of armour may also be leather from the way they are drawn.

It's not going to be as guaranteed accurate as a precise reproduction of an extant piece, but it's a whole lot better than "nothing" Happy

--
Al.
http://wherearetheelves.net
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Sep, 2006 3:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Al Muckart wrote:
Hi Jean,

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

The problem is that anything we make would be based on " nothing " ! Lets say we knew that leather armour was used with certainty but with no information the look, style, way it's put together, wouldn't be any more accurate than " Hollywood "
or Xena style armours: Some of it might even be well designed and functional leather armour but the odds of it looking anything like what might have been would be pure guesswork.


I don't think this is necessarily the case. There is plenty of iconographic evidence for armour styles, and in the Romance of Alexander, for example I can point you to rerebraces which look very similar to the single extant find. From there you can make reasonable guesses as to what other pieces of armour may also be leather from the way they are drawn.

It's not going to be as guaranteed accurate as a precise reproduction of an extant piece, but it's a whole lot better than "nothing" Happy


Thanks for the correction: Maybe " nothing " was a bit of hyperbole on my part as some leather use does seem documented but the typical, in our imagination, leather armour reinforced with rings or small plates doesn't seem to be supported if I believe what I've read before on the subject on this forum.

What I think, would /should / maybe, have been used as far as leather armour with some type of metal reinforcements only seem like what I would make in period if leather was available at an affordable cost i.e. obvious cheap armour solutions when maille was so expensive that only rich nobles could afford it. A simple heavy leather garments is a lot better than zero protection, although heavy fabric padded armour is a good alternative to using leather.

But, the point is that these are just speculation and I haven't found any supporting evidence for what I would LIKE to be true. Oh, I am just bringing up discussion points and not arguing or pushing an opinion as being fact. Wink Cool

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Marius Angantyr Rafoshei




Location: Troms - Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 11 Sep, 2006 4:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the sagas there is mentioned a piece of leather armour.
It was supposedly made by the sami-people and was of course magic, it also says that it was made of reindeer hide.
This comes out of my memory, I'm sure someone else can fill inn the missing spots.
And as already mentioned you have the Birka find.
Good luck on your search!
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 11 Sep, 2006 4:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Marius Angantyr Rafoshei wrote:
In the sagas there is mentioned a piece of leather armour.
It was supposedly made by the sami-people and was of course magic, it also says that it was made of reindeer hide.
This comes out of my memory, I'm sure someone else can fill inn the missing spots.
And as already mentioned you have the Birka find.
Good luck on your search!


Good starting point but there is still the problem of figuring out what it should look like Exclamation Question

One possibility is that the cut of the leather armour would resemble the cut/style of the period clothing: There are other periods where armour looks like a metal version of civilian clothing or civilian clothing has been inspired by armour designs.

Or at least some similarities in style can be noticed taking into consideration the constraints of the materials used for the armour making practical style changes necessary.

At least better than designing something completely out of context.

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Nick Trueman





Joined: 27 Mar 2006

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PostPosted: Mon 11 Sep, 2006 4:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey

Well one way you could approach it is by making your gambeson outer lining out fine leather, I have seen this done and it looks good. You probably know there isnt any gambeson patterns around either, just ms and picture stone referances to them. I based my gambeson on the birka tunic pattern.
Another point is if leather armour was abundant than why are viking age shoes wich are made quite a fine leather found then why arent leather armour parts found wich would of been made of a much thiker leather? I know it comes down to regional soil types ect, but its something to think about.

N
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Jamie Baker





Joined: 08 Sep 2006

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PostPosted: Mon 11 Sep, 2006 4:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nick Trueman wrote:
Hey

Well one way you could approach it is by making your gambeson outer lining out fine leather, I have seen this done and it looks good. You probably know there isnt any gambeson patterns around either, just ms and picture stone referances to them. I based my gambeson on the birka tunic pattern.
Another point is if leather armour was abundant than why are viking age shoes wich are made quite a fine leather found then why arent leather armour parts found wich would of been made of a much thiker leather? I know it comes down to regional soil types ect, but its something to think about.

N


Funnily enough, someone else said that to me today. Interesting
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Nick Trueman





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PostPosted: Mon 11 Sep, 2006 6:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

here I found a descent looking one, I have something similiar not of leather though, I then put a tunic of good quality linnen over the top.

N



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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Sep, 2006 3:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Marius Angantyr Rafoshei wrote:
In the sagas there is mentioned a piece of leather armour.
It was supposedly made by the sami-people and was of course magic, it also says that it was made of reindeer hide.
This comes out of my memory, I'm sure someone else can fill inn the missing spots.
And as already mentioned you have the Birka find.
Good luck on your search!


It was clothing made of reindeer hide, not armour. The garment's protection came from the fact that it was enchanted. It definitely cannot be used as a source for leather armour.
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Jamie Baker





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PostPosted: Tue 12 Sep, 2006 4:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Marius Angantyr Rafoshei wrote:
In the sagas there is mentioned a piece of leather armour.
It was supposedly made by the sami-people and was of course magic, it also says that it was made of reindeer hide.
This comes out of my memory, I'm sure someone else can fill inn the missing spots.
And as already mentioned you have the Birka find.
Good luck on your search!


It was clothing made of reindeer hide, not armour. The garment's protection came from the fact that it was enchanted. It definitely cannot be used as a source for leather armour.


*Puts the Reindeer and knife down*
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Marius Angantyr Rafoshei




Location: Troms - Norway
Joined: 02 Sep 2006

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PostPosted: Tue 12 Sep, 2006 4:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Marius Angantyr Rafoshei wrote:
In the sagas there is mentioned a piece of leather armour.
It was supposedly made by the sami-people and was of course magic, it also says that it was made of reindeer hide.
This comes out of my memory, I'm sure someone else can fill inn the missing spots.
And as already mentioned you have the Birka find.
Good luck on your search!


It was clothing made of reindeer hide, not armour. The garment's protection came from the fact that it was enchanted. It definitely cannot be used as a source for leather armour.


As said, it came from my memory! Wink
But still, they used it as a form of armour in the saga. And I just wanted to be helpful, and post the only written source about leather used as armour I could remember. The fact that is was magic should make bells ring.
So please, let the reindeer go on with it's business, and start look in the dusty cabinets of Scandinavian museums.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Sep, 2006 5:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Over all, there are three mentions of leather armour in the sagas. (as acording to Falk). One is the magical reindeer coats, which do not count, one mention of "thick leather gambeson", in a 13th century translation of the saga of Charlemagne, and finaly a man in Landnåmsbok which was called "leatherneck" because he made himself a armour of oxhide.

Over all, this isn't a lot.

My personal theory is that at this point, thick leather was in quite short supply; Cattle where raised for milk rather than hides, and the later where quite expensive. Further more, the cattle in northern europe where smaller than their modern counterparts. Further more, a lot of what available was used for shoe production.
Thus, making armour of leather could be just as, or more expensive than making cloth armor.

When buff coats show up in the 17th century, this coincides with the rise of large scale cattle ranching in europe; Even then, the buff coat is just as or more expensive than the cursais (!)

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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