Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > How come plate armor's peak take so long to be reached? Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next 
Author Message
Reje K.





Joined: 12 Mar 2014

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2014 1:32 am    Post subject: How come plate armor's peak take so long to be reached?         Reply with quote

With all the advantages of full body plate over other armor types, how did it take so long for it to be to the top full body armor type for nobles and/or professional soldiers in Europe after the Ancient Greeks' time? And why didn't China have any?

If the Greeks could have had the Dendra panoply then I don't see why the Romans or the Han couldn't have developed something like it.
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,370

PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2014 3:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There had to be a lot of social and technological advances to come together in one region for the development of a fully articulated plate harness. Firstly you need large and reliable supplies of good quality iron. Then you need to have the infrastructure in place - in Germany and Italy there were entire towns devoted to making nothing but armour. Those towns also competed with one another constantly driving the advancement of military technologies. There were a lot of masters famous for making armour who were competing against one another for patronage. Industrial advances such as the water powered trip hammer and blast furnace increased economies of scale and drove down manufacture costs and times. There were neat inventions such as the sliding rivet that made true articulated plate a possibility in the first place. There were a lot of mercenary condottas who tended to purchase better armour for their members than regular armies. The banking sector was becoming fairly sophisticated enabling speculation on experimental military techonlogies and more effective supply of equipment for armies.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Edward Lee




Location: New York
Joined: 05 Jul 2013

Posts: 322

PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2014 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The closest thing China had in terms of protection was Bu Ren Jia from Song dynasty, meaning infantry armor. It's a typical lamellar armor but heavier and with more plates, so the protection level increase along with the weight, but it's still not as good as late 15th century European armor.
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,364

PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2014 6:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, it's kind of a question of the evolution of the world, rather than the evolution of armor! The Dendra panoply was designed for a noble charioteer, as was most armor of that time. As chariots lost their dominance on the battlefield, nobles fought on foot and wore less extensive armor for better mobility. They also had shields for better protection. For a long time, armor was limited to the men who could afford it, and even those who could afford a LOT also had to consider weight, mobility, heat, and fashion. Not to mention that at that time, the shield was the first line of defense, and armor was always a backup to that.

It's interesting that in the Late Roman and post-Roman era there certainly were bits and pieces of plate armor here and there, aside from helmets. There was certainly no technological reason for more plate armor to be made for those who could afford it. And yet for centuries the warrior classes were content with a shirt of mail, a helmet, and maybe greaves or the like. To them, that was pretty thorough coverage, and adequate for their purposes.

In any discussion on armor, we should always avoid the urge to see "full plate armor" as some kind of obvious default that any man swinging a sword would naturally want, and that anything less than that was some kind of disadvantage. For a long time there simply weren't many weapons that had a significant chance of penetrating a mailshirt, so very few men saw a need to supplement or replace it.

Bottom line, it worked for them!

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Graham Shearlaw





Joined: 24 Oct 2011
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 94

PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2014 10:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I reckon that it's part technology, you need a big forge to make a breast plate and there costly and rare.
Now you can make a suit of armor without large plates just useing mail or lamellar.
Doing so has it's advantages, articulation is simpler for a start but you dont get the stiffness of solid plate.
That stiffness is ultimately needed to spread out the impact of later two handed weapons.

This is the best example of a full chain mail suit i've seen in RL
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,364

PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2014 12:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Graham Shearlaw wrote:
I reckon that it's part technology, you need a big forge to make a breast plate and there costly and rare.


Not really all that large. And they were making breastplates back in the Bronze Age, not to mention bronze shields that are quite a bit larger than a breastplate. It would certainly be done by a specialist armorer, but there were obviously plenty of those. Cost was no object to the aristocracy, in fact a REALLY expensive new toy was a very desirable status symbol!

Quote:
Now you can make a suit of armor without large plates just useing mail or lamellar.
Doing so has it's advantages, articulation is simpler for a start but you dont get the stiffness of solid plate.
That stiffness is ultimately needed to spread out the impact of later two handed weapons.


But cuirasses were made with only a front and back plate, with no articulation at all, all through the ancient era. Later medieval armor faced far more of those 2-handed weapons and yet it has far more articulation! So we can't make too many assumptions about cause and effect on that particular feature.

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,370

PostPosted: Fri 14 Nov, 2014 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bronze Age plate armour such as the Dendra Panoply is very crude and cumbersome compared to European articulated plate. There are three main differences

1. The armour was lined with a few layers of cloth and then strapped to the body rather than being pointed to a properly tailored arming doublet..
2. The plates are attached to each other with leather lacing instead of being articulated with sliding rivets.
3. They didn't have mail.

It might have a superficial resemblance but, functionally, it is completely different.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,504

PostPosted: Sat 15 Nov, 2014 8:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Flexible armours made of iron/steel plates resist penetration by arrows better than iron/steel rigid plates of the same thickness. So for some purposes - very important battlefield purposes such as keeping arrows out of your torso - you can get better protection for the same weight by using brigandine instead of plate.

This might have contributed to Chinese use of brigandine.

The types and numbers of gunpowder weapons matter too. If there is likely to be somebody who will shoot through "typical full plate", perhaps one might be better off with a heavier breastplate and partial armour instead of "full" armour.

The large numbers of guns in Chinese armies by mid-14th century would have made "full plate" less attractive. Already in the mid 13th century, one sees mention of guns that would pierce any armour on the battlefield.

But cost will matter. How closely the armour needs to be fitted to an individual will affect the cost. Do we see munition full plate anywhere?

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,370

PostPosted: Sun 16 Nov, 2014 1:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Flexible armours made of iron/steel plates resist penetration by arrows better than iron/steel rigid plates of the same thickness. So for some purposes - very important battlefield purposes such as keeping arrows out of your torso - you can get better protection for the same weight by using brigandine instead of plate.

Do you have any studies confirming this? There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account. Solid plate distributes impact better than small overlapping plates, but the latter can absorb more energy. Solid plate deflects projectiles a lot better than small overlapping plates. The fact that the plates overlap and require a lot of lacing or rivets and a foundation means that the construction weighs a lot more than solid plate of the same thickness. For the same weight you can make the solid plate thicker. I'm pretty sure that 1.5-2mm of solid plate provides far better protection than lamellar made from 1mm plates even though both constructions have a similar weight.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,207

PostPosted: Sun 16 Nov, 2014 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do suspect that European plate armor from approximately 1425-1625 gave the best protection of any historical armor per unit of weight at any given level of metallurgical quality. At the end of sixteenth century, Humphrey Barwick considered brigandines and coats of plate inferior armors and gave an example of a presumably couched lance piercing a coat of plates front and back. Of course, that's in the context of cavalry breastplates expected to stop a pistol ball at point-blank range. Against anything other than couched lances, guns, heavy crossbows, halberds, and maybe pikes, armors like briginadines and mail probably got the job done just fine. (Sir John Smythe did insist that pikers in the front ranks wear plate arm defenses rather than mail.) Brigandines, mail, and similar armors have advantages over plate: they're easier and quicker to put on, they're more comfortable to wear, they're easier to repair. Various sixteenth-century writers wanted mail, brigandine, and buff armors for their lighter troops. In theory, plate might be the best light armor, affording the most protection at the lowest weight, but for whatever reason folks in practice preferred other armors. I imagine these armors were easier for lighter troops to manage and manufacturing suitably light plate armor was difficult. For earlier times, as I'm sure Dan will let us know, heavier version could be made, to the point of resisting at least some lance strokes. So until the fourteenth century or so, a European warrior would make do with mail and perhaps a few reinforcements.

I'd love to see more tests on quality non-plate armors to get a sense of how they performed in the past. I recall reading about a test in which a reconstruction of Chinese armor performed better than any other armor tested at resist projectiles, but unfortunately I've never been able to track that down. I'm particularly intrigued by the mail-and-plate armor used by the Ottomans and others. I bet such armors did their jobs rather well.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,504

PostPosted: Sun 16 Nov, 2014 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:
Flexible armours made of iron/steel plates resist penetration by arrows better than iron/steel rigid plates of the same thickness. So for some purposes - very important battlefield purposes such as keeping arrows out of your torso - you can get better protection for the same weight by using brigandine instead of plate.

Do you have any studies confirming this? There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account. Solid plate distributes impact better than small overlapping plates, but the latter can absorb more energy. Solid plate deflects projectiles a lot better than small overlapping plates. The fact that the plates overlap and require a lot of lacing or rivets and a foundation means that the construction weighs a lot more than solid plate of the same thickness. For the same weight you can make the solid plate thicker. I'm pretty sure that 1.5-2mm of solid plate provides far better protection than lamellar made from 1mm plates even though both constructions have a similar weight.


It's easy to show that a single, small, movable plate resists penetration (by an arrow) better than a fixed plate, because energy goes into moving the plate. I don't know of any good studies on whole armours. There is the brigandine penetration test in Soar's "Secrets of the English War Bow", but that's a single armour, not looking at the effects of thickness, overlap, or variation in arrow weights. (For a fixed plate, the arrow weight shouldn't make much difference - to a reasonable approximation, only the energy matters, so different weights and speeds giving the same kinetic energy = (1/2)*m*v^2 should give about the same penetration. However, for a movable plate, a lighter, faster arrow should be better, since it will move the plate less, and more of its energy will be available for penetration.)

1mm lamellar will be much heavier than 2mm plate, but I'd expect it to protect better. Side-to-side overlap is usually complete, and up-and-down overlap is usually large, so every arrow faces 2-4 thickness of 1mm. In addition, the individual plate will be much more likely to bend, which takes energy (basically, like duplex plate armours - laminated plates (as long as the plates are not too strongly bonded) are known to work well).

Would be good to know weights of lamellar vs plate, to know the equivalent thickness of plate.

My feeling is that for brigandine, where the plates are more independently mobile than lamellar (where side-by-side lacing is usually tight), you win in terms of arrow protection for a given weight. Consider an 80g armour plate, free to move, hit by an 80g arrow. If the plate resists penetration, the plate+arrow will be moving at half the initial speed of the arrow, so only 1/2 of the initial kinetic energy was available for penetration (the plate has 1/4, and the arrow still has 1/4 left). For brigandine without much overlap, the brigandine is probably about 50% heavier than plate of the same thickness. What's better: plate 50% thicker, or 1/2 the energy being available for penetration? (This will all benefit from experimental testing and more realistic mathematical modelling.)

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,207

PostPosted: Sun 16 Nov, 2014 9:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Barwick wrote that brigandines and the other non-plate armors recommended by Sir John Smythe would protect best against arrows if against anything. This was the opposite of a ringing endorsement and more of a claim for the inferiority of both arrows and those armors.

Assuming equal metallurgy, I doubt that any brigandine provides more protection per unit of weight. Based on Alan Williams's figures, metal plate already provides impressive protection against arrows. By those numbers 2mm of even low-carbon steel require 131.25 J to defeat with an arrow, which with padding is basically proof against any European-style bow (not necessarily crossbow). And that's with a perpendicular hit, which the shape of the armor would make less likely. Such a 2mm breastplate would only weigh about 5lbs.

Again, more tests woulds be great!

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message
William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,462

PostPosted: Sun 16 Nov, 2014 10:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:
Flexible armours made of iron/steel plates resist penetration by arrows better than iron/steel rigid plates of the same thickness. So for some purposes - very important battlefield purposes such as keeping arrows out of your torso - you can get better protection for the same weight by using brigandine instead of plate.

Do you have any studies confirming this? There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account. Solid plate distributes impact better than small overlapping plates, but the latter can absorb more energy. Solid plate deflects projectiles a lot better than small overlapping plates. The fact that the plates overlap and require a lot of lacing or rivets and a foundation means that the construction weighs a lot more than solid plate of the same thickness. For the same weight you can make the solid plate thicker. I'm pretty sure that 1.5-2mm of solid plate provides far better protection than lamellar made from 1mm plates even though both constructions have a similar weight.


we do have one example of this however it is an unusual one. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...vanium.jpg based off of (as usual) byzantine iconography, this unusual form of lamellar was tested, and curiously, had the apparent tendency to act like a spring and literally rebound the arrows back at the testers.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,370

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2014 12:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That doesn't help much. Solid plate of the same weight or even less would stop the same weapon.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2014 12:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Decent plate armour would have bounced the arrows off too -- that's what the smooth, rounded glancing surfaces are for. On the other hand, while a properly-made plate would still provide better protection than the same weight of brigandine, if it's true that brigandine cuirasses were heavier than contemporary plate cuirasses on average then it's still possible that they'd be more protective against arrows by virtue of simply having more metal between the arrow and the wearer. A more appropriate comparison would be against later, thicker plate armour from the late 16th or the 17th century that would have had the same thickness as the aggregate of all the overlapped plates at a given point on the brigandine.
View user's profile Send private message
William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,462

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2014 4:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i see your point about the benefits of larger plates, however
im not talking about arrows being simply deflected which all armours should do im talking about rebounding the projectile back the way it came... like what happens then someone is jumping on a trampoline. although with not as much force on the return... this imples a very different way of absorbing and dealing with impact forces.

however one benefit of making armour out of smaller pieces is that smaller pieces are much easier to control the thickness, quality of the iron, and the heat treatment in smaller pieces than a large single piece. which would explain why in the 16th and 17th centuries, cuirasses of horizontal lames were adopted in some cases instead of a single solid breastplate. as is the case for the garniture of henry herbert the earl of pembroke. http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/b5/67/...fcdae0.jpg
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Bart Jongsma




Location: Groningen, The Netherlands
Joined: 03 Mar 2004

Posts: 15

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2014 9:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The main reason I've seen being cited is a metallurgical limitation. To make plate armor of a suitable thickness and square footage, you need large blooms of base wrought iron that is quite low in silica and other inclusions and impurities. I think we're talking in the region of 8 kg for a breastplate. The furnaces that could produce high quality iron in that quantity were simply not available until the late 13th-early 14th centuries, or perhaps even later, I don't have the exact figures in front of me.

Good books to consult on the development of metallurgy and the congruent development of arms techonology are The Knight and the Blast Furnace and The Sword and the Crucible.

EDIT: dating nuance
View user's profile Send private message
Kai Lawson




Location: Madison, WI
Joined: 26 Aug 2010
Likes: 7 pages

Posts: 531

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2014 10:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think it's important to remember that while some early breast or breast and back plates were covered, many later examples were not, and as such give the heads or points of incoming weapons of all types less 'grip' when struck initially. This is notable especially in terms or striking faces on polearms and blunt trauma weapons.

There are also of course factors like manufacture, consistency of material, social structure allowing for and supporting increased purchasing power, potential shifts in the nature of conflicts and whole hosts of other factors.

"And they crossed swords."
--William Goldman, alias S. Morgenstern
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,364

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2014 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bart Jongsma wrote:
The main reason I've seen being cited is a metallurgical limitation. To make plate armor of a suitable thickness and square footage, you need large blooms of base wrought iron that is quite low in silica and other inclusions and impurities. I think we're talking in the region of 8 kg for a breastplate. The furnaces that could produce high quality iron in that quantity were simply not available until the late 13th-early 14th centuries, or perhaps even later, I don't have the exact figures in front of me.


I know that's been brought up before, so I must be forgetting something. But iron breastplates are known from the 4th century BC. So are you talking about higher quality steels? And can't smaller billets of iron be forge-welded together to make a larger piece? That was common for pattern-welded swords, after all. And 8 kg for a breastplate sounds awful high, though I'm not a smith so I don't know what percentage is lost during the work. It just sounds like people are claiming that what the ancients did was impossible!

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 502

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2014 10:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Bart Jongsma wrote:
The main reason I've seen being cited is a metallurgical limitation. To make plate armor of a suitable thickness and square footage, you need large blooms of base wrought iron that is quite low in silica and other inclusions and impurities. I think we're talking in the region of 8 kg for a breastplate. The furnaces that could produce high quality iron in that quantity were simply not available until the late 13th-early 14th centuries, or perhaps even later, I don't have the exact figures in front of me.


I know that's been brought up before, so I must be forgetting something. But iron breastplates are known from the 4th century BC. So are you talking about higher quality steels? And can't smaller billets of iron be forge-welded together to make a larger piece? That was common for pattern-welded swords, after all. And 8 kg for a breastplate sounds awful high, though I'm not a smith so I don't know what percentage is lost during the work. It just sounds like people are claiming that what the ancients did was impossible!

Matthew

The expense of than much iron for something than would provide less coverage, and if could done perfectly, could need up being less protective than a good gambeson and mail becuase of the higher chances of impurites sinking into the piece, made it to to risk and not cost effective. There is reason the Romans uses several pieces laced together and even they, from what I've read, only managed to makes the surface of lorica segmentata clean .
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > How come plate armor's peak take so long to be reached?
Page 1 of 3 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2019 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum