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Kurt Scholz





Joined: 09 Dec 2008

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PostPosted: Fri 07 Oct, 2011 1:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Gary for the detailed reply. I'm used to the metric system and have a hard time with ounces and feet.

Some sources come to my mind about leather armour:

Polybius and Livy mention a rearmament of Hannibal's Lybo-Phoenician troops with Roman armour instead of their leather armour. I have to research the exact page, but it seems to have happened in between Lake Trasimene and Cannae.

Another is the Quran, arming the freshly founded Muslims for world conquest meant getting hands on as much horses and metal armour as possible, but supplanting this with lots of home-made leather armour.
For the Muslims' metal armour there are many tips for keeping it useable for a long time with oil and dung (so you couldn't do lots of training with it?). Does leather armour need less care and could it be used on a day to day basis, like in a guerilla war instead of a few battles? Perhaps the modern and ancient iron alloys make for differences in stainlessness?
And would they be a classic example of nomadic people with lots of animals, much time to train fighting skills, but little wealth to obtain an extensive metal equipment for war, so you rather take what's at hand?

David Nicolle in his Medieval Source book points out that the regions of the southern Mediterranean weren't as rich in iron ore as the north, so in the south leather prevailed over metal, late Medieval Grenada is the example where he tries to show this difference.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Oct, 2011 7:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kurt Scholz wrote:
Polybius and Livy mention a rearmament of Hannibal's Lybo-Phoenician troops with Roman armour instead of their leather armour. I have to research the exact page, but it seems to have happened in between Lake Trasimene and Cannae.


Hannibal did indeed re-arm his trooops with Roman gear, but I never heard that Roman armor replaced Carthaginian *leather* armor.

The Classical Greek spolas was leather, in all likelihood. That's the "tube and yoke" cuirass that we see in all those vase paintings, which we used to call "linothorax". However, in the Hellenistic era it seems that quilted linen became quite common--no idea if it supplanted the spolas or not. Since we read of such things as Alexander's troops burning their old worn-out armor, the evidence leans towards linen being the more common choice.

The Greek spolas from 500 BC and buff coats from 1600 AD are still not *evidence* for Anglo-Saxon leather armor. Just sayin'!

Matthew
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Oct, 2011 11:31 pm    Post subject: Leather         Reply with quote

Just a thought. Where the Huns, Avars and other Euro-Asiatic steppe cultures cattle farmers, or did they raise sheep and, goats? I would have thought that having herds of both cattle and horses would need vast amounts of fodder, plus at least with sheep not only do you get milk but wool to make your textiles either as spun thread or felt. One source of hide we seem to be forgetting which they had in abundance is their very own method of transport, the horse. I'd be pretty certain that when an animal was past its useful life it was still looked at a resource for any number of things but if they made leather armour out if it is it seems to me unknown!

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Dave

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Justin H. Núñez




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Oct, 2011 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Horse hide is fabulously resistant and pliable. Bomber jackets anyone? As to the Steppe cultures, I think that we should not think like Westerners but should look to the records themselves. Also, I think that in looking at ancient records we should not be so quick to dismiss what they are actually saying as is so typical in our western European academic circles. You know the "if it doesn't meet our 'standards' then it doesn't count" routine that amounts to honestly nothing more than academic snobbery; though minds have opened up a little with the new generation of scholars. We should also not rule out the problem of sample size in the record. What we have as our record is really a just a few scraps of left overs in comparison to hoards of people who have lived in each age.
Back to the steppes, yes I think that as general rule the troops would have used what was at hand. The steppe peoples being far more ingenuitive and resourceful than we are in those types of things. So I think that horse hide would be a good candidate as well as camel when it could be had and cattle hide being in there among them.
Someone a few posts ago mentioned something about Western American cattle drives and herd sizes. Let us not forget that the central Asian steppes are vastly larger than ours out west and with open migrations of the tribes herd size would not have been a problem for few generations. Remember that overgrazing helped to contribute the unrest that spurred the great migrations.
Also, I think that it is important to think on what type of combat those peoples were going into. Not everyone was going into a giant melee but more often than not it was one on one type stuff, or smaller raids or skirmishes. Again, let us think as they thought and not like as we think, "Why not get the best out there?" Most tribal peoples do not think this way. They think "what will do will do and if by chance the opportunity of something better falls into the path then we'll pick up something better." I think that the importance of the shield should not be overlooked. I remember reading a XVth manuscript that was talking about how you only need armour where your shield or buckler cannot be. Again, according to what you are going to be doing.
Now, what the idea that they are all too poor to afford different sets of armour for different types of fighting. I would say that perhaps a parallel might be rural Mexico. There even the poorest vaquero has at least a couple of different bits and saddles and reatas, all home-made, or at least local made, that surpass that quality of most American cowboys. Again, each according to what they are going to do. But they do have favorites that they make do with most of the time that works for most everything most of the time. It is only when they know they are going to do a certain thing for an extended time that they "outfit" for specialty. So again I say think like they thought and not like us. Good science follows all roads to the end, not just the one that seems most probable at the time because you happen to like it and you give only and passing glance at others on the way.
It is all very complex. And I have probably left out some things that I was going to say but forgot in the course of writing. And none of this really does justice to the topic at hand and I hope that I have offended only those that think they need it. But I hope you all get my drift.

"Nothing in fencing is really difficult, it just takes work." - Aldo Nadi
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Oct, 2011 10:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
" First Nation American natives wore buck skin shirts in the belief they would not be harmed by bullets, Commando Forces of WWII chose to wear berets instead of metal helms even though society could quite easily provide for more costly and more effective protection.¤


I don't think the American Indian thing is very relative. They had no acess to any armour that was capable of stopping bullets. Now, if Ballistic vest capable of stopping firearms of the time were available, at least to the welathy elite Indians, I'm sure they would toss their buckskin shirts for a ballistic vest.

And the buckskin shirt was a very small and short lived religous movement, part of the Ghost Dancer cult. Short lived and used because the tribes were on the brink of extinction, at least for life as they knew it.

British commandos are a bit different as well. Again, there was not armour worn at the time capable of providing a reasonable defense from the weapons of that time. Now, if general troopers wore armour capable of defending against the rifles of the time, and commandos did not, that would be a different story.

Actually, to look at the real armour issues of the time, it would be like as if the Germans decided to use unarmoured tanks against the other countries tanks. Basically like having a tiger or panther wihout any armour.

Quote:
Just a thought. Where the Huns, Avars and other Euro-Asiatic steppe cultures cattle farmers, or did they raise sheep and, goats?


I've done a bit of research on the steppe cultures. It appears cattle were a lot more rare than goats and sheep, I guess it's the renewable resource issue perhaps? Sheep provide wool and milk, Goats provide Hair (Cashmere is made from goat hair) and milk.

Actually a nomad's diet was very heavily milk (yogurt, cheeses, etc.) based, which suprised me.

I don't know why cattle were not raised for meat as they are today. Perhaps the ability to preserve meat, and jerky type food was not highly valued? I really don't know, maybe someone here has a better reason for this, but it seems slaughtering cows was not as effiicient use of pastoralism as the renewable resources such as milk and hair/fur.

Quote:
Someone a few posts ago mentioned something about Western American cattle drives and herd sizes. Let us not forget that the central Asian steppes are vastly larger than ours out west and with open migrations of the tribes herd size would not have been a problem for few generations. Remember that overgrazing helped to contribute the unrest that spurred the great migrations.


It looks like period practices though were not cattle drives, but the raising of goats and sheep. This provides some info, I am not sure if it was based on current nomads, or information on historical nomads, or both, but pretty well correlates with other sources I have read about steppe nomad pastoralism

http://www.e-mongol.com/mongolia_nomadiclife.htm

Quote:
Also, I think that in looking at ancient records we should not be so quick to dismiss what they are actually saying as is so typical in our western European academic circles. You know the "if it doesn't meet our 'standards' then it doesn't count" routine that amounts to honestly nothing more than academic snobbery; though minds have opened up a little with the new generation of scholars. We should also not rule out the problem of sample size in the record. What we have as our record is really a just a few scraps of left overs in comparison to hoards of people who have lived in each age.

Back to the steppes, yes I think that as general rule the troops would have used what was at hand. The steppe peoples being far more ingenuitive and resourceful than we are in those types of things. So I think that horse hide would be a good candidate as well as camel when it could be had and cattle hide being in there among them.

Also, I think that it is important to think on what type of combat those peoples were going into. Not everyone was going into a giant melee but more often than not it was one on one type stuff, or smaller raids or skirmishes. Again, let us think as they thought and not like as we think, "Why not get the best out there?" Most tribal peoples do not think this way. They think "what will do will do and if by chance the opportunity of something better falls into the path then we'll pick up something better."


Point is here though, Justin, we are looking for more than just speculation. Pictorial sources, literary sources, archaeological evidence, etc.

But on the point of speculation - Horse Hide for one. I have tried to find something a bit more than general information, but all I have found is that a horse hide is thinner than a cowhide - about 2/3 or so in thickness. So for finding thick armour grade leather, horse hide is second to cowhide.

Another "speculative" point - Steepe tribes wood have great access to textiles, wool, cashmere, etc. etc. Based on testing, a multi layered textile garment provides better protection than leather. I'd argue it's more likley they would use a layered textile gament.

Lastly though - I think you need to realize the difference between leather armour and clothing. 2-4oz weight leather, the type that would be most common, makes fine clothing. It has practically "0" value as armour.

So one could wear 4oz leather - for little or no armour value. Or one could wear a thick woolen jacket, probably the same armour value and about a quarter of the weight.

Sure, a leather coat might be a display of wealth - but that does not make it armour.

For true "armour" leather, it has to be very thick, and/or treated. I am not ruling out leather lammelar - there are examples of such. And Cuiboilli, or even thick vegetable tanned leather could have been used - but simple tandard weight cow hide, is NOT armour, it's leather. And while some of these forms of leather may have been effective to a point, they pale in comparison to the performance and durability of metal armour, so one would think metal lammelar replaces leather lammelar, particularily for the wealthy once available.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Oct, 2011 12:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I might add to make the point about leather "armour", and leather that is clothing:

Quote:
In the Irish Tain Bo Cuailgne (10-11th century), Loeg, Cu Chulainn’s charioteer, is described wearing a deerskin tunic (inar), and mantle (bratt). Cu Chulainn is armoured thus:
“…twenty-seven tunics [cneslenti] worn next to his skin, waxed, board like, compact, which were bound with strings and ropes and thongs close to his fair skin…Over that outside he put his hero’s battle girdle [cathchriss] of hard leather, tough and tanned, made from the best part of seven ox-hides of yearlings, which covered him from the thin part of his side to the thick part of his arm-pit; he used to wear it to repel spears [gai] and points [rend] and darts [iaernn] and lances [sleg] and arrows [saiget],


Loeg, the charioteer, might be a bit wealthy, at least above the status of a commoner.

His garb is a deerskin tunic and mantle. Leather yes - but armour, it certainly does not appear as such. And deerskin would be a poor choice for "armour", as it is very thin in comaprison to cowhide.

Chulainn's leather, however, is decribed differently. It is cowhide, hard leather, tough and tanned.

This would not be rawhide, it would be leather. "Hard" does not mean cuirboilli necessarily, could possibly he cuirbolli, or perhaps just leather made somewhat hard by being vegetable tanned for a long period of time.

Quote:
Then he put on his apron [fuathbroic] of filmy silk with its border of variegated white gold, against the soft lower part of his body. Outside his apron of filmy silk he put on his dark apron [dond{f}uathbroic] of pliable brown leather made from the choicest part of four yearling ox-hides with his battle-girdle [cathchris] of cows’ skins about it.” (ibid., 11 2215ff)


The filmy silk is likley expensive clothing, and it is decorated richly it seems.

He wears a "Dark Apron" of cow leather. Sounds like it might be somewhat thick by the "choisest part of four yearling ox-hides", though this is of course a guess. In any event, it's pliable. Maybe at best an apron similar to a buff coat - or maybe just more standard clothing, though as it is of leather it may show some prestige.

Quote:
twenty-seven tunics [cneslenti] worn next to his skin, waxed, board like, compact, which were bound with strings and ropes and thongs close to his fair skin


This to me rings of armour. 27 layers of tunic - Similar to some gambeson descriptions.

The "Waxed and Boardlike" - maybe a method of treatment? I read elswhere where a 24 layer linen gambeson was treated with rough wine to make it tough, in a later period quote. Boardlike could also mean due to the 27 layer thickness it was a bit stiff.

Quote:
The clothing for everyone is the cloak, which is fastened by brooch or failing that by thorn; they spend whole days at the fire by the hearth in nothing else. The greatest landowners are marked by clothes, not loose like the Sarmatians’ and Parthians’, but tight and shaping every limb. And they wear the skins of wild animals-- casually near the coasts, more carefully farther off as there is no trading culture. The animals are chosen, and the piebald coats are flayed and the skins of beasts which are born of the Outer Ocean and the unknown seas


On Tacitus description of the Germanic tribesmen - it seems the wealthy wear the tight fitting clothing and skins of animals. But this clearly looks to be a description of the well-drfessed wealthy, nothing indicates it is amour.
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Oct, 2011 2:18 pm    Post subject: Leather         Reply with quote

'I don't think the American Indian thing is very relative.' [/i]

I think you miss my point Gary, the example I gave was simply to demonstrate a culture's form of 'Belief' which as you rightly state was a part of a religious movement. The point is they believed in the supernatural property of the buck skin shirt.

'British commandos are a bit different as well. Again, there was not armour worn at the time capable of providing a reasonable defense from the weapons of that time. Now, if general troopers wore armour capable of defending against the rifles of the time, and commandos did not, that would be a different story.'

And again, this is an example of 'braggadocio' they choose not to wear the metal helmet which where worn by general troopers irrespective if those general issue helmets where capable of defending against rifles of the time.

What may seem logical to us may not have been to people in the past, and as has often been said the past is a foreign country!

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Dave

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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Oct, 2011 4:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
'I don't think the American Indian thing is very relative.' [/i]


Quote:
I think you miss my point Gary, the example I gave was simply to demonstrate a culture's form of 'Belief' which as you rightly state was a part of a religious movement. The point is they believed in the supernatural property of the buck skin shirt


No, I get the point, I just don't think it's very relative.

A few things - it was not just the shirt itself that made the indians "invulnerable". The shirt was merely a symbol of the ritual in whcih they cleansed their spirit in order to make themselves righteous and invulnerable. The shirt was merely a symbol of that ritual, not looked upon as "armour".

This makes it more akin to any type of spiritual headband, such as the Japanese Hchimaki headband worn by kamikze pilots.

It's not that they thought the physical properties of the shirt would stop bullets.

This practice of wearing the shirts - it began in 1889 and pretty well ended in 1890, so it lasted about 2 years. And it was not a widespread movement among all indian tribes, the ghost shirts were pretty well limited to some of the Lakota tribes.

To attribute this as a characteristic of the view points of the American Indians on armour is similar to looking at David Karesh and the Branch Davidians as characteristic of the American people.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Oct, 2011 5:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Justin H. Núñez wrote:
Also, I think that in looking at ancient records we should not be so quick to dismiss what they are actually saying as is so typical in our western European academic circles.


I fully agree! Obviously some need to be treated with caution, or at least question as to their date, etc., but I definitely believe in giving the ancient writers the benefit of the doubt.

Quote:
You know the "if it doesn't meet our 'standards' then it doesn't count" routine that amounts to honestly nothing more than academic snobbery; though minds have opened up a little with the new generation of scholars.


I've seen that. I've also seen centuries of academics who make sweeping conclusions or baseless assumptions that then become dogma. Open minds are good, but treating speculation as being of the same value as historical evidence is not.

Quote:
We should also not rule out the problem of sample size in the record. What we have as our record is really a just a few scraps of left overs in comparison to hoards of people who have lived in each age.


The sample might be larger than you think. Plus, if it's consistent, and agrees with the pictoral and literary sources, why conclude that it's wrong?

Quote:
Also, I think that it is important to think on what type of combat those peoples were going into. Not everyone was going into a giant melee but more often than not it was one on one type stuff, or smaller raids or skirmishes.


Wouldn't a weapon have the same impact regardless of the number of men on the battlefield? And wouldn't a warrior be *more* likely to be facing multiple opponents or even be surrounded without the nice formation of a full battle? And wouldn't those formations actually give individual warriors better protection due to their comrades around them? Makes me think that I'd want *more* armor for a raid or skirmish, not less. Cuchulain went the whole nine yards, it seems. Go with the evidence, eh?

Quote:
I think that the importance of the shield should not be overlooked. I remember reading a XVth manuscript that was talking about how you only need armour where your shield or buckler cannot be.


Agreed. There are muster laws known from several cultures in the early middle ages, and it's remarkable that they tend to mention "spear and shield" for the bulk of the troops, with mail and helmets for the wealthier or better-equipped minority. Not a mention of leather armor.

Quote:
It is all very complex.


Oh, yes!


Gary Teuscher wrote:
On Tacitus description of the Germanic tribesmen - it seems the wealthy wear the tight fitting clothing and skins of animals. But this clearly looks to be a description of the well-drfessed wealthy, nothing indicates it is amour.


A number of animal skin cloaks and caps have been found on bog bodies, including women. They were just clothing. Bogs have also yielded a couple pair of short woolen trousers with (to a modern eye) very oddly-shaped pieces, as if they were originally made from hides and at some point "translated" into wool. I could throw in Roman women's leather bikini briefs, found in England--not armor.

Quote:
Point is here though, Justin, we are looking for more than just speculation. Pictorial sources, literary sources, archaeological evidence, etc.


Amen!

Matthew
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Andrew W




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Oct, 2011 6:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Justin H. Núñez wrote:
Also, I think that in looking at ancient records we should not be so quick to dismiss what they are actually saying as is so typical in our western European academic circles. You know the "if it doesn't meet our 'standards' then it doesn't count" routine that amounts to honestly nothing more than academic snobbery; though minds have opened up a little with the new generation of scholars.
...
I think that as general rule the troops would have used what was at hand. The steppe peoples being far more ingenuitive and resourceful than we are in those types of things.


The danger with this kind of common sense approach is that risks being very ethnocentric, because it expects the Steppe people, being very ingenious, to do precisely what we (as 21st century westerners) think they should have done. I personally think that this is just as if not more dangerous than approaching the written sources with a critical eye. Indeed, historians question the surface readings of texts not because they don't trust the ancient authors to know what they were talking about (your 'academic snobbery'), but because they don't trust their own face-value readings to necessarily be what the author's were trying to say. Tacitus, for example, was commenting on Roman society and morality using the barbarians as a rhetorical foil to expose social problems back home; many have gone wrong assuming that he was writing a modern anthropological-style work of ethnography whose primary goal was the accurate description of the barbarian peoples. That wasn't his purpose in writing, and expecting to find that kind of information in his pages is asking something of is text that he never attempted to provide. Just as we have to keep things like genre and authorial intent in mind when we're reading history, so we don't think that authors were trying to do what we'd like them to do, we also must remember that different cultures have different common senses, and not assume that the Steppe nomads used leather armor, in absence of evidence, because we would do the same if pulled out of our 21st century context and put in their place tomorrow. Many wrong conclusions have been reached in past archaeological scholarship through this kind of ethnocentric reasoning.
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Len Parker





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Oct, 2011 8:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If leather was so expensive in the ancient world, why does Tacitus consider the payment of ox hides to be only a moderate tribute?

Annals Book 4
72. That same year the Frisii, a nation beyond the Rhine, cast off peace, more because of our rapacity than from their impatience of subjection. Drusus had imposed on them a moderate tribute, suitable to their limited resources, the furnishing of ox hides for military purposes. No one ever severely scrutinized the size or thickness till Olennius, a first-rank centurion, appointed to govern the Frisii, selected hides of wild bulls as the standard according to which they were to be supplied. This would have been hard for any nation, and it was the less tolerable to the Germans, whose forests abound in huge beasts, while their home cattle are undersized. http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/tac/a04070.htm
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Oct, 2011 10:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary

Quote:
To attribute this as a characteristic of the view points of the American Indians on armour is similar to looking at David Karesh and the Branch Davidians as characteristic of the American people.


I don't believe I did say this was characteristic, whether the shirt did or didn't offer protection against bullets the mute point is 'Belief'.

I think Gary that as we are on divergent paths in the discussion and we just simply agree to disagree.

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Dave

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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Oct, 2011 3:16 am    Post subject: Leather armour         Reply with quote

Len

Your quote from Tacitus has provoked another question' Tacitus mentions 'whose forests abound in huge beasts,'. I wonder if the hide from the native Auroch and European bison , which from the quote provides a comparison to the domestic beast of the period, where of an adequate thickness to provide armour grade?

Just speculation of course!

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Dave

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Len Parker





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Oct, 2011 6:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David, that quote tells us several things:
1. That a people considered poor in resources could still provide ox leather.
2. Leather from wild animals was considered superior to domestic.
3. That there were plenty of large animals in the wild (at least for the germans) for any hunter who wanted to make use of them.

Tacitus saying the ox hides were for military use doesn't tell us what military use, so I can't speculate on armour, but ox leather was certainly available.
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Oct, 2011 7:11 am    Post subject: Leather armour         Reply with quote

Thank you Len

I think the question of leather as armour for the period in question has as ever on the various discussions on this forum surrounding the topic come to the conclusion that the resources where available but whether it was utilised as anything other then clothing or perhaps a token of belief & cult practice, a reflection of status or even a possible component of a composite armour, remains unproven...for now Wink

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Dave

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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Oct, 2011 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Open minds are good, but treating speculation as being of the same value as historical evidence is not.


Amen, Matthew. In a debate like this, one must clearly distiguish evidence from speculation. And of course when you get a bit of eveidence, to make wide sweeping jusgements off of it is indeed speculation as well.

Quote:
Wouldn't a weapon have the same impact regardless of the number of men on the battlefield? And wouldn't a warrior be *more* likely to be facing multiple opponents or even be surrounded without the nice formation of a full battle? And wouldn't those formations actually give individual warriors better protection due to their comrades around them? Makes me think that I'd want *more* armor for a raid or skirmish, not less. Cuchulain went the whole nine yards, it seems. Go with the evidence, eh?


Here I would have to say there is a difference between raids, skirmshes, and battles. Mobilty is more key in skirmishes. and missile fire can be more effective in skirmish situations when the idea is not to close to contact with the main battle line. I think due to mobility, cavalry and mounted infantry were more effective in raids and skirmishes. A solid wall of spear armed infantry is quite an obstacle for a horse - a man or a few men is not the same obstacle and is something to be ridden down. Macedonian pikemen were great on an open battlefield - but if pike armed, not so useful in a skirmish.

However, eben though there is a difference in a battle and a skirmish, I don't think it in any way points toward leather armour. I don't think there is much of a difference in mobility if you give Chulainn a mail byrnie over his 27 layers of tunics instead of his leather girdle Wink

Quote:
Tacitus, for example, was commenting on Roman society and morality using the barbarians as a rhetorical foil to expose social problems back home; many have gone wrong assuming that he was writing a modern anthropological-style work of ethnography whose primary goal was the accurate description of the barbarian peoples. That wasn't his purpose in writing, and expecting to find that kind of information in his pages is asking something of is text that he never attempted to provide. Just as we have to keep things like genre and authorial intent in mind when we're reading history, so we don't think that authors were trying to do what we'd like them to do, we also must remember that different cultures have different common senses, and not assume that the Steppe nomads used leather armor, in absence of evidence, because we would do the same if pulled out of our 21st century context and put in their place tomorrow. Many wrong conclusions have been reached in past archaeological scholarship through this kind of ethnocentric reasoning.


Very good point, Andrew. We must realize that some period writings were not natural or military studies but also propaganda biased towards who's side they were on.

For example, Gerald of Wales, and author who is Welsh an sympathetic to the Welsh cause against the english is who gives us the story of an arrow passing through mail, gambeson, a leg, then the mail and gambeson again, then through a saddle, the penetrating deep enough to kill a horse. Pretty well a physical impossibility from any testing that has been done, even the testing that greatly favors bows. Of course, this author also notes in his natural studies that beaver castrate themselves to avoid danger, and an Osprey has webbed feet, so you have to look at the author for what it's worth, Gerald seems to mix fairy tales in with his stories.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Oct, 2011 10:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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Your quote from Tacitus has provoked another question' Tacitus mentions 'whose forests abound in huge beasts,'. I wonder if the hide from the native Auroch and European bison , which from the quote provides a comparison to the domestic beast of the period, where of an adequate thickness to provide armour grade?


Well David, I would guess yes, they would make good armour grade hide, as they were larger than even current day cattle.

Quote:
Drusus had imposed on them a moderate tribute, suitable to their limited resources, the furnishing of ox hides for military purposes. No one ever severely scrutinized the size or thickness till Olennius, a first-rank centurion, appointed to govern the Frisii, selected hides of wild bulls as the standard according to which they were to be supplied. This would have been hard for any nation, and it was the less tolerable to the Germans, whose forests abound in huge beasts, while their home cattle are undersized


Quote:
David, that quote tells us several things:
1. That a people considered poor in resources could still provide ox leather.
2. Leather from wild animals was considered superior to domestic.
3. That there were plenty of large animals in the wild (at least for the germans) for any hunter who wanted to make use of them.

Tacitus saying the ox hides were for military use doesn't tell us what military use, so I can't speculate on armour, but ox leather was certainly available.


I don;t get the same thing from reading the above passage, Len.

1. This Tribe may have been short in what Romans determine as wealth - silver, gold, maybe their metal working was not up to Roman standards. But what they DID have that the romans deemed worthy of asking for tribute were ox hides. Apparently this was the tribes greatest source of wealth usable by the Romans.
2. Nowhere does it say that wild hides were superior to domestic. It says:

Quote:
This would have been hard for any nation, and it was the less tolerable to the Germans, whose forests abound in huge beasts, while their home cattle are undersized


They are saying this was a hard tribute to meet for any nation, but HARDER for the Germans, who's forests abound in huge beasts while their cattle at home are undersized. If indeed the wild beast leather was better, this would make it an easier tribute for the Germans, not a harder one.

3. While there may have been far more wild beasts available in the forest, again, back to the quote I used for #2, this made it HARDER for the Germans to meet the tribute.

My guess is if the wild beasts discussed were the Aurochs, it points to the superiority of pastoralism over hunting and gathering. It's less efficient to hunt the beasts for leather than it is to raise an slaughter them for it. You have to find them, kill them (risk of injury or death to the hunter), and then bring them back, and then start all over, with a locally diminishing population if over hunted.

My guess is the "huge beasts" could also be bears, other predators, etc., pointing to the fact that the Germanic forests were more dangerous than the Roman forests.

Could Aurochs hide be used for leather grade armour - sure, but the hunting would be more dangerous and labor intensive than pastoralism, whcih would make these hides MORE expensive than domesticated hides in terms of resources spent to procure them.

Quote:
Tacitus saying the ox hides were for military use doesn't tell us what military use, so I can't speculate on armour, but ox leather was certainly available.


Shoes, soles for shoes in particular, facings for the scutum, carrying devices of all kinds. There were many military uses for leather.

It has been mentioned on this thread when discussing the Roman "Subarmarlis", IIRC apprently a garment worn under armour that there could well have been leather used in this garment, though I think I remember the passage saying something about the leather as a "cover", so it is unclear if the hide was used as a top layer, or as a cover to keep it dry.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Oct, 2011 10:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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I think the question of leather as armour for the period in question has as ever on the various discussions on this forum surrounding the topic come to the conclusion that the resources where available but whether it was utilised as anything other then clothing or perhaps a token of belief & cult practice, a reflection of status or even a possible component of a composite armour, remains unproven...for now


Well, there are a few "proven" uses of leather as armour.

1) Leather Lammelar finds - probably used by those who had not the acess or the funds to obtain metal armour by make or trade, metal armour would have been first desired. How widespread was it's use? Hard to say, there we get to specualtion Big Grin , but at least a few Parthians apprently used it, one could speculate logically that it was used by other steppe nomad tribes as well.
2) The Buff coat - an expensive piece of eqiupment that funtioned it seems in a similar way to the multi layered cloth gambeson, why it superceded the jack or gambeson is interesting, as it seems to perform worse in testing and was not cheap. At least it would be better in the rain.
3) As an outer layer for gambesons (per literary evidence and apparently also on the find shown at the beginning of the topic. Perhaps used as an outer layer on the Subarmalis.
4) CuirBoilli - Not sure of the sources for any usage on this one.
5) The Girdle of Chulainn - this passage may point to practices of the time in Ireland, perhaps thick leather over 27 layers of cloth was a form of armour used in this place and time, but most likley reserved for the wealthy. Mail shows up in Pictorial evidence more an more in Ireland after the Viking contact - so at the beginning of this period, Ireland was possibly very metal poor, and mail replaced the use of such leather armour, if indeed it was used. This last source is rather speculative, but some things ring to practices of later times, like the 27 layered garment.
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Oct, 2011 10:41 am    Post subject: Leather armour         Reply with quote

Hi Gary

Certainly the points you raise are very valid. The Romans made a whole deal in their amphitheatres of the slaughter of beasts, and this has been said to be reflective of a display of Roman power subduing the wild uncivilised outer world, equally it could be said to a display a fear of the same.

Bears are an interesting point as far as some late Germanic Iron Age Scandinavian burials are concerned. A number of high status graves indicate a fashion for bear pelts accompanying the burial rite. Some one considered hunting them worthwhile despite the inherent dangers, but yes this is not relative to the discussion of leather armour but perhaps like the later bersekers and indeed Rome's own pelt wearing warriors they may have held a form of belief that a level of protection as well as other traits where transmuted to the wearer.

best
Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Oct, 2011 11:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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but perhaps like the later bersekers and indeed Rome's own pelt wearing warriors they may have held a form of belief that a level of protection as well as other traits where transmuted to the wearer.


Or maybe they were like High School football players, wearing their jerseys around school to merely "show off" (I did Big Grin ).

It''s hard to get in the head of people that lived 1000 years ago or more. But they were not stupid by any means, I thinktoo often we make the assumption that as they are not knowledgeable by our terms they were mentally inferior, whcih as false as they had the same ability to reason as we do.

For example - did the ancient greeks truly believe that Winter was the result of Persehone being taken away by Hades every year, and Demeter grieving til she came back, or was thius more folklore or for story telling than a true belief? Probably varied form person to person.

Wearing of a bear's pelt before/during a battle may have been for other reasons as well. A form of intimidation perhaps (I am a great warrior - I killed a bear, I can easily kill you). Just not sure how encumbering wearing a bear robe in combat would be though, might defeat the purpose of wearing one Big Grin
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