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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Thu 08 Aug, 2019 6:42 am    Post subject: Metallurgists: Could an iron shield be made in the Iron Age         Reply with quote

Hello.

Given the state of advancement in iron smithing in or around Central Europe (area of Hallstatt and early La Tene cultures and nearby) in the early 5th century BCE, would it have been possible for a smith to make a shield entirely out of iron? Not necessarily a large one, but similar to the all-bronze shields from the late Bronze Age.

I'm not asking whether anyone did, though that would be nice to know, just whether anyone could have, if the idea had occurred to them.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Aug, 2019 10:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting question! From what I've seen, though, not *quite* that early.

The earliest iron armor I've seen in Europe (aside from a shirt of Thracian scale which might be 5th century) is the two iron tube and yoke cuirasses from 4th century Macedonian royal tombs. One is the famous Vergina armor, of course, but the other, less well-preserved, was also found with the fragments of iron greaves, and fragments of what was apparently a full iron aspis facing. That's about when iron helmets start showing up in the Aegean, too.

That said, I'm not certain about Western Europe. I definitely haven't seen any remains of iron shields or armor from the 5th century. The use of mail by around 300 BC shows they could make iron sheet and wire at that point, but I'm darned if I can think of any iron helmets that date even that far back. Shield *bosses*, maybe.

That's all I got!

Matthew
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Aug, 2019 3:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is there any reason why you'd need a shield made from one piece? Why not make it from strips and rivet them together like Japanese tanko armour? AFAICT metal shields were pretty rare in any time period so nobody saw any real point in making them. Metal facings were more common.
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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Thu 08 Aug, 2019 6:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you. I figured it would be... a long shot. And a bit of an excessive use of iron for the time.

Dan Howard wrote:
Is there any reason why you'd need a shield made from one piece? Why not make it from strips and rivet them together like Japanese tanko armour?


Good point, I suppose the main reason is just because I instinctively picture something that would parallel other shields used in the same area, even though in reality they'd be separated by some centuries. So pieced-together construction would've been attainable?
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Aug, 2019 7:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Attainable" is really hard to say, without some input from experienced smelters and smiths. It might be easier to get smaller pieces of iron sheet than a larger one, but I simply don't know. Then you have to make the conceptual jump to multi-piece shields, riveted together, which isn't seen until the late middle ages. It's not that it's beyond their capability, it just isn't something they *do*, in large part because they don't need to--they have several perfectly workable options already. So in that regard, an iron-faced aspis makes sense, because bronze-faced aspides are old hat.

Matthew
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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Sat 10 Aug, 2019 12:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Understood. As I say, it's not so important to me whether it was actually done.

So I'm picturing a buckler or dhal, with a central boss and the body in quarters, either overlapping or joined by strips like on a spangenhelm. I'm sure if one could produce swords, then something like that would be within the abilities of an inventive smith.
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Aug, 2019 1:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have little doubt that a shield like that *could* have been made in that time. It only makes sense, really. You have metal swords, spears and arrowheads...why not a shield reinforced with the same? As you said---An *inventive* metal smith would have almost certainly thought of it. We just haven't found proof of such in that early of a time-frame. History continues to amaze and confuse us......... Wink ............McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Aug, 2019 6:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Moore wrote:
I have little doubt that a shield like that *could* have been made in that time. It only makes sense, really. You have metal swords, spears and arrowheads...why not a shield reinforced with the same? As you said---An *inventive* metal smith would have almost certainly thought of it. We just haven't found proof of such in that early of a time-frame. History continues to amaze and confuse us......... Wink ............McM


Weeeellllll, it doesn't quite "make sense" to *me*! Assuming that my information about making iron sheet is correct, a Thracian or Macedonian iron shield in the 4th century BC is plausible, since we know they could do it. But 5th century seems like a stretch, lacking those particular material techniques. What we know about Western Europe at that time doesn't make it clear to me that they were more advanced, in that regard. Being able to make iron swords and spears does not prove you can make iron armor/helmets/shields.

It's also like saying that since they could make a two-storey house, it would be no problem to make one ten storeys tall. Might not be *impossible*, but it requires another step in engineering, as well as a different mindset than existed at the time--these weren't people who were trained to think outside the box and be innovative with their technology, nor did they freely share their skills and information. There is strong evidence that they looked to the *past* for guidance, not the future. So it wouldn't occur to them to invent a new method of construction to make an iron shield--what's wrong with wood and leather and bronze, like we've always used?

Now, of course, they DID come up with new things and innovations and even iron shields, eventually, I'm not trying to say they NEVER did anything new! I just think there are more than just strict technological issues to be considered, and I would NEVER say, "Well, of COURSE they'd think of that!"

Just sayin'!

Matthew
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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Sun 11 Aug, 2019 9:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Would you say the technological challenge is in producing large enough pieces of sheet iron, or producing sheet iron at all? I'm sure I'd seen photos of Hallstatt daggers with iron scabbards, but maybe I'm misremembering and they were actually bronze.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Aug, 2019 12:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan D'Silva wrote:
Would you say the technological challenge is in producing large enough pieces of sheet iron, or producing sheet iron at all? I'm sure I'd seen photos of Hallstatt daggers with iron scabbards, but maybe I'm misremembering and they were actually bronze.

It has nothing to do with technological ability. It has everything to do with mindset.

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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Mon 12 Aug, 2019 3:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you. Like I say, it's not that important to me whether anyone came up the idea or would've had the right mindset to, only whether they'd have had the technological capacity to pull it off if they had though of it. So evidence that they could make a large enough piece of sheet iron, or that they could make smaller pieces and rivet them together, would be sufficient for my purpose.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Aug, 2019 4:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

They could have made gunpowder and bronze cannons but they didn't.
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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Mon 12 Aug, 2019 5:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, but I'm not suggesting, speculating, or arguing that what I'm envisioning is historical in any way.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Aug, 2019 7:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan D'Silva wrote:
Would you say the technological challenge is in producing large enough pieces of sheet iron, or producing sheet iron at all? I'm sure I'd seen photos of Hallstatt daggers with iron scabbards, but maybe I'm misremembering and they were actually bronze.


Not to be arguing *too* much with my Evil Twin, but capability definitely has SOMEthing to do with it! But as to small pieces versus large pieces, I simply don't know. I don't know the details and subtlety of the smithing, nor the finds that might exist. It's possible that smaller pieces of iron sheet were easier to make, but if it's a heat-holding issue at heart, smaller might be *more* difficult. Dunno!

I know there are Villanovan daggers in bronze or iron with sheet *bronze* scabbards, but I'm only remembering iron scabbards from La Tene swords.

But otherwise, yeah, mindset was HUGE. Fashion, conservatism, secrecy, etc. Those people simply did not think like us.

Matthew
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Wed 14 Aug, 2019 9:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Metal shields weren't rare in 15th-16th-century Europe, but rather pretty common (especially if you count bucklers). The same goes for the Middle East in that period & perhaps earlier. Steel shields, like steel armor, probably provide the most projection per unit of weight.

Gunpowder & gunpowder weapons require tons of experimentation to develop.

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Dan D'Silva





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PostPosted: Thu 15 Aug, 2019 5:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was under the impression that the proliferation of steel shields, plate armor and longswords from the Late Middle Ages onward was facilitated by some advances in steel production and/or smithing.
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