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Joonas Pessi




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2018 2:33 am    Post subject: Viking age mail, thick clothing or a lining underneath?         Reply with quote

Hello, there have been multiple ways suggested as to how early medieval mail was kept from chafing and greasing your tunic and how it might have been padded for better weight distribution and impact protection.

The two most likely explanations that I have heard are the wearing of thick clothing under the mail, like the bathrobe style coat shown in many vendel era pressblechs and picture stones, with remains found from Hedeby and Birka. The second explanation suggests an integral lining for the mail, since some of the illuminated manuscripts and the bayeux tapestry show edgings on hauberks which might suggest integral lining.

Which one of these do you think is the most likely and practical?
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2018 3:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joonas, it sounds like you are assuming that warriors in the 8th/9th/10th century wanted a special thick garment under mail to protect their tunic. A third possibility is that they just wore their armour over a regular tunic. There is some evidence that Roman soldiers wore a special garment to protect their tunic from their armour, but it is not certain.

We don't know how many warriors in the Viking Age wore mail, but it was pretty clearly a wealthy minority ... not even the Romans could issue most soldiers with mail, and they had a lot more 'stuff' per capita than anyone in northern Europe in the 9th century. If you read documents and stories from the 14th, 15th, and 16th century, you see that fashionable and wealthy warriors often wore patterned silks, velvet, or satin under their armour.

Why did they wear precious fabrics where they would get stained with oil and rust and sweat? For the same reason that wealthy Romans had slaves whose job was to do nothing but follow them around with a hand towel and a napkin.

Edit: Also, you might be interested in this report by Rod Walker who jousted with solid wood lances tipped with steel coronels wearing a replica of 13th century mail over an unpadded linen tunic. I can't tell you what they did in the Viking age, I am an ancient historian.

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Joonas Pessi




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2018 6:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well clothing was quite important to the norse, so you might not want to grease or tear your tunic, and I was suggesting some stout winter clothing like the overlapping "kaftan" coat, not a specialised arming garment.

Of course just using your tunic under the mail is a possibility but I think they would have wanted to keep their everyday clothing clean. I also mentioned the possibility of lining since sometimes in the period art hauberks seem to have some sort of edging.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2018 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

They wore quite heavy and layered clothing anyway. Wink And about cleanliness, their clothes probably weren't washed that often and would be dirty anyway. Happy
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2018 12:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Joonas.

Joonas Pessi wrote:
Which one of these do you think is the most likely and practical?


IMO this is sort of a dangerous question to ask. Let's say for example 90% of people here believe that one of these two options was most likely what was done in the past. This then becomes the general consensus, which in time can become as good as a fact in some people's minds.

The sad truth is that we will probably never know the answer to this question. Not that there is anything wrong with speculating, I do plenty of that myself, but I don't think that we have enough evidence for what was "most likely" done.

Joonas Pessi wrote:
Of course just using your tunic under the mail is a possibility but I think they would have wanted to keep their everyday clothing clean.


Anyone in the Viking Age who was wealthy enough to own a mail shirt was also wealthy enough to own at least a couple of tunics. In this case, one tunic could be kept specifically for wear under mail. This way you wouldn't be dirtying your everyday clothing.

Éirinn go Brách
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2018 2:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joonas Pessi wrote:
Well clothing was quite important to the norse, so you might not want to grease or tear your tunic, and I was suggesting some stout winter clothing like the overlapping "kaftan" coat, not a specialised arming garment.

Of course just using your tunic under the mail is a possibility but I think they would have wanted to keep their everyday clothing clean. I also mentioned the possibility of lining since sometimes in the period art hauberks seem to have some sort of edging.

well, yeah, the garment immediately under iron mail will get stained with oil and rust. But it is possible that instead of being specially built or permanently attached to the mail, that garment was just ... a tunic just like the jeans some of us wear to work in the garden or on the car or go riding are ... jeans. If we are rich and fashionable we might have special fancy sporting clothes, if not we just wear something tough that we don't mind getting dirty.

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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2018 9:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Agreed with Sean. You don't need a special garment under mail. Regular clothing works fine - especially in colder climates where clothing was layered anyway. Anyone who could afford mail had more than enough money to afford a few tunics to get damaged under his armour.

The mindset of these people was "conspicuous consumption". They didn't collect and hold onto wealth. The idea was to use expensive items as ostentatiously as possible and then throw them away or pass them down to someone of lesser status. If a wealthy individual gets a damaged tunic, he doesn't mend it; he gives it to an underling and buys another one for himself.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Nov, 2018 12:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also consider the men who went to war without armour. It's not like their tunics wouldn't get dirty; blood, sweat, mud, salt water stains, tar from ship repairs etc. A man might find that when he came home from a campaign that his clothes were completely ruined to the point of needing replacement.

Now it's not that lining a mail shirt or having a specific arming garment are bad ideas. We know that both of these things were done historically. We just don't know if early medieval Scandinavians did either of these things.

Éirinn go Brách
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Nov, 2018 1:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Consider the opposite, too. Anyone who came out of a battle with their gear undamaged would be accused of not pulling their weight or even of outright cowardice.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Nov, 2018 5:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Why is a wealthy man wearing rusty, greasy mail? Can't he get someone to clean it for him, before he puts it on?

Matthew
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M. Oroszlany




Location: Czech Republic / Slovakia / Hungary
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PostPosted: Tue 20 Nov, 2018 4:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Untreated iron/steel can get rusty on the surface very fast in damp weather. Think days or even hours. Grease is basically the only thing that would prevent this in the period. It would have been basically impossible to have a piece of mail that is neither greasy nor rusty for any amount of time.

As for why not clean the grease off just before use, I think it would be extremely impractical. A mail shirt might get a lot more use than one would imagine. When going on a raid, the mail would be transported aboard a ship for days or weeks, before being put to use. I imagine on a march mail would be worn most of the time, as there is really no good way to transport it it otherwise (we know roman soldiers did this, I don't see why it would be any different in the viking era). Also, while it seems a bit far fetched to me, some sagas suggest, that mail might have been worn in a civilian context too in some situations (according to Hurstwic: Laxdæla saga talks of a man wearing mail while trading for horses, Hallfreðar saga talks about someone wearing mail while drinking with other people in his home.)
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Nov, 2018 5:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Oroszlany wrote:
Untreated iron/steel can get rusty on the surface very fast in damp weather. Think days or even hours

Mail only rusts when it is in storage. If mail is being worn, there is no rust build-up no matter how long it is being worn. The movement of the mail constantly abrades the links. The amount of surface rust that would build up in a few weeks of storage would disappear in less than an hour of wear. You only need grease if it is in long term storage.

I've got a jar of steel links that are bright orange with rust. As I add them to the mail shirt they get abraded. By the time I've completed a single row of links, the above row has been rubbed nice and shiny and I end up with a lap full of rust.

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Len Parker





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PostPosted: Tue 20 Nov, 2018 5:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Roman not viking. What do you you think this guy (top right) is wearing under his mail? http://www.romancoins.info/MilitaryEquipment-...BodyArmour
Leonard
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Nov, 2018 5:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Len Parker wrote:
Roman not viking. What do you you think this guy (top right) is wearing under his mail? http://www.romancoins.info/MilitaryEquipment-...BodyArmour

Regular tunic with a dagged trim to match the mail.

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M. Oroszlany




Location: Czech Republic / Slovakia / Hungary
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PostPosted: Tue 20 Nov, 2018 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
If mail is being worn, there is no rust build-up no matter how long it is being worn. The movement of the mail constantly abrades the links.

Well, yes, but that doesn't mean the rust never forms, just that as soon as it does it gets rubbed off onto your clothing. It will gradually stain your clothes even when dry, and very much so if you ever get wet in it.
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Zach Gordon




Location: Vermont. USA
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PostPosted: Tue 20 Nov, 2018 10:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This topic has been discussed about twenty times...

Aketons are they really necessary?

Leather Armour: Viking/Medieval

Early Medieval Leather Armour

Viking padding

Viking Leather Padded Garment

Vendelperiod Clothing and armour

Other forms of Norse body armour during the Viking Age

Early Maille

There are at least a dozen more topics one could post, I think others can use the search function.
There is, imo, little point in continuing to argue without new evidence as this is primarily a two camp argument:

A - NO they didn't, they just wore regular tunics/clothing
B- YES they did, they had something special, be it padding/leather/special tunic

Those in A camp, rely on the fact that there is: "no archaeological evidence".. and those in B camp rely on spotty written sources and "common sense".

This is an argument that cannot, therefore, be conclusively proven.. shy a body appearing wearing mail, and something underneath that very specifically looks to have only been worn with the mail.

That being said, there are two distinct things that those in A camp should recall: we have a single find of non fragmented viking clothing, and it is questionable. Everything else is fragmented at best. Second, we have one single complete (and it is not totally complete) mail shirt. We have too little evidence about clothing in general, without relying on the same secondary source material that suggests there was a garment that existed in this function.

There is also one thing that those in camp B should recall: "common sense" absolutely does not exist. The way a medieval person, or any pre-modern person, acted and thought is completely antithetical to our modern "common sense". Just take, for example, rural woodsman of the last century who still dutifully shaved every morning and slicked back their hair with a neat part.. just to ride around roping cattle in the mud. Or the men who put africans in Zoos in London. Or those that that thought thunder meant the gods were angry. What was "common sense" then is often "nonsensical" now, and I am certain it would run the other direction as well!

Z
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Nov, 2018 1:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Oroszlany wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
If mail is being worn, there is no rust build-up no matter how long it is being worn. The movement of the mail constantly abrades the links.

Well, yes, but that doesn't mean the rust never forms, just that as soon as it does it gets rubbed off onto your clothing. It will gradually stain your clothes even when dry, and very much so if you ever get wet in it.

So what is the point of cleaning it or trying to treat it? It doesn't matter how clean you think it is, the cloth underneath is still going to get stained.

We have medieval accounts telling us that people engaged in cleaning mail, but I would suggest that this was only done to mail that had been in storage for long periods of time and had a considerable build-up of oxidation.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Nov, 2018 3:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Zach Gordon wrote:
this is primarily a two camp argument:

A - NO they didn't, they just wore regular tunics/clothing
B- YES they did, they had something special, be it padding/leather/special tunic


The way I see it. Although B is entirely possible, unless further evidence turns up (which is unlikely at this point), A is the safer bet.

Éirinn go Brách
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Nov, 2018 2:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan, have you observed the "self cleaning" effect with the riveted mail? I didn't, at least not in the measure that I wouldn't need to clean a mail shirt that accidently remained outside during the night. In my experience, even high quality mail with well riveted rings doesn't rotate rings that easy as butted mail and needs cleaning.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Nov, 2018 5:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

New riveted mail doesn't abrade as well as older, well-worn riveted mail.
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