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Ali Zufer





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PostPosted: Mon 29 Apr, 2019 2:51 am    Post subject: Layered tunics as defences         Reply with quote

I've often heard people claim that there's sources in pre-high middle ages Europe which details layering tunics (without quilting) as a form of defence. I was wondering if any of you have any sources on this. Supposedly it was either done by the Celts or the Anglo-Saxons, though I cannot remember which one of them it was
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Apr, 2019 4:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You definitely won't find a source supporting the claim that Celts or Anglo-Saxons did this.
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Ali Zufer





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PostPosted: Mon 29 Apr, 2019 4:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Indeed it seems I won't, though something like that seems to exist in an Irish source from the 11th century, Tain Bo Cuailgne

Apart from that one referred to me by a friend however I've yet to come up with anything myself

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Apr, 2019 6:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well the Maciejowski Bible show tunics and surcoats which appear to be made of at least two layers. You can tell by the fact that the inside and outside of these garments have different colours. Now I presume an undershirt was worn underneath everything, so if you add this up you get mail worn with at least five layers of cloth.

Edited to add:
I just noticed your question said nothing about multiple layers of cloth under mail. You are asking about using multiple layers of tunics as a defence in their own right. Sorry can't help with this question.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Apr, 2019 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ali Zufer wrote:
Indeed it seems I won't, though something like that seems to exist in an Irish source from the 11th century, Tain Bo Cuailgne

It describes a 27-layer linen cuirass, not 27 separate articles of clothing. It is impossible to wear 27 linen tunics.

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Last edited by Dan Howard on Mon 29 Apr, 2019 6:57 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ali Zufer





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PostPosted: Mon 29 Apr, 2019 6:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Ali Zufer wrote:
Indeed it seems I won't, though something like that seems to exist in an Irish source from the 11th century, Tain Bo Cuailgne

It describes a 27-layer linen cuirass, not 27 separate articles of clothing.


I am not so sure about that, but I don't know enough about old Irish grammar to make the judgement.

However then let me extend the question - do we have any evidence of any layered textile armour at all, save for that one?

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Apr, 2019 7:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ali Zufer wrote:
However then let me extend the question - do we have any evidence of any layered textile armour at all, save for that one?

Ordinances of Louis XI of France (1461-1483)
"And first they must have for the said Jacks, 30, or at least 25 folds of cloth and a stag's skin; those of 30, with the stag's skin, being the best cloth that has been worn and rendered flexible, is best for this purpose, and these Jacks should be made in four quarters..."

Howard Household Accounts (mid 1400s):
"I took to the doublet maker, to make me a doublet of fence; for every four quarters: 18 folds thick of white fustian, and 4 folds of linen cloth, and a fold of black fustian to put without."

Aguado, History of Venezuela (early 1500s)
"Out of sacking or light linen cloths they make a kind of surcoat that they call 'escaupil'. These fall below the knee, and sometimes to the calf. They are all stuffed with cotton, to the thickness of three fingers. The layers of cotton are quilted between folds of linen and sewed with rough thread…"

There are also surviving examples made as described above:
Two of them are in the Holstentor Museum in Lübeck
A partial example is in a museum in Stendal - the chest section is still intact.
One is in the Musée des beaux-arts in Chartres
One is in the parish church of Rothwell, near Leeds.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has an 18th century cuirass from India (called a peti) made from multiple layers of quilted cotton and covered in green velvet. It is almost an inch thick.
The Royal Armouries has another example from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan.
Japanese kendo kote are made of multiple layers of quilted cloth
There is a partial example of Greek linen armour that was found at Patras dating to the end of the Bronze Age. It hasn't been published yet but IIRC preliminary examination shows it to be made of 10-15 layers of linen.

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Ali Zufer





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PostPosted: Mon 29 Apr, 2019 7:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While I do appreciate all that, I already know most of those. I did specify pre high middle ages in the original question. The greek garment is interesting however, I didn't know that the Greeks used linen armour
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 02 May, 2019 1:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Layered tunics as defences         Reply with quote

Ali Zufer wrote:
I've often heard people claim that there's sources in pre-high middle ages Europe which details layering tunics (without quilting) as a form of defence. I was wondering if any of you have any sources on this. Supposedly it was either done by the Celts or the Anglo-Saxons, though I cannot remember which one of them it was

Ali, page 2 of this thread on the Armour Archive might have the source you are looking for. Keep in mind that 1106 is not long before high medieval Europe, that tunics in Europe were normally of (woollen) cloth, and woollen cloth was not normally used for quilted armour anywhere on earth: whether in India, the Frankish countries, or Mesoamerica, the inner layers which provided the protection were usually of linen, hemp, or cotton cloth or unspun cotton or silk fibre.

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 02 May, 2019 1:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Its also worth remembering that before the 19th century, most people seem to have owned about 2 or 3 sets of clothing and maybe one more set of underwear. The widespread use of quilted armour seems to go hand in hand with the cultivation or import of cotton: it was strong and lofty, and much much cheaper than weaving 20-90 yards of fabric just to turn it into one armour. Cultures which cultivated cotton or imported it by the shipload tend to develop quilted armour, cultures without that access don't tend to use it, because if you were rich enough for a 10, 20, or 30 layer fabric armour you could probably afford armour of some other material.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 03 May, 2019 1:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Found a 30-layered one that I don't think we have discussed before. It is Korean and currently in the MET. It is one of the armours that was donated from Stone's collection.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/24009

"The tunic of this armor is composed of thirty layers of a tough cotton fabric, skillfully cut and sandwiched together with hemp stitching to give an overall thickness of less than one inch." Weight: 6,207g


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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sat 04 May, 2019 5:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wonder why they didn't give the actual thickness instead of saying that it is less than an inch? Less than an inch is not a very exact figure, or is the implementation that this is just shy of an inch?

Anyway thanks for sharing this Dan.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 04 May, 2019 5:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We are lucky to even get that. This is the first time I have ever seen weight, thickness, and the number of layers all being mentioned. In any case, the thickness wouldn't be uniform; there isn't much point being any more precise unless they present us with a table listing the thicknesses at different parts of the armour.
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Last edited by Dan Howard on Sat 04 May, 2019 5:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sat 04 May, 2019 5:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
We are lucky to even get that. This is the first time I have ever seen weight, thickness, and the number of layers all being mentioned.


Yeah that's true. I just thought that it was odd to give an exact figure for weight but not for thickness.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 04 May, 2019 5:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It would be pretty hard to get an exact measurement because it isn't a rigid surface. How much pressure do you apply with the calipers before taking a reading?
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sat 04 May, 2019 6:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fair point.
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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Sun 05 May, 2019 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It might be of interest to compare the modern U.S. M69 ballistic nylon vests used in Vietnam, ot the Kevlar PASGT body armor regarding number of layers, weight, etc..
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Sat 11 May, 2019 2:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Its also worth remembering that before the 19th century, most people seem to have owned about 2 or 3 sets of clothing and maybe one more set of underwear. The widespread use of quilted armour seems to go hand in hand with the cultivation or import of cotton: it was strong and lofty, and much much cheaper than weaving 20-90 yards of fabric just to turn it into one armour. Cultures which cultivated cotton or imported it by the shipload tend to develop quilted armour, cultures without that access don't tend to use it, because if you were rich enough for a 10, 20, or 30 layer fabric armour you could probably afford armour of some other material.


I'm not 100% convinced by this, since there's some evidence of felted wool being used in armour, albeit more in early Byzantine, as well as Crusade era Islamic, sources than in European. Depending on how Ekkehard IV is read, it may even predate cotton based armour in Europe.

There also seems to be a strong tradition of layered linen from at least the 1180s, where we first see mention of it. Whether this existed much before the 1180s or was common in lower classes of armour I don't know, but some of the linen layers in the Rothwell Jack were made from multiple pieces of linen sewn together and the linen is described as "coarse", so high grades were not always used, nor complete pieces.

I think you'd need to show that 20-90 yards of fabric would be almost as expensive as mail or similarly/more expensive than hardened leather in the period where textile armour seems to have taken off, while imported cotton would have significantly reduced the price, in order to justify the statement that imported cotton reduced the price enough to justify quilted armour.]
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 11 May, 2019 4:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Textile armour might have been less expensive than mail but it wasn't cheap. It is like comparing a $250,000 sportscar and a $150,000 sportscar. The average person can afford neither of them. Poor fighters never wore textile armour; they wore no armour at all.

If you want to claim that felt was used as armour in Western Europe, we need some credible evidence. Otherwise you could rightly be accused of setting up a strawman.

High grades of linen were rarely used for armour; we have multiple texts telling us that old linen was preferred. The quality textiles were reserve for the outermost layer.

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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Sat 11 May, 2019 5:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Textile armour might have been less expensive than mail but it wasn't cheap. It is like comparing a $250,000 sportscar and a $150,000 sportscar. The average person can afford neither of them. Poor fighters never wore textile armour; they wore no armour at all.


Could you please point me to where I said that

a) Textile armour was cheap

b) That the average person could afford it

and

c) that poor fighters wore armour at all

Quote:
If you want to claim that felt was used as armour in Western Europe, we need some credible evidence. Otherwise you could rightly be accused of setting up a strawman.


Apart from my pointing out that Ekkehard may have been referring to felt armour? Bahā al-Dīn refers to Frankish soldiers wearing felt armour. Whether or not these were actually felt or he mistook layered linen for felt is a question that can't be answered short of an archaeological find, but I think it would be a mistake to rule him out as a source.

Quote:
High grades of linen were rarely used for armour; we have multiple texts telling us that old linen was preferred. The quality textiles were reserve for the outermost layer.


Which was by and large my point, if not put so precisely and forcefully.
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