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Martin Kallander




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2023 12:43 pm    Post subject: How good was bone armour         Reply with quote

I've read it was still used in the middle ages so it can't have been useless against weapons of the time, but how good was it? Are there any historical accounts mentioning someone wearing it in battle or talking about its qualities?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2023 4:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure about bone but horn armour was worn in medieval Europe.
https://deremilitari.org/2014/02/warfare-between-emperor-henry-v-and-the-city-of-cologne-1114/

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=33498

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Martin Kallander




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jan, 2023 12:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great sources! The texts I've read were about horn armour, not bone. In my eyes horn and bone were the same, I didn't know they were distinct.

That mistake aside, is this everything we know about the effectiveness of horn armour? Stopping arrows sounds good, but how well does it fare in melee?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jan, 2023 1:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've made boars tusks helmets. The tusks throw off sparks when cut with a band saw.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jan, 2023 3:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Horn is at least somewhat malleable, whereas bone and tusk are not, they're more brittle. But they're very *hard*, as Dan says. I suspect horn armor did just fine against weapons, but it probably was not as good as the same weight of metal. No rust, though, ha! Looks good, too.

Matthew



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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jan, 2023 8:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Horn is at least somewhat malleable, whereas bone and tusk are not, they're more brittle. But they're very *hard*, as Dan says. I suspect horn armor did just fine against weapons, but it probably was not as good as the same weight of metal. No rust, though, ha! Looks good, too.

Matthew

I think baleen (sometimes called "whalebone") is made from keratin like horn and hooves. I have seen a lot of evidence for horn and baleen armour, not so sure about bone armour particularly in medieval Europe! Dry bone tends to be brittle and its hard to shape.

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Ryan S.




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PostPosted: Sat 21 Jan, 2023 4:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe that in several languages there are words that mean both horn or bone and therefore can be translated as either. Therefore, there is a reasonable chance that there was a slight translation error and that horn is what was meant. Either way, my guess is that different types of horn/bone would work better for armour than other types. Not just the species, but which part of the animal it is exactly. Maybe there is a reason why only the tusks of boars were used for helmets, and not the whole skeleton.
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Graham Shearlaw





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PostPosted: Sat 21 Jan, 2023 5:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[/url=https://siberiantimes.com/science/casestudy/features/warriors-3900-year-old-suit-of-bone-armour-unearthed-in-omsk/]There has been a find of what might be a bone armour.[url]
And that's about it.

True bone will dry out and become brittle losing it spring, where as Teeth, Ivory, Horn an Whalebone will not.
Ivory has been used not only in the horn tusk helmet but by the Eskimo and in the Russian far east.
Horn can be used as plates or moulded to shape, in Non-Metallic Armour prior to the First World War, Cheshire notes that it gives the best performance, but that it has the downside of it only coming in small plates.
Moro armour was often made of buffalo horn plates mixed with butted brass mail.
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Sat 21 Jan, 2023 6:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We might also note Pausanius' description of a Sarmatian armour presented as a votive offering in Athens which he had seen :

[1.21.6] Their breastplates they make in the following fashion. Each man keeps many mares, since the land is not divided into private allotments, nor does it bear any thing except wild trees, as the people are nomads. These mares they not only use for war, but also sacrifice them to the local gods and eat them for food. Their hoofs they collect, clean, split, and make from them as it were python scales. Whoever has never seen a python must at least have seen a pine-cone still green. He will not be mistaken if he liken the product from the hoof to the segments that are seen on the pine-cone. These pieces they bore and stitch together with the sinews of horses and oxen, and then use them as breastplates that are as handsome and strong as those of the Greeks. For they can withstand blows of missiles and those struck in close combat.

Anthony Clipsom
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Sat 21 Jan, 2023 8:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Ryan S.,

On Saturday 21 January 2023, you wrote:
. . . [M]y guess is that different types of horn/bone would work better for armour than other types. Not just the species, but which part of the animal it is exactly. Maybe there is a reason why only the tusks of boars were used for helmets, and not the whole skeleton.

I think that here you may be falling into the modern desire to explain phenomena according to physical properties that contribute to function. Although as several contributors to this thread--most recently and particularly Graham Shearlaw--have noted, it is true that bone loses its resilience and becomes brittle after the animal's death in a way that other biologically derived materials do not, I'd argue that the identifiability of boars' tusks is a far more important factor. The sort of animal from which sections of cut bone come is very unlikely to be obvious, but boars' tusks are instantly recognizable. They carry with them the associations of ferocity and strength that wild boars suggest, especially as the tusks are boars' chief and iconic weapon. The wearer of a boars'-tusk helmet represents himself as being as dangerous as a wild boar; and if the tusks are trophies of his hunting, he gives evidence of the assertion's truth.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Len Parker





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PostPosted: Sat 21 Jan, 2023 9:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bronze Age https://siberiantimes.com/science/casestudy/features/warriors-3900-year-old-suit-of-bone-armour-unearthed-in-omsk/
Leonard Parker
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 21 Jan, 2023 10:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The 4000 year old Siberian armour has been mentioned in earlier threads but I didn't see the point of mentioning it here because it is uncertain which culture it came from and whether they used metal weapons.
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Ryan S.




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2023 3:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
Dear Ryan S.,

On Saturday 21 January 2023, you wrote:
. . . [M]y guess is that different types of horn/bone would work better for armour than other types. Not just the species, but which part of the animal it is exactly. Maybe there is a reason why only the tusks of boars were used for helmets, and not the whole skeleton.

I think that here you may be falling into the modern desire to explain phenomena according to physical properties that contribute to function. Although as several contributors to this thread--most recently and particularly Graham Shearlaw--have noted, it is true that bone loses its resilience and becomes brittle after the animal's death in a way that other biologically derived materials do not, I'd argue that the identifiability of boars' tusks is a far more important factor. The sort of animal from which sections of cut bone come is very unlikely to be obvious, but boars' tusks are instantly recognizable. They carry with them the associations of ferocity and strength that wild boars suggest, especially as the tusks are boars' chief and iconic weapon. The wearer of a boars'-tusk helmet represents himself as being as dangerous as a wild boar; and if the tusks are trophies of his hunting, he gives evidence of the assertion's truth.

I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman


Thank you,

My main point is that the question of how effective bone armour is or could be is complicated to answer because bone could mean horn, ivory, and antlers etc. as well in certain contexts. Furthermore, different types of bone have different properties. I think it would be impossible to know what the makers of boar tusk helmets were thinking, but I am not sure the tusks are always obviously tusks, and it takes a lot more boars to make a helmet out of just tusks.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2023 12:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan S. wrote:
. I think it would be impossible to know what the makers of boar tusk helmets were thinking, but I am not sure the tusks are always obviously tusks, and it takes a lot more boars to make a helmet out of just tusks.


There are dozens of extant examples and the skulls are all made entirely from boars tusks. The exception is the cheek guards - some are made from tusks and some are made from bronze.

The boars tusk helmet is the ultimate display of masculinity. It takes a lot of skill and courage to kill a boar with a spear. Anyone who survived enough encounters to collect enough tusks to assemble a helmet has a huge pair of balls.

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Ryan S.




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2023 9:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:


There are dozens of extant examples and the skulls are all made entirely from boars tusks. The exception is the cheek guards - some are made from tusks and some are made from bronze.

The boars tusk helmet is the ultimate display of masculinity. It takes a lot of skill and courage to kill a boar with a spear. Anyone who survived enough encounters to collect enough tusks to assemble a helmet has a huge pair of balls.


It never occurred to me that the wearer of such helmets killed the boars themselves. After all, didnít Meriones inherit his? Of course, that may have been because by the time the Iliad was written, such helmets were already more as old-fashioned. That the tusks are the weapon of the boar, inspired the use of the material, is logical. That they served a dual role as hunting trophy seems also obvious. If one had to collect all the tusks oneself, that could take years. If one hunted in groups, then who got to keep the tusks? Probably, the highest ranking hunter. It was probably then a symbol of wealth and rank as much, if not more, than manliness.

Of course, symbolic value doesn't exclude functionality. As already said, the tusks were probably the better suited than similar materials. Some of what I read suggests, at least when boar tusk helmets were invented, that it was the best available helmet. The type of bronze needed for helmets being rare in Greece. I would be interested on your opinion on that.
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2023 11:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not having seen studies of the origins of the tusks, we should also remain aware that Mycenaeans kept pigs and early domestic pig species had tusks. So, a degree of harvesting of an agricultural biproduct may also have been involved.
Anthony Clipsom
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2023 2:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan S. wrote:

It never occurred to me that the wearer of such helmets killed the boars themselves. After all, didnít Meriones inherit his? Of course, that may have been because by the time the Iliad was written, such helmets were already more as old-fashioned.

Homer specifically tells us that the helmet came from an earlier time and he wouldn't have had to describe it in so much detail if his audience knew what they were. Archaeologically, they disappear from the record around two centuries before the accepted time of the Trojan War.

Quote:
Of course, symbolic value doesn't exclude functionality. As already said, the tusks were probably the better suited than similar materials. Some of what I read suggests, at least when boar tusk helmets were invented, that it was the best available helmet. The type of bronze needed for helmets being rare in Greece. I would be interested on your opinion on that.


The Myceneans had tons of bronze. They had wide trade networks internationally and an extensive road network within Mycenaean Greece. Boars tusk helmets are just as protective as bronze ones but they are a lot heavier. Homer describes one single boars tusk helmet and goes to some trouble to tell us that it came from an earlier period. Conversely, there are at least twenty five references to bronze helmets in the Iliad: [3.18; 3.316; 4.495; 5.562; 5.681; 7.12; 7.206; 10.30; 11.43; 11.96; 11.351; 12.184; 13.305; 13.341; 13.714; 15.535; 16.130; 17.3; 17.87; 17.592; 17.294; 20.111; 20.117; 20.397; 23.861]

Bronze helmets in the Odyssey: [10.206; 18.378; 21.434; 22.102; 22.111; 22.145; 24.523].

The Trojan War occurred at the end of the Bronze Age, which coincides with many things described in the Iliad. The descriptions of helmets, for example, most closely resemble the kegelhelms that date to this period.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2023 2:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
Not having seen studies of the origins of the tusks, we should also remain aware that Mycenaeans kept pigs and early domestic pig species had tusks. So, a degree of harvesting of an agricultural biproduct may also have been involved.

Boars tusk helmets span a period of around four hundred years. At the start they were probably a rite of passage for a hunter. I suspect that the earliest ones were made from the tusks of boars that the wearer had hunted himself and, as time went on, that became less common. The last ones were probably made from domestic boars as you suggest.

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