> We found that even more of a threat than rain was one’s own sweat on a hot day. So, yes, it does need waterproofing, both inside and out. We did a number of experiments along those lines, and found that rubbing a block of beeswax over all sides of the armor provided nice waterproofing. It also makes the armor smell nice! When you wear it for a couple hours, your own body heat softens the glue a bit and makes it conform to your body shape, so it is much more comfortable to wear than rigid types of armor. Our reconstructions weighed about 10 pounds–about one third the weight of bronze armor that would provide the same degree of protection. Thanks for the questions!
It would explain to some degree why this armor may have found such military success during that time period, that it was more comfortably and more closely conformed to the body while offering similar protections. One of the things many people who've never had to wear armor for an extended period of time on a hot day don't realize is how horribly uncomfortable armor is, and how that discomfort can be a severe distraction under battlefield conditions.
One thing that also interested me about this is that we found that one of the strongest materials we have available to use in modern materials science is also laminated cloth, in this case carbon fiber laminates. By ensuring that the direction of the weaves are perpendicular to one another when doing a cloth layup, and using a sufficiently strong adhesive/sealant, these types of materials are incredibly strong. Carbon fiber and carbon kevlar both are exceptionally strong materials that would make great armor (and do), and it seems the linothorax is essentially an early application of some of the same ideas, with lesser source materials.
Maybe! A well tailored and properly weight-distributed mail hauberk (which is also conformal) is surprisingly comfortable for extended period of time in all kinds of weather. (Source: my own experience in medieval re-enactment). What gets you in hot weather are the textiles - with mail its the necessary padding under the mail that will cause issues in hot weather.
the author's point that linen was more comfortable than 'rigid' armor was probably true, but I will point out that rigid armors were also individually tailored, balanced, and created for optimal weight distribution.
As an aside mail armor was a successful and popular armor for a millennium, from the Iron Age to the middle ages (and continued to be successful as an augment to plate and in other contexts like South Asia and India until probably the 16th century).
It was probably contemporary to the linen armor of the article (In time, not geographically - it was used most heavily in iron-rich regions in central Europe at first).
Linen armor would only have been relatively cheap as a means of recycling old garments. However, that’s likely to degrade it’s protective value.
To give a sense for the figures involved, 1kg of iron would require around 15kg of charcoal, which itself would have to be charcoaled from >100kg of wood.
From this, you end up seeing things like Elba being entirely deforested by the time of Caesar, and its still productive iron mines would have their ores shipped to the mainland for processing.
Anyway, Bituminous coal was used in smelting of iron ore in Roman Britain, and China had long been using coal for steel production by that time period.
Also, wood was very much an abundant but managed commodity with various levels utility. Land was reserved for effectively farming it even after forests disappeared. The issue was these managed forests weren’t producing giant long straight trunks that you would find in old growth forests. Wood that’s fine for cooking or matching charcoal, can be useless for shipbuilding.
I suspect the optimal answer is a combination of approaches. Build a few foundries distributed optimally near large forests, cut timber and char it and bring the charcoal to the foundries. Maybe cycle them on a 40 year basis so you can re-seed the forests and grow enough timber to make them worth it.
I grew up somewhat near railroad tracks in Minnesota, and it was surprisingly late that I realized most train tracks aren't littered with taconite pellets that fall off during transport.
I'd thought that the deforestation was already advanced by Greek times, though I can't find a clear reference to when or what factors were involved.
That aligns with my understanding is that the real revolution of the iron age was not that iron was a superior material (at least initially), but that it was much more abundant than copper and (especially) tin for bronze, which democratized which people and societies were able to build iron gear.
A compelling theory to me of the late bronze age collapse is that in the bronze age, you had a very globalized society for the purpose of keeping the bronze supply chain intact. But ironworking eliminated the interdependence and the importance of the elite networks that sustained the supply chain. So then the whole "civilized" world quickly fragmented into much more micro polities. Many of the states that made the transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age relatively intact already had well developed ironworking.
The Assyrians were able to build a new value proposition for international empire. They institutionalized many of the civil and engineering innovations we attribute to the post-Roman world, kicking off what would become the classical era.
Also, the bronze xyphos largely disappeared with Bronze Age society. Some soldiers preferred them to iron swords in the archaic period because a bronze sword could be recast by its owner if it broke, where a blacksmith was required to reforge an iron one (though the iron sword was much less like to break and held its edge much better)
Multiple layers of quilted cloth are extremely effective.
A similar approach has been used to make gears out of cloth. Stack cloth, cross-stitch, impregnate with resin, compress, cure, and then cut a gear out of the resulting block of material. It's one of those things people did before plastics.
I have some old Teletypes with a few cloth gears, and you can see the woven pattern on the sides.
Can you share any more about that? Is there a particular name for it other than "cloth gears?"
I'm having a hard time Googling/DDGing it because "cloth gears" and every variation I can think of returns other things.
It's one of those things people did before
plastics. I have some old Teletypes with a
few cloth gears, and you can see the woven
pattern on the sides
Here's one you can buy, a replacement part for some old equipment. Look at the large version of the picture. You can clearly see the stitching of the original cloth.
Composite materials, the early years. Composites are something long and thin with good tensile strength, combined with something strong but possibly brittle with good compressive strength. Probably the earliest composite was bricks with straw.
Seems the technique is also used by some for making knife handles out of cloth and epoxy resin.
We've come up with more interesting fibres and resins over the years, but the fundamental concept is ancient and impressively effective.
There are newer variations including polymer-reinforced concrete (using fibres within the concrete matrix), and I'd be really surprised if there weren't developments using pre-stressed nets or webbing of polymers or other flexible fibres. That said, I don't follow the topic closely.
I wonder if they tested that when creating their replica linen armor? That seems like the kind of thing ancient armor makers would definitely have tested out.
> The project received considerable media attention after Aldrete tested his construction by shooting an arrow at Bartell with cameras rolling. But Peter Connolly's reconstruction was based on a mis-remembered, twice-translated summary of a Byzantine chronicle which did not mention glue, not on an ancient text, artefact, or depiction. No culture before the 20th century is known to have made linen armour in this way.
It never ceases to amaze me how some of the oldest technology was composites, and how much we can do with even basic materials - it doesn't have to be carbon fiber and epoxy to get great results, in this case linen and rabbit glue makes really effective and lightweight armor.
Sort of related, the Mongol's archery bows from Genghis Khan's time were also amazing pieces of engineering available materials into high-performing tools.
> But Peter Connolly's reconstruction was based on a mis-remembered, twice-translated summary of a Byzantine chronicle which did not mention glue, not on an ancient text, artefact, or depiction
As an aside, Gregory Aldrete has a bunch of courses on Audible under “Great Courses”. (You can also get them from The Teaching Company now call Wondrium).
I heartily recommend that you listen to them if you are at all interested in ancient history.
As a follow-up to those courses, there are also some courses about the middle ages by Philip Daileader that pick-up the story at the decline of the Western empire.
(Also, I'm deriving great value from the Wondrium app).
But this paper came out 7 years after OP.
Unraveling the linothorax mystery (2013) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24129519 - Aug 2020 (42 comments)
(Pronounced as "core".)
Here it's rabbit glue, which is probably a type of hide glue?
Todd's Workshop is a great channel for exploring these technologies.
Our view of history is based on what has survived, metal, stone, clay, some papers that have been copied or existed in dry climate.
Anything that can rot and hasn't been reproduced, and was in a wet climate will be lost and removed from the picture we create of history.
Analytical instrumentation has made an incredible jump in sensitivity in the last 10 years. Molecular paleontologists can detect fossilized protein and nucleic acid fragments in remains that are millions of years old. I think we there is going to be a complete change in how archeologists do surveys of more modern historical sights. The molecular fingerprints left in the human record should be much more significant.
Maybe they’ll find evidence of parchment in burials showing writing goes back way further than we currently think
There may be some advantage in the relative softness too, relative to iron. When something bangs into it, it will not transmit all the shock through to the body but will absorb some by deforming.
That's a really big deal for avoiding infection.