Mail armor vs. what weapons - effective and ineffective


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leadcounsel
January 18, 2012, 02:08 PM
So, what common ancient weapons would a chainmail armored warrior encounter that would defeat or not defeat his armor...?

Thinking the crossbow or the longbow would defeat mail.

Hard hitting weapons, like the club, warhammer or mace would probably defeat the chainmail armor.

How about swords and knives?

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TurtlePhish
January 18, 2012, 02:19 PM
Chainmail? Best against anything slashing. So yeah, swords and knives. Unless you stab.

DCoke
January 18, 2012, 02:22 PM
Like TurtlePhish said...slashing weapons...mail protects you from axes by preventing you from being cut, but the blow would still knock you back or break some bones...you'd feel it....broadhead arrows won't penetrate, but their were specially designed arrowheads for penetrating mail....basically armor piercing wedges.

rcmodel
January 18, 2012, 02:59 PM
Mail armor vs. what weapons - effective

Thrusting daggers.
Pick like war hammers.
Halberds.
Lances, pikes, and spears.
Arrows & bolts.
Catapult stones.

Chain maille was effective against slicing & dicing.
Not so much against anything sharp & pointy that could wedge the rings open.
Or hit hard enough to break bones under it & the padding.

rc

Unistat
January 18, 2012, 03:00 PM
Like TurtlePhish said...slashing weapons...mail protects you from axes by preventing you from being cut, but the blow would still knock you back or break some bones...you'd feel it....broadhead arrows won't penetrate, but their were specially designed arrowheads for penetrating mail....basically armor piercing wedges.
They were called Bodkin arrows, IIRC.

Owen Sparks
January 18, 2012, 03:21 PM
Excelent protection from edged weapons. Usless against blunt force trauma such as a blow from a heavy club or hammer.

DCoke
January 18, 2012, 03:30 PM
They were called Bodkin arrows, IIRC.

Not many people know what Bodkin arrows are....and google and wikipedia are mostly down today...but it clears things up for him.

The Highlander
January 18, 2012, 04:07 PM
It depends on what was worn with the chain mail. If you're talking some light padding/clothes, then it will only stop blades and most broad head arrows. As said before bodkin arrows were effective against chain mail. They look like stretched out square pyramids and are usually only slightly wider than the shaft itself, if at all.

Chain mail becomes much more effective if worn with a gambeson or heavy doublet. Some gambesons were padded and made of leather, which when combined with chain mail, makes for a decent set of armor. From what I've heard, this combination can stop most arrows, including the bodkin.

I wouldn't want to be hit with a blunt weapon, but with a gambeson you'd also fair much better against clubs and stuff. A morning star or war hammer would still be devastating, but even later armors had trouble dealing with such weapons.

leadcounsel
January 18, 2012, 04:33 PM
Yes, chainmail.

lemaymiami
January 18, 2012, 04:41 PM
One of the problems with armor then and now (and you can bet that there are more than a few drawbacks to any kind of armor....) is that it simply doesn't protect all of your soft spots. Back when armor (chain mail or heavier plate) was common on the battlefield there was a whole series of techniques for dealing with it. One of the ways to deal with an armored individual was to take him down (or knock him down) then simply use the right tool to finish the job (a thrust with a narrow bladed knife under the armored area, a thrust into the armpit or through the eye - lots of ways to finish off the armored guy. Yes, it kept them in the fight and made them harder to kill - but it also made you slower, less maneuverable, and made it all too easy to tire you out in combat with an un-armored but much quicker adversary...

Some of the things I've said also apply to modern armor (the bullet resistant vest - that's how the makers refer to them). I knew a fine officer who was killed while wearing a vest. The POS that killed him used a little hideout gun and shot him in the armpit during a hand to hand struggle. That little bullet went right through his cardiac area - the vest was never a factor at all.... There's a small park named after him in North Miami today - not that it helps his family all those years later.

Owen Sparks
January 18, 2012, 05:45 PM
Even a knight in a steel helmet was not immune to all weapons. A solid blow with a heavy club can still cause a closed head injury resulting in a knockout or even death.

Unistat
January 18, 2012, 06:27 PM
Not many people know what Bodkin arrows are....and google and wikipedia are mostly down today...but it clears things up for him.
Yeah, it's just a reflex from having a history degree and working in a museum for many years. Besides, he can look it up tomorrow. :P

wheelgunslinger
January 18, 2012, 08:31 PM
Longbow with broadheads can penetrate chainmail, provided the head is sharp and there's enough momentum.
Nose around on the web and you can find a fairly recent test with penetration data.

*edit*
Here you go: http://www.currentmiddleages.org/artsci/docs/Champ_Bane_Archery-Testing.pdf
Had it left in my browser history after writing a physics paper asking if an archer could kill Smaug with a longbow. Pretty good research in this, but a little rough around the edges. Pics speak for themselves though.

mole
January 18, 2012, 11:13 PM
There are reports from the Spanish that the reed and bamboo arrows without tips could penetrate mail. The arrow shaft material would splinter and just go around the links. Probably not enough to kill you, but enough of them sure would wear you down.

mole

lemaymiami
January 19, 2012, 02:06 PM
One additional item to remember when talking about the weapons of the middle ages and history up to the time of Columbus. As a kid I think I got dragged through half the museums in Europe (my brother and I were Army brats). Of course the only things that really caught our eyes were the armor and weapons exhibits. The one impression that still stays with me fifty years later is how small those guys were. I'm not sure how they were able to use the weapons exhibited when a really big man back then might have been only 5'6" or so.... and their life expectancy was very, very short as well.

Owen Sparks
January 19, 2012, 02:43 PM
Back in the days before antibiotics and tetnus shots ANY deep puncture wound no matter how small had a real chance of becoming infected and causing a slow agonizing death. Getting wounded in the dark ages was deadly serious.

NoirFan
January 20, 2012, 05:28 AM
Chain mail becomes much more effective if worn with a gambeson or heavy doublet. Some gambesons were padded and made of leather, which when combined with chain mail, makes for a decent set of armor. From what I've heard, this combination can stop most arrows, including the bodkin.

I wouldn't want to be hit with a blunt weapon, but with a gambeson you'd also fair much better against clubs and stuff. A morning star or war hammer would still be devastating, but even later armors had trouble dealing with such weapons.

I agree, if properly constructed riveted-ring mail is worn with some kind of padded protection, the wearer becomes highly resistant to most pre-gunpowder weapons. The gambeson is a formidable piece of armor all by itself and is stiff enough to stand up under its own weight. The only melee weapons which could reliably pierce this combination were the cavalry lance and the spiked war hammers of the later Middle Ages. The thin-bladed rondel dagger also could do it, but only against a downed and unresisting opponent.

I think that the power of medieval archery is considerably exaggerated in modern depictions. The mail/padding combo could resist all but the strongest arrows. Muslim archers shooting powerful recurve bows gave accounts of mail-armored crusaders "quilled like hedgehogs" but fighting on unaffected. The heavy crossbow on the other hand could shoot through mail like tissue paper. We know this because a Medieval pope issued an edict condemning its use against fellow Christians; he didn't want crossbow-armed rabble shooting down armored knights and upsetting the social order. Using it on Muslims and heretics was A-OK though.

wheelgunslinger
January 20, 2012, 08:25 AM
Yeah, but the question is:
So, what common ancient weapons would a chainmail armored warrior encounter that would defeat or not defeat his armor...?
Sure, there was an evolution of armor that responded to the threat of the longbow's superior momentum:draw weight ratio. But, if chain mail is the question, longbow is an answer.
Getting into a Yosemite Sam vs Bugs Bunny arms race over the question is kind of silly.
Of course there were better combinations.

mole
January 20, 2012, 12:24 PM
The Muslim arrows were generally lighter in weight and construction than the English counterpart. They could fly farther, but lacked the impact.

Cosmoline
January 20, 2012, 01:41 PM
I wonder if anyone has tested true English long bows against vintage chain. As I understand it the original English bows were of extraordinary power, with considerably more draw weight than most modern recreations.

Dave McCracken
January 20, 2012, 05:52 PM
Over a decade ago The History Channel had a series on Medieval Militaria. They built a full size Trebuchet, for example.

An archer named Simon Stanley, IIRC, shot a 150 lb draw warbow using bodkin arrows at a dummy wearing chain mail with an under garment of boiled leather, a common combination at the time.Penetration was complete. Distance was about 50 yards.

Geoffrey Cambrieanus wrote of a knight who was shot through the thigh and pinned to his horse. He also mentioned a pair of arrows that penetrated a castle door that was made of seasoned oak 4" thick.

CWL
January 20, 2012, 09:51 PM
I agree, if properly constructed riveted-ring mail is worn with some kind of padded protection, the wearer becomes highly resistant to most pre-gunpowder weapons. The gambeson is a formidable piece of armor all by itself and is stiff enough to stand up under its own weight. The only melee weapons which could reliably pierce this combination were the cavalry lance and the spiked war hammers of the later Middle Ages. The thin-bladed rondel dagger also could do it, but only against a downed and unresisting opponent.

There is a difference between chainmail and ringmail. I think you mean chainmail since ringmail was just rings of metal sewn onto a heavy leather or fabric coat. Definitely lower-end armor.

Picking nits here, but the quality of chainmail differed greatly by thickness of links, size of gaps between links, and quality of the iron/steel used. There were also different patterns of mail used (more than just 5 connected links). Some Medieval foot-slogger's rusty chainmail wasn't going to be the same as that worn by a Hospitaler Knight Brother.

iLikeOldgunsIlikeNewGuns
January 21, 2012, 08:09 PM
"Locked and Loaded" with R.Lee Emery, is an awesome show for several reasons. i am a high-speed-footage junky :)
On the show, they did various tests on chain-mail in at least one or two episodes, the blade episode definitely, and whichever episode had archery in it, possibly others.

I highly recommend watching it if ya can't tell :D

InkEd
January 22, 2012, 11:14 AM
Since we are discussing ancient armor, I was wondering what you guys feel was the "overall best" general purpose lightweight ancient armor design?

Personally, I think the design (and forgive me because I forget who used it) with small metal plates sewn inside leather and then arranged in an overlapping fish scale design would have been pretty good. What do you guys think?

Cosmoline
January 23, 2012, 03:28 PM
Best for what purpose? It was a long-running arms race where each new defensive measure gave rise to a new offensive measure and so on. Mail is trumped by better arrows, plate is trumped by maces and warhammers, etc. And all of this is happening in the broader context of ever-shifting battlefield strategies. Nothing was static. So you really need to know what you're going up against. One period might primarily involve the use of siege warfare and powerful bombards. Another might focus on heavy cav. Another might see the rise of pikemen in close formation. Show up with the wrong armor for the offense you were facing and it wouldn't matter how good it is. Show up without a horse in the wrong period and you're lance fodder. Show up with a horse in the wrong period and you're showered with lead shot and skewered on a pike formation.

armoredman
January 23, 2012, 03:39 PM
It was explained quite well in the sci/fi book series, the "Crosstime Engineer" by Leo Frankowski. An edged weapon is an energy concentrating device, the narrowness of the blade concentrating the kinetic energy of the swing hitting in a very small target area. Armor is an energy dissipating device, and while chain was good at stopping slashing attacks, it was practically worthless against blunt trauma as it gave under any blow. Hence you can see many ancient suits of chain mail that have steel plates at crucial areas, shoulders, chest, etc, places where blunt force trauma could be expected to instantly cripple the wearer.
The best armor depends on what/where/when. The full armor used by the swordsman against the retarius, the net and trident man, in the Roman arenas, often did him no good whatsoever. The full plate of a jousting set, while on horseback, is practically invulnerable to anything but a bodkin arrow, or a scorpion bolt, but on foot, clumsy and unwieldy.
Best, combination of light plate and chain with a well fitting helmet for a footman with pike or sword. The back and breastplate continued to be worn far after the invention of gunpowder, as well...precourser to our modern Interceptor armor, perhaps. :)
Sorry for the long post.

saltydog452
January 23, 2012, 05:42 PM
armoredman,

Google-Fu and retarius do not acknowledge one another.

What boggles my imagination is the logistics of water and food while advancing and replacement of same by protected re-supply routes.

salty

Unistat
January 24, 2012, 09:39 AM
Armored Man, nice synopsis. As with modern combat, combined arms were necessary to meet what ever threat the enemy could muster.

armoredman
January 24, 2012, 10:17 AM
salty, my Latin is a WEE bit rusty, might have misspelled that one. If supply is a concern, might I suggest Clauswitz, "On War"? He discussed that, IIRC.
Unistat, I can't take credit for it, it's from Leo's second book, where he designs plate armor a few centuries before it originally came into being.

Zoogster
January 24, 2012, 11:22 AM
Cosmoline said: As I understand it the original English bows were of extraordinary power, with considerably more draw weight than most modern recreations.

This is true, however one must understand it within the context of how it was deployed.
Those type of longbows then were not the portable and useful on the move devices they are thought of today.

It took a lot for the average sized man back then to pull a 150 pound draw weight bow.
They couldn't do it with arm strength alone, but rather had a complicated draw process utilizing body weight and the bow braced against the ground to draw the bow, while maneuvering their body with the bow during the draw to eventually have a drawn bow and nocked arrow.
They were good at it and quite fast, but it was very hard on the body.
Use of these bows was so hard on the body their bones can be easily distinguished today from other bones because they are identifiably disfigured from regular bow use.
You can rather definitively tell if someone was or was not a longbowman just by their bones it is that bad.


The use of such bows also left a bowman far more stationary than presumed by people picturing modern and fantasy bow and arrows and bowmen.
Using the ground to cock a bow you can't draw with a normal pull does not allow one to move with a nocked arrow.
Long bowman were more siege engines than anything.
They also required protecting to be effective for the same reason.


How effective these bows are against armor also varies considerably. As essentially light artillery bowmen rarely fired directly at the enemy, this would mean they were in highly risky close range for the stationary use of bows in formation. If they were that close they could easily be killed.
Undoubtedly these bows would pierce most armor fired directly at the armor, but this was not how they were generally used, and if the enemy was so close that direct fire was used, it was generally not for long before switching to another weapon before being overtaken.

Instead they tended to fire at an angle, massive barrages of arrows that traveled long distances, and then ranged down on opponents. They had far lower velocity at these distances, relying more on momentum from weight of the projectile than initial velocity.
They were still quite deadly, and in such massive numbers could not be ignored or shrugged off. Only knights in the heaviest plate armor could resist such indirect barrages without great risk, and even they had to protect certain areas vulnerable to penetration like the front of even fulling enclosing helmets. This often meant they couldn't even see where they were going while facing barrages of arrows.
The arrows could find chinks and vulnerabilities in even plate armor.




Armored guys were harder to kill, but tired faster, and could travel less distance without being so exhausted that they were less effective once in battle.
One of the big reasons heavily armored knights were cavalry on horseback. Most foot soldiers would be exhausted marching the distances required before engagements in substantial armor.


lemaymiami said:One of the ways to deal with an armored individual was to take him down (or knock him down) then simply use the right tool to finish the job (a thrust with a narrow bladed knife under the armored area, a thrust into the armpit or through the eye - lots of ways to finish off the armored guy. Yes, it kept them in the fight and made them harder to kill - but it also made you slower, less maneuverable, and made it all too easy to tire you out in combat with an un-armored but much quicker adversary...


Armor is not only to defeat enemy weapons, but to force a certain type of weapon to be used that is less incapacitating.
The armor and counter armor arm's race has always been constant and ongoing, expected by forces facing other forces. People make armor, others make things to defeat it, people make fortifications, people design things to defeat them.
However consider the difference in incapacitation if the enemy is forced to use things with small points to fight you because that is what will defeat certain levels of armor.
The result is instead of using the most devastating weapon to flesh, inflicting massive wounds that easily take you out of the fight, they are instead forced to use less incapacitating but higher penetrating weapons.
Compare it to say forcing modern forces to use mass produced AP rounds instead of mass produced expanding rounds. The expanding rounds may be far more devastating to bare flesh, but more readily defeated by the levels of body armor issued to the opponent. Requiring projectiles that do more poking than tissue destruction.
Which means those hit are less immediately incapacitated and can shoot back longer, even if they ultimately die from the wound.
Things were no different in mail, plate, etc
If the enemy had to use bodkin instead of deadlier broadhead, or weapons that concentrated force on small points instead of destroyed massive amounts of the body at a time, the person hit was less incapacitated. That still made them more effective even if it didn't keep them from being killed.

There are some rare examples like at Agincourt when bowmen grabbed melee weapons and helped engage the heavily armored, knocked them down and killed them.
But this was because they were in deep mud and had just walked through it in heavy armor being bombarded and stressed out by arrows, giving a terrain advantage to the less encumbered.
Many of them even drowned in their heavy armor in the mud unable to get up, rather than dying from any battle inflicted injury. Dying in inches of mud and water.
Just imagine being in heavy armor, completely fatigued, trying to get up from deep mud. You put your metal clad arms down to push yourself up and they just sink into the mud, you try to stand and your legs are in the mud. Thick mud that goes up to your ankles or knees is exhausting to walk through without armor, add armor with weight and more surface area being sucked down by the mud and its several times the work. Fall over in that mud and you may not get up.
Often the heavily armored had the advantage, even when mortally wounded were not incapacitated as much as the less armored and so can take more of the enemy with them.

Yet nothing is certain or constant. Military engagements are always strategic, as can be the strategies before them. Forcing your heavily armored opponent to chase your faster lightly armored forces over long distances before turning and engaging them at your leisure when and where you choose can be as much a part of the strategy as the eventual battle. Fresh lightly armored troops can then be much more effective than those who have marched long distances in heavy armor and can barely stand and hold their weapon much less effectively fight in formation.

DDeegs
January 24, 2012, 01:02 PM
Zoogster,

I agree with most of your post, however I do not think a longbowman would draw a bow with a tip on the ground. I saw a show on the history channel with a guy shooting a longbow of over 100 lbs pull, he did not pull iit to his cheek like a modern bow but put his whole body into the draw. He did not however brace it on the ground.

Dan

Cosmoline
January 24, 2012, 01:32 PM
I think we get too hung up on the ideas of duels. Outside of the gadiator arena the combat was part of larger military methods of the day. So the effectiveness of your armor depended on what kind of combat you were involved in. By the late middle ages and early modern period there were a bewildering array of specialized formations with specialized weapons. Each would be brought in for particular tasks or to counter other units. If you take their weapons and armor out of context, they no longer make much sense. One example would be the heavy war pick or hammer designed to drag heavy cav knights off their mounts. It's a very particular tool for a specialized job, and you wouldn't use your pick-men unless they could be brought in to drag down a heavy unit. They were like pieces on a huge chess board, with the field marshals moving them around.

mole
January 24, 2012, 03:57 PM
You can find descriptions and images of medieval longbow shooters using the ground to brace their bow, but I've never came across anything to suggest that they used the ground to help draw the bow. Doing so would definitely cause uneven stress in the bow and shorten it's life span. Having made a heavy weight longbow modeled after those found on the Mary Rose, it just doesn't make sense to me.

John

Zoogster
January 25, 2012, 01:18 AM
These are men of smaller stature and lower muscle mass. Men that had diets and nutrition far worse than in modern times, with even many cheap staples we take for granted today being luxuries in that time period.
I really don't think even drawing with the latissimus dorsi muscle of the so named medieval draw method alone allowed such men to draw and fire these 150+ pound draw weight bows repeatedly at the rapid pace we know was used.
To put things into perspective these are draw weights that are greater than what those drawing them weighed in body weight.
It would be like a modern average sized fit US man by comparison firing 200+ lb draw weight longbows.

Bows also regularly did break, and entire species of tree were nearly wiped out in medieval times, both in England and on the continent because demand was so high people would chop down even the last remaining individuals of desirable and suitable trees. Even when it was illegal to do so.




Cosmoline said: I think we get too hung up on the ideas of duels. Outside of the gadiator arena the combat was part of larger military methods of the day. So the effectiveness of your armor depended on what kind of combat you were involved in.

While this is certainly the case, there is also more to it. The aristocrats were typically among the most well armored, the best armor being expensive. They also rarely died in battle, and instead were typically captured and traded back, killing the elite aristocrats seen as barbaric and was uncommon.
Only the common soldier from poorer backgrounds was expected to give their life in battle, and were often killed if captured or surrendered.


Mail in certain medieval periods was rare, expensive, and most commonly owned by wealthy aristocrats. It was so valuable it would frequently be passed down generations. Shirts of it were also frequently worn under clothing or other armor, and kept secret. This increased its chances of success in stopping attacks or assassination attempts when it stopped the weapon of the attacker unaware it was there. While when it was known to be worn the attacker would compensate for it, decreasing the benefits it provided dramatically.

In later time periods mail become more common, and less expensive.
Aristocrats still had the best armor, and whatever was common for others of a specific time period they generally had something even better.
They also generally traveled on horseback, and had others to carry some of their gear, so were not encumbered by it like your more common soldier was with their gear.


Aristocratic knights were also very valuable back home, where they were needed to put down uprisings by the peasants who may want better living conditions, more equality, rights, or other such nonsense on occasion.
So the lives of the best trained martial artists, the knights and other man-at-arms frequently trained since boyhood, were not risked in combat as readily as other forces.
They would be used when there where common soldiers of the enemy forces vulnerable, and when glory could be obtained in slaughtering them, but were not often pitted directly against each other.
Two groups of knights fighting each other as is common in fantasy and reenactments today was rarely done.
So this must also be taken into account when considering strategy of the time period. They were not simply chess pieces of the battlefield to be used, but were valuable back home and needed to survive the battle more than the others on the field. They were not expendable, and a kingdom could only afford to lose a small number of them over a period of time.

leadcounsel
January 25, 2012, 02:19 AM
In fact sometimes there was even more sinister motives in war. Killing off large numbers of men of fighting age from the more rebellious parts of a kingdom to reduce the risk posed by that region for example. Whipping them into a frenzy against a foreign foe, and drafting them to their death.
Management of the ignorant and uneducated population for the benefit of the few was a complex affair.


Ahh, the more things change, the more they stay the same...

Overall great summary Zoogster!

p35
January 25, 2012, 09:54 PM
Any analysis of this issue should start with Agincourt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Agincourt):

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Basically a small, trapped army of English archers (with some knights, etc.) thoroughly whipped a larger force of French knights because they could shoot bodkin arrows clean through mail and plate armor.

English archers were the kings of the Hundred Years War, but the training to become an effective archer started in childhood and took constant practice. As someone else observed, it's easy to tell an archer's skeleton because of the deformities the constant practice and muscle development caused. Some kings tried to outlaw golf because it distracted from regular archery practice- traditionally, on Sundays the men of military age would go to church in the morning and practice archery the rest of the day at the village range. It's been argued that the archery tradition contributed to the development of democracy- after all, how much can a lord abuse a peasant who's able to put an arrow through his armor from the nearest woods if pushed too far?

One more (and, yes, I'm a little obsessed with archery): The British equivalent of the "middle finger" gesture involves two fingers- Churchill had to modify the "V for Victory" gesture when someone pointed out that he was basically flipping off the voters. The legend is that at Agincourt the French threatened to cut off the archer's draw fingers when they won the battle. As the English left the field after the battle, they held up their intact fingers as a gesture of contempt. It's still called the "archer's salute".

Being peasants, archers would more likely have been simply killed if taken prisoner rather than having their fingers cut off. Still, I like the legend.

Flintknapper
January 25, 2012, 10:29 PM
Boiling oil= effective

wheelgunslinger
January 26, 2012, 03:19 PM
This has become a very interesting discussion.

Part of the secret of the English Longbowman is invariably a nutritional difference.
What we know now about iodines and their role in thyroid hormones t3 and t4 indicates that the English may have been deficient in some areas of diet, but not in the ability to grow big strong men who were not hypothyroidic.

The diet of fresh seafood available to the majority of the population is a great way to grow a bunch of strong, dense, and vital skeletal structures as well as muscularity.

I think that we naturally assume that back then they were malnourished, or that everyone at agincourt was equally malnourished in the ranks of fighting men. But, a steady diet of fish rich in iodine and calcium and omegas, protein, etc. is a glaring difference across the breadth of England/Ireland/Scotland vs. France with a much larger interior:coast ratio.

FWIW:
T4 is thyroxine. It helps with energy release, protein synthesis, accelerates growth, solidifies the growth plates in bones so they can grow laterally and stop growing lengthwise, and stimulates nervous system activity.
T3 is triiodothyronine and is the 5x more potent version of T4

Calcitonin is also made by the Thyroid and handles calcium deposition and bone density in response to demand/stresses.

So, the longbowman had an important nutritional variable in his diet that many other societies with Yew trees did not. Other seafaring cultures like the Danes, Swedes, etc. didn't have the longer growing seasons and weather of the English and had to wait quite a while for their trees to mature for bow and arrow making.
The British Isles were practically at the nexus of a constallation of conditions that created the longbow archery tradition when every other contemporary nation had to make due with recurves, crossbows, etc.

wheelgunslinger
January 26, 2012, 03:25 PM
The longbow of the time is relatively like what you see people shooting now, actually.
http://www.maryrose.org/ship/index.html
The bows and arrows and accoutrement found on the Mary Rose tell their own tale. The Warbow with huge draw weight was not the common longbow. They even used the Longbow for ship to ship combat.

CWL
January 26, 2012, 05:34 PM
Since we are discussing ancient armor, I was wondering what you guys feel was the "overall best" general purpose lightweight ancient armor design?

Personally, I think the design (and forgive me because I forget who used it) with small metal plates sewn inside leather and then arranged in an overlapping fish scale design would have been pretty good. What do you guys think?

This type of armor is called brigantine or scale armor. In addition to metal plates, leather and horn were also used.

Popular in eastern Europe and Asia, it was flexible and light and appropriate for mounted battles where lighter weight and mobility to use a bow was needed. Useful against sword slashes but not as good against pole arms or arrows. For arrows, the Asiatic campaigner normally wore 3 layers of silk under his armor. The properties of silk was that it would wrap-around an arrowhead upon impact and would prevent deep penetration as well as allow the barbed arrow to be withdrawn easily.

As most battles in E. Europe & Asia were fought on horseback using bows as the primary weapon, the brigantine + silk was very good protection.

Strykervet
January 26, 2012, 07:34 PM
I've seen this armor for real in Holland and I can't believe they actually wore some of it. The plate was ridiculously heavy, the mail was lighter but I can see how an arrow would make short work of it. They wore stuff under and sometimes over the mail. Felted wool I think was what they used for padding --felt seemed pretty common in the low countries anyway. They like to laminate leather in there too, but whatever they did there was something under the mail, I do remember the display saying that it had to be worn this way because it would pull hair out --even with a shirt. I'm not an expert, I'm just telling you what I saw.

Saladin, his guys had those powerful bows, but I thought they laid down and used their feet to cock 'em.

Chinese had a Nefelwerber (sp?) arrow cannon. Had a bunch of rocket powered arrows, and they were bigger than the bowman could fire. History or some other channel tested one and it looked pretty useful by today's standards.

I can tell you from experience that armor is some funny stuff. Things you think will go through don't, and things you think won't do. The .50 Beo will punch a hole right through an Interceptor vest, but you wouldn't guess a bullet that big and slow could. It was designed to stop 9mm SMG fire --how many of those are used today!? But great for fragments.

You could say that kevlar is mail... It is a woven (or linked) material that is as strong or stronger than what it is supposed to stop while being flexible. You could also say that plate armor today is the evolution of warfare just like plate armor was for them.

Also, those guys were SMALL. Anyone who's spent time in museums will tell you that. Freaky small. Another popular weapon (and I saw some NICE ones) were cruciform daggers. Those will go right through, it is basically a sharpened plus sign on four sides that comes to a super sharp point. It would easily go through and be strong enough to break the links.

But yeah, it stopped the slashing thing with steel blades pretty good. I also second the guy that said the pope issued a decree against crossbows --I took some Roman history classes for basketweaving. Anyway, it had something to do with fear of assassins if I remember right --all the greedbags back then were stabbing each other in the back, kind of like today, and it wasn't all that hard to make a crossbow. The bolts they fired are not arrows either, more like bullets actually. If you've ever seen one up close, you can see real easy how that would go through mail.

Also, mail wasn't just worn by soldiers. Clergy and merchants wore it too, so to preserve that level of protection, they made the most lethal and easiest to make weapon illegal. It was an assault weapons ban.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Dr Dave
January 26, 2012, 08:20 PM
Vs chainmail, most effective, blunt weapons, least effective, slashing weapons. Very pointy things would seem to work also, including some spears, some arrows, and the point on a polearm like a halberd.

I would prefer a flanged mace against chainmail; I believe the flanges would put more energy on a smaller point than a warhammer, plus the size of the head of the mace should weigh more than the head of the hammer. I have a flanged mace and a warhammer we use to destroy old computer equipment behind the office and the mace does more damage. I also have a halberd, but it's so sharp and the head is so heavy and held on by a single screw I'm afraid to use it.

I don't see how you could use the bill of a hammer to pull a man off a horse; it would seem to me to a much better way to pull a hammer off a man, but I have no experience with that. Not an archer, so can't comment there.

For a really long and excellent read on medieval weapons with lots of pictures, try this site:

http://www.medievalwarfare.info/weapons.htm

My Cold Steel warhammer is pictured under maul in the article above.

Ole Humpback
January 26, 2012, 08:59 PM
I was wondering what you guys feel was the "overall best" general purpose lightweight ancient armor design?

If were talking best all around armor, in my book its the Greek Lamellar. They wove strips of fabric, leather, and thin strips of bronze (if you could afford it back then) together into a shirt and encased it in leather & fabric or leather & bronze. The shirt bound together with a thin glue similar to lignen and formed a hot wood form that had water thrown in at the last second which is very similar to steam pressing a shirt. According to the History Channel, it performed pretty much the same as modern day Kevlar. Different weaves defeated different threats better than others.

I agree with most of your post, however I do not think a longbowman would draw a bow with a tip on the ground. I saw a show on the history channel with a guy shooting a longbow of over 100 lbs pull, he did not pull iit to his cheek like a modern bow but put his whole body into the draw. He did not however brace it on the ground.

Deegs, you gotta remember that the average archer back then wasn't as big or fit as we are today. Humans today are physically some 20-30% larger & far more physically fit today than even the best fed well trained knight of that time. Bowmen were generally conscripts or forced into service for their noble/king because bowmen were nearly 50% cheaper to arm & train than even light infantry such as pikemen. Add to that the fact that Northern Europe at one time was covered by thick stands of Yew trees and its easy to see how the longbow gained its prominence.

CWL
January 26, 2012, 09:31 PM
You could say that kevlar is mail... It is a woven (or linked) material that is as strong or stronger than what it is supposed to stop while being flexible. You could also say that plate armor today is the evolution of warfare just like plate armor was for them.

Back in the time, linen and silk were used very similarly to kevlar. Kevlar material was designed to emulate the properties of silk but with an even tougher material. They are meant to disperse the energies of an impact as far as possible along the weave of the material.

wheelgunslinger
January 26, 2012, 09:41 PM
Yeah, lamellar technology was popular across a number of cultures. Classical Samurai war armor was lamellar.

armoredman
January 26, 2012, 11:00 PM
Silk was popular, as I am told, because an arrow that had gone in with a silk shirt could be drawn out much easier. No proof, just hearsay, sorry.

Jim Watson
January 26, 2012, 11:15 PM
Yes, I saw that on another board.

Not as fit?
Hmm.
I recall a Scientific American article about this Greek professor who got funds to build a Classical period bireme. He crewed it with university jocks; cheap, healthy labor. He reported equaling all historical records of oared ship performance. Except one. Distance traveled in 24 hours. In those days a rower was a well fed and well paid professional, not a starveling slave. Those guys had stamina.

CWL
January 27, 2012, 02:33 AM
You mean this? Trireme Olympias, reconstructed from dimensions and plans discovered in some ancient warehouses in Greece. I think that the objective of using the athlete crew was to authenticate ancient written claims about the speeds and maneuverability of the galleys as true.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7da52cJLwW8&feature=related

armoredman
January 27, 2012, 09:46 PM
that's very cool, wonder where the ship is now.

NoirFan
January 30, 2012, 11:09 AM
Basically a small, trapped army of English archers (with some knights, etc.) thoroughly whipped a larger force of French knights because they could shoot bodkin arrows clean through mail and plate armor.

I disagree. Zoogster already did a good job in an above post explaining why the French lost at Agincourt but let me add some points:

1) The Genoese crossbowmen on French side had marched through the rain with their weapons strung, drastically shortening their range. They had to get very close to the English lines to shoot and suffered heavy losses from English archery.

2) The French knights became impatient with the archery duel and charged through their own crossbowmen to close with the English, destroying their ranged capabilities and outdistancing their infantry

3) The uphill advance of the armored knights uphill through heavy mud caused many to collapse and suffocate in the muck. Those which reached the top were worn out and could not even raise their arms to attack because they were packed together so closely. The English archers threw down their bows and joined the fray with heavy entrenching mallets, perfect weapons for hammering down exhausted knights.

Armor penetration by longbows did not play a significant role at Agincourt. Perhaps the odd knight was killed here and there by an arrow through the visor or under the armpit but it was not a deciding factor. English arrows would have had a devastating effect on the knights' unarmored horses though, and an unhorsed knight slogging through the mud on foot is as good as useless.

ThorinNNY
February 8, 2012, 04:57 PM
I remember seeing a reproduction of a painting from Medevial times. Several unarmored peasants were attacking a fully armored knight - I mean the heavy steel hinged suit that went from head to toe.
The knight was lying on the ground, unable to rise, apparently weighed down by his armor.They were using picks and axes in order to cut him out of the armor.Wouldn`t be surprised if he got his 40 whacks, plus some.
I remember thinking it must have been pure hell for the defenseless knight.If I remember correctly,the guys hacking him up wore :evil: grins. Guess they thought it`s payback time .
It seems that no matter what defensive systems they come up with, people usually manage to counter them.

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