Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor: Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery

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JHU Press, 2013 - Art - 279 pages
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Alexander the Great led one of the most successful armies in history and conquered nearly the entirety of the known world while wearing armor made of cloth. How is that possible? In Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor, Gregory S. Aldrete, Scott Bartell, and Alicia Aldrete provide the answer.

An extensive multiyear project in experimental archaeology, this pioneering study presents a thorough investigation of the linothorax, linen armor worn by the Greeks, Macedonians, and other ancient Mediterranean warriors. Because the linothorax was made of cloth, no examples of it have survived. As a result, even though there are dozens of references to the linothorax in ancient literature and nearly a thousand images of it in ancient art, this linen armor remains relatively ignored and misunderstood by scholars.

Combining traditional textual and archaeological analysis with hands-on reconstruction and experimentation, the authors unravel the mysteries surrounding the linothorax. They have collected and examined all of the literary, visual, historical, and archaeological evidence for the armor and detail their efforts to replicate the armor using materials and techniques that are as close as possible to those employed in antiquity. By reconstructing actual examples using authentic materials, the authors were able to scientifically assess the true qualities of linen armor for the first time in 1,500 years. The tests reveal that the linothorax provided surprisingly effective protection for ancient warriors, that it had several advantages over bronze armor, and that it even shared qualities with modern-day Kevlar.

Previously featured in documentaries on the Discovery Channel and the Canadian History Channel, as well as in U.S. News and World Report, MSNBC Online, and other international venues, this groundbreaking work will be a landmark in the study of ancient warfare.


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User Review  - WaltNoise - LibraryThing

If you have ever wondered how the linen armor described in writings about ancient battles could be of much use, here’s the answer. The authors, academics at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay ... Read full review

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The recent investigations on Linothoraka, by Aldrete & Bartell,were published as 'Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor' (c.£15-20 in 2013).This 'Experimental Archaeology' route,evaluates the construction & protection capabilityof this type of body armour in great detail ( ie type IV,as categorised by E.Jarva).A very useful 'reverse engineeing' approach,based on vase paintings,metal statuettes & stone artifacts,coupled with extensive trial & error experience.Given that there is practically no 'hard' evidence of an actual thorax,the authors achieved a lot in describing the construction and protection capability of this type of armour.The images data base and the bibliography are very helpful addenda.
This title is a very worthy successor to E.Jarva's "Archaic Greek Body Armour" (1995).
It also covers some of the topics planned to appear in A.Hagemann's "Griechische Panzerung Teil II"(planned for the 1920s) ,which was meant to deal with Leather,Textile & Chainmail Armour , but never appeared(quite possibly due to the author's ill health).
Griechische Panzerung Teil I(Der Metallharnisch) is a 160 page book,publ. in 1919, in German ,with 173 B&W images in the text.Teil I is freely available at ==> .The 2012 prices of this quite rare title varied from € 40-70 for a 'fine' edition.
SL,Mcr(Uk) ,May 2013


1 Ancient Evidence for Linen Armor
2 Structural Variants and Decorations on Type IV Armor
3 What Material Was Used to Make Type IV Armor?
4 Reconstructing the Linothorax
5 Arrow Test Methodology and Materials
6 Arrow Test Results
7 Wearability Issues
8 Economic and Social Considerations
Appendix Database of Visual Sources for Type IV Armor

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About the author (2013)

Gregory S. Aldrete is a professor of humanistic studies and history at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. He is the author of Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome and Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome, both published by Johns Hopkins. Scott Bartell is an independent scholar who has published and presented on linen body armor and Alexander the Great. Alicia Aldrete is coauthor (with Gregory S. Aldrete) of The Long Shadow of Antiquity: What Have the Greeks and Romans Done for Us?

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