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Roman Lorica Squamata Scale mail fragments



Material  Copper Alloy- Scales and Rings
Dimensions Scale:

long x 5.3-6.4mm wide
(4.8-5.8mm bottom)
-0.22-.32mm thick
-central ridge: .48-.78mm wide

Rings (riveted):

-4.29mm x4.75mm
-wire is.6-.8mm thick
-lap details: 1.6-1.9 long x 1.1-1.4 wide
-rivet: .65-.77 thick
-mound:1.2mm thick

Rings (solid):

-3.36-3.56mm (outside)
-2.1mm (inside)
-.24-.36mm thick

Total fragment details:

-17cm long

- 4mm thick with rings and scales

- 136 complete attached scales

- 13 fragmented attached scales 

Roman Empire  1st to 3rd Century AD

A an etremely rare (one of only 15 other documented examples) of Lorica Hamata Squamataque. A unqiue type of armor only known to be associated to the Romans, which was constructed with small brass rings and attached scales. This armor was essentially a hybrid armour consisting a mail linked armour with interwoven brass scrales.

The shear small size the pieces of the armour are themselves astounding. The ringed portion consists of alternating rows or riveted and solid rings. The solid rings are only ~3.5mm wide and the riveted rings are less than 5mm wide. The scales are then attached to each row of riveted rings and the scale attaching point is folded over 90 degrees so the scale lays flat on the rings. The scales themselves are also very small compared to the normal Squamata scales. There is a center ridge on the scales created by hammering the flat scale into a groove through a technique called "coining". This makes the scale stronger and more rigid.

The overall armour would have appeared incredibly impressive owing to its small hanging scales and would have flowed and moved incredibly well with the wearer. The small number of known examples also attests to its rarity and likely limited use. A type of armor only reserved to the top elite Roman.

Based on reconstruction work by Erik.Schmid it is estimated that nearly 20,000 scales  and 160,000 rings were needed to complete the armor. Without taking into account the work and time needed to mine the ore, make the wire, punch the solid ring and make the scales, it is estimated that it would take 1 person nearly 500 days to complete the garment. Such labor and time would certainly have contributed to the extreme rarity of the armour.

When ever the armour is discussed there are questions raised on whether it would have been effective in battle. Without testing accurate reconstructed examples it is hard to make concrete opinions on that question. It can however be noted that the armour was clearly designed with strengthening additions (such as the hardened centra rib on the scales). The overlaping and "community" effect of the scales, and mail backing also make the armour appear stronger than the individual sizes would warrant. As is noted by Matijn Wijinhoven, the many overlaping scales (3) actually make the scale section alone .75-.9mm thick. The combined thickness of the armour with the mail backing is approximately 4mm. These thicknesses are comparable (if not better) than other Roman armour examples.(1)(2)

Drawing example of how the rings would have looked (from Martijn Wijnhoven)

Click on Pictures for higher resolution

Close up examples





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(1) References to similar items: The Journal of the Mail Research Society, Volume 2. No.1  Martijn Wijnhoven, Erik Schmid.

(2) References to similar items: Putting the Scale into Mail- Roman and Thracian Hybrid Armour of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, Martijn Wijnhoven XVIII RoMEC

**Note on background. Close up view of the wall of the Colosseum of Pula, Croatia. Picture taken 2014