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Scientists Study Impact of Wearing Medieval Armor

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the turns-out-it's-really-heavy dept.

Science 213

FoolishOwl writes "Scientists at the University of Leeds tested the effects of wearing heavy medieval armor by monitoring volunteers, who were experienced medieval reenactors, as they walked and ran on treadmills, while wearing accurate replicas of 15th century armor. While the suits of armor weighed between 30 and 50 kg, comparable to the weight of gear carried by modern soldiers, volunteers who carried equivalent amounts of weight in backpacks had an easier time with the weight. Volunteers in armor burned more energy and had difficulty breathing. The scientists speculate that much of the additional effort was due to weight of armor on the legs — leg armor was one of the first things dropped in the shift towards lighter armor in the 16th century. While it has long been assumed that heavy medieval armor limited mobility, and that this contributed to the outcome of battles, such as the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, this was the first study to quantify the impact of wearing heavy armor."

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213 comments

Battles (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36828498)

While it has long been assumed that heavy medieval armor limited mobility, and that this contributed to the outcome of battles, such as the Battle of Agincourt in 1415

Nonsense. It's well established that being French contributes to the outcome of battles, such as the Battle of Agincourt. The effects of armor is minor in comparison.

Re:Battles (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#36828530)

Good thing they got better in the 19th Century eh mon ami?

Re:Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36828610)

Did you mean the American Revolutionary War, 1775-1783? That'd be late 18th century.

Re:Battles (2)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#36828628)

No I meant the Napoleonic Wars where France had the whole world on the run for almost 20 years.

Napoleon was Italian :-) (2)

perpenso (1613749) | about 3 years ago | (#36828914)

No I meant the Napoleonic Wars where France had the whole world on the run for almost 20 years.

"Napoleon was born in Corsica to parents of noble Genoese ancestry", so he was actually Italian not French. :-)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon [wikipedia.org]

Corsica was ruled by Genoa (part of Italy) for 400 or so years, had a 20-something year rebellion, 15 or so years of independence and was then conquered by France shortly before Napoleon was born. Its constitution was written in Italian and Italian was the dominant language long after Napoleon's death.

Before commencer à la flamme please note the ":-)". Yes, Napoleon was born in French territory and was therefore a French citizen.

Re:Battles (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 3 years ago | (#36829666)

Napoleon didn't have the Americas on the run, nor China, India, Africa, Ottoman Empire nor the Persian Empire, so his impact on the world is a little overstated.

Remember that the US almost declared war on France at the same time they declared war on the United Kingdom in 1812. The US wasn't scared of France then.

Re:Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36828622)

Once they stopped assuming that being noble meant being immune to arrows and bullets, they got better quickly. Mind you, they basically exterminated the French nobility in the process, but it worked.

Re:Battles (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 years ago | (#36830454)

Really? They totally sucked in 1871.

Re:Battles (5, Informative)

liquidweaver (1988660) | about 3 years ago | (#36828692)

Oh come on. http://www.militaryfactory.com/battles/french_military_victories.asp [militaryfactory.com] When you cherry pick from the history of any country, you can come up with a long list of defeats. I don't remember Japan, Germany or Russia being too successful in the last hundred years. Even America got it's capital burned to the ground in 1812, and was defeated in Vietnam (in fairness, after France too).

Re:Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829028)

... defeated in Vietnam ...

That was not a battlefield defeat, it was a defeat on TV and in Washington DC. For example the North failed tactically and strategically during the Thet Offensive; the Viet Cong was destroyed, the NVA regulars were decimated and the population of the South failed to rise up in rebellion (rejected the North). Only the US antiwar movement saved the Thet Offensive for the North. In 1973 the North recognized the South and promised not to invade, so the US left. Two or so years after America's military departure the North launched a full scale conventional invasion, tanks rolling down the highway sort of stuff, exactly the type of thing America was most effective at destroying. However the US President decided not to come to the aid of the South as promised and sat idly by while the South was overrun.

Re:Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829222)

Right, it wasn't a tactical defeat. Nor even a strategic defeat. It was a defeat of policy and ideology. Waging proxy wars and trying to "contain communism" turned out to be really stupid ideas. The people of South Vietnam did not want US involvement. It was an unpopular war at home AND in the nation they were fighting in.

Now, you say that the south "rejected the north", but during it's formation, even Eisenhower thought that most of the people would have voted to be lead by communist Ho Chi Minh [wikipedia.org] .

Leaving as we did probably wasn't the best way to go about it, but leaving was a good thing in the long run.

Re:Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829674)

Waging proxy wars and trying to "contain communism" turned out to be really stupid ideas.

Actually it did sort of contain communism.

The people of South Vietnam did not want US involvement.

Opinion varied, and a lot of folks coming from the north to the south distorts the picture.

Now, you say that the south "rejected the north", but during it's formation, even Eisenhower thought that most of the people would have voted to be lead by communist Ho Chi Minh [wikipedia.org]

In reality people in the 50s really wanted national unity, not communism; and that "poll" was before people learned that communism meant that local communist representatives will assassinate teachers, elders and others who do not agree with them.

Oh, please. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829290)

The entire premise of the war was a lie, and you got your ass handed to you as a result. Man up and admit it for once.

Re:Oh, please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829478)

The entire premise of the war was a lie, and you got your ass handed to you as a result. Man up and admit it for once.

Ponder the following to develop the insight that you apparently lack: Soldiers/Marines win battles not wars.

Re:Battles (1)

Baseclass (785652) | about 3 years ago | (#36829260)

"Shut up. We didn't lose Vietnam. It was a tie!"
- Otto

Re:Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829534)

It's been awhile since I've seen a quote from A Fish Called Wanda.
I'll have to pirate that and watch it again soon.

Re:Battles (1)

waimate (147056) | about 3 years ago | (#36829396)

At least the French never got beaten by the Canadians.

Re:Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829656)

Plains of Abraham, if we're counting British victories in Canada as Canadian victories....

Re:Battles (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 3 years ago | (#36829746)

Nor did the United States, during the War of 1812 Canada wasn't a nation and none of the Generals or units of the British Army who burned Washington DC were Canadian.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Ross_(general) [wikipedia.org] - Anglo-Irish
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Cockburn [wikipedia.org] - English

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bladensburg#British [wikipedia.org]
Foot (Infantry)
1st Battalion, 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot - English
21st Regiment (Royal North British Fusiliers) - English with some Scots
1st Battalion, 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot - English
85th Regiment of Foot (Bucks Volunteers)(Light Infantry) - English
Royal Marines
2nd Battalion, commanded by Major Malcolm
Companies of Colonial Marines from 3rd Battalion, commanded by Major Lewis
Composite battalion (formed from ship-based Marines) commanded by Captain Robyns

The only units that can be considered the least bit "Canadian" are Companies of Colonial Marines from 3rd Battalion, commanded by Major Lewis and some of the Composite Battalion

Re:Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36830208)

Well.. they did indirectly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_and_Indian_War

In the words of Jeremy Clarkson... (1)

billsayswow (1681722) | about 3 years ago | (#36829264)

"It's like bringing a longbow to a sword fight!"

Re:Battles (2)

dltaylor (7510) | about 3 years ago | (#36829486)

Yeah, like the losers who blockaded Lord Charles Cornwallis' resupply and reinforcements at Yorktown, and the ground troops that reinforced the perimeter to help prevent a breakout.. Without the help of the French, both in North America and in keeping the British busy elsewhere, there would likely be no United States of America.

Perhaps the French defeats that passed into folklore (Agincourt, Trafalgar, Waterloo, Dien Bien Phu) have done so because the French were, at the time, a major power (which takes winning a lot) that got some comeuppance, as the USofA did at, for example, Little Big Horn.

Re:Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829732)

Or perhaps the only real observation here is the one not in the report: medieval reenactors are about as far from athletes as you can get.

yeah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36830166)

how about 1792-1815 ....

yeah im waiting ?

ah, i also forgot how it was the french navy, french volunteers and a french general that not only bolstered the ranks of the revolutionaries back in 1774 in america, but also that particular french general was the general who, with his quick action, ended all english hopes on the continent in the last battle.

Ergonomics (5, Informative)

pgpalmer (2015142) | about 3 years ago | (#36828544)

There's a reason why good-quality backpacks have a strap that wraps around the waist - the pelvis is capable of comfortably supporting a large amount of weight, and that is why the weight of backpacks is best supported there. Medieval armour supports it all over the body, causing body-wide muscle fatigue. From the article: "We were interested to find out why that was - and one of the main reasons is that if you wear a suit of armour, a lot of the weight is carried on the legs - about 7-8kg of it."

Re:Ergonomics (2)

husker_man (473297) | about 3 years ago | (#36828918)

Actually, the best backpacks (ones for long-distance hiking) tend to have the weight more on the hips than on the waist. Ideally, the shoulder straps should be relatively loose, and the bulk of the weight transferred down to the hip belt. The purpose for the shoulder straps is to to keep it relatively stable.

Re:Ergonomics (1)

gknoy (899301) | about 3 years ago | (#36829128)

To be fair, he did imply that when he mentioned the weight being distributed on your pelvis (the hip bone).

Re:Ergonomics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829132)

Put a 500g of weight in each ankle and measure the additional consumption of oxygen. The researchers should have read some of the findings in the field of sports medicine. The submitter forgot to add the impact of the muddy battle field from the article, leaving a generalization of limited mobility causing defeat in the Battle of Agincourt. I would guess early firearms and heavy crossbows had something to do it also.

Re:Ergonomics (4, Informative)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 3 years ago | (#36829446)

A 50lb draw longbow can throw a clothyard shaft straight through 1/8" mild steel plate 10 out of 10, and through maille as if it were gauze.

Crossbows weren't really required at Agincourt. A long-established culture of longbow use (mandated by the Crown) had more of an effect. You can see the effect today by looking at the window sills of small English churches -- worn to a catenary by yeomen (yew-man, a bow user) who believed sharpening their arrowheads on a church window brought good luck.

Re:Ergonomics (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 3 years ago | (#36829990)

At Agincourt, the longbows hampered the heavy knights, but didn't kill them except in rare shots through the visor.

They reported French knights looking like hedgehogs. Armor works.

In any event, this study is quite stupid. They measured how much faster armor tires you out when running, and then concluded from it armor was a hindrance, in contradiction to all history.

Re:Ergonomics (5, Informative)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 3 years ago | (#36829372)

Medieval armour supports it all over the body, causing body-wide muscle fatigue.

Not so. Medieval armour up to the 14th century had hip belts that supported the weight of the leg armour on the pelvis.

The amount of effort you spend wearing armour is way more dependent upon the fit than the total weight.

There's been a huge study of this in various groups of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Possibly the best proponent of this study that I know of is a gent known as His Majesty Cornelius von Beck, current king of Lochac (Australia). (www.sca.org.au). He's an armourer himself, and has studied - and worn - original 14th century plate. Serious students only can contact him via the SCA.

The SCA is the only organisation I know that chooses its leaders by rite of combat...

Re:Ergonomics (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | about 3 years ago | (#36829786)

Not so. Medieval armour up to the 14th century had hip belts that supported the weight of the leg armour on the pelvis.

Not a medieval armor expert, but didn't they have even better after the 14th century? I think that was the point of an arming doublet, a jacket or coat that was worn under say, plate maile that had straps and hooks for fastening armor on. I would imagine with such a garment that you could re-adjust where weigh was carried to a great degree.

Re:Ergonomics (1)

dwywit (1109409) | about 3 years ago | (#36830084)

I helped to dress a serious re-enactor once (in Brisbane - he's not with the SCA, though) - he had me put my foot on his waist while I pulled the war belt as tight as I could. The lower half of his chain-mail suit was then supported by the belt around his waist/hips, so the whole thing (approx 10kg) wasn't solely taken on his shoulders.

Re:Ergonomics (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 years ago | (#36830524)

Not so. Medieval armour up to the 14th century had hip belts that supported the weight of the leg armour on the pelvis.

While it may take some of the weight while standing still, it won't do anything to help lift the legs while walking.

And if you transfer the weight onto the pelvis, what supports the pelvis?

Re:Ergonomics (3, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 3 years ago | (#36830586)

There's been a huge study of this in various groups of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

And some of it has even been reasonably scientific. The vast bulk of it doesn't even approach Mythbusters levels of scientific accuracy and diligence however. Though the SCA tried very hard, and has gotten markedly better over time, a scientific or academic organization it isn't.
 
(Disclaimer: Member of the SCA 25+ years now.)

We are the knight who say "Ni (3, Funny)

MRe_nl (306212) | about 3 years ago | (#36828572)

ne miles on a treadmill are you effing joking".

Re:We are the knight who say "Ni (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#36829098)

Yes, they are joking.

The folks who could afford full armor could also afford horses.

And they didn't do a lot of running. They mostly stood around a quarter of a mile behind the fighting watching to see if they should get back on their horses.

The folks who did the fighting, if they wore any armor at all, wore small pieces of armor at critical points.

I call ye olde shenaniganes.

Re:We are the knight who say "Ni (2)

mcvos (645701) | about 3 years ago | (#36829476)

The folks who could afford full armor could also afford horses.

You touch upon a very questionable claim by TFA. It says the inability to run for very long might have influenced battles like Agincourt, but the French (who lost there) had all there knights on horseback. The English knights (who won) were on foot. They still weren't running very much, because they were relying mostly on their longbows and letting the French come to them (who were hindered by mud and stakes in the ground), so to what extend fatigue from running in armour is relevant is highly questionable.

That doesn't change the fact that many other battles did feature lots of armoured foot soldiers walking all across the battlefield. It's just that Agincourt seems like a poor example to me.

Re:We are the knight who say "Ni (3, Insightful)

corbettw (214229) | about 3 years ago | (#36830070)

Have you ever ridden a galloping horse over rough ground? It's hard, and you use a lot of muscles in your legs, buttocks, and abdomen just to stay upright. Add in all the weight from armor and weapons, and it's no wonder that knights who had to move, even if they were riding horses, would be exhausted compared to knights who could stand back and let the enemy come to them.

Re:We are the knight who say "Ni (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 years ago | (#36830178)

the French (who lost there) had all there knights on horseback.

Huh? Most things I've read say the second wave attacked on foot.

Experienced reenactors?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36828614)

who were experienced medieval reenactors

What does this have to do with anything?

Re:Experienced reenactors?? (2)

ThePeices (635180) | about 3 years ago | (#36828742)

Well, I am going to turn on my brain ( you forgot to, it seems ), and apply logic and reasoning.

Being an experienced medieval reenactor means that person is experienced in wearing and moving around in, medieval armor. If you were going to study the effects of wearing heavy armor, would it not make sense to use test subjects who know how to use said armor, in the way it was used, in the 14th century?

See, how hard was that? Using your brain is not as difficult as you thought, stop being lazy and use it.

Re:Experienced reenactors?? (1)

mcvos (645701) | about 3 years ago | (#36829504)

It's somewhat sensible to use reenactors instead of random people from the street, but reenactors are hobbyists, and not real medieval soldiers. A knight trained to fight in armour would probably be quite a bit stronger and tougher than your average reenactor.

Re:Experienced reenactors?? (2)

Xaositecte (897197) | about 3 years ago | (#36829830)

It controls for experience. Random people off the street might be more or less able to move around in armor, all depending on how quickly they take to it. It could have been possible that wearing armor which distributes weight evenly is no more tiring than wearing a backpack, but because the volunteers weren't familiar with armor, they would expend more energy for that reason.

Also, it's not possible to go out and get real knights, because we haven't finished the time machine yet. Reenactors are the best next thing.

Re:Experienced reenactors?? (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 years ago | (#36828764)

Maybe interest level. "Volunteers wanted for research, wear armor and run on a treadmill!" got no takers at the local McDonalds, wheras they got all the volunteers they needed in 2 mins at a rennisance festival.

Also it probably helps to have people who have worn armor before are familiar with how they're supposed to fit, how they can move in them, how they put it on.

At the -very- least, it's an important methods note. You wouldn't publish a drug trial study and leave out the fact that you used mice.

Re:Experienced reenactors?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36828878)

In theory it means that they are used to the weight of the armour. I call BS, though. A medieval knight would train to fight in armour for 6-8 hours a day since he was old enough to spit. These guys put it on and stand around doing nothing much for a few hours a day. The whole idea that we can tell how well a medieval person supported armour weight by using modern untrained people is very suspect.

Re:Experienced reenactors?? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 years ago | (#36828988)

Since we don't have medieval knights these days, I would say those who have had some experience wearing armor would probably be better at this exercise than those who have no experience.

Re:Experienced reenactors?? (2)

perpenso (1613749) | about 3 years ago | (#36829118)

In theory it means that they are used to the weight of the armour. I call BS, though. A medieval knight would train to fight in armour for 6-8 hours a day since he was old enough to spit. These guys put it on and stand around doing nothing much for a few hours a day. The whole idea that we can tell how well a medieval person supported armour weight by using modern untrained people is very suspect.

While an actual medieval knight would surely have outperformed a modern re-enactor that is not terribly relevant. An actual medieval knight would still have improved his personal performance by switching to a modern backup. The modern backpack doesn't rely on muscle, it relies on a physiological structure that has not really changed in the last few centuries - well perhaps scale has changed but not essential structure.

Armor on the legs (1)

Megahard (1053072) | about 3 years ago | (#36828626)

didn't seem to help the Black Knight [wikipedia.org] much.

Re:Armor on the legs (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 years ago | (#36828800)

Nor did they help the other Black Knight. [widedeskto...papers.net] I suspect casting was more of a problem there though.

Experienced medieval reenactors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36828636)

I've worked with "experienced medieval reenactors" and most of them actually BELIEVE they are living in medieval times.

Horses? (1)

SpasticWeasel (897004) | about 3 years ago | (#36828706)

I though that knights rode horses. I doubt that they did very much jogging.

Good point (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | about 3 years ago | (#36828902)

Doubtful that full suits of armor were issued to the infantry. For one thing, they were extremely expensive.

Re:Good point (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 3 years ago | (#36829126)

I believe that the knights were required to buy their own armor. And if you could afford that, you could probably afford a horse too.

Re:Good point (1)

mcvos (645701) | about 3 years ago | (#36829566)

You're both partially wrong. Yes, knights rode on horses for much of the middle ages, but in sieges they often fought on foot (because a horse isn't much use against a wall), and during the 100 Years War, England also often had knights fight on foot during field battles.

Also, heavy infantry like halberdiers and some swordsmen often did wear armour. Not the kind of armour that a mounted knight would wear, but pretty heavy armour nonetheless.

Re:Good point (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 years ago | (#36830594)

This is a bit of a myth caused by extrapolation from accounts of very fancy custom suits made for kings and nobility.

In fact, there was (relatively) cheap mass produced armour too.

It's like looking back from the future only seeing Rolls-Royces, and not Fords because it's mainly records of the rich and famous that are preserved.

Re:Horses? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 3 years ago | (#36829146)

I though that knights rode horses. I doubt that they did very much jogging.

Yes, however this research indicates one reason why getting a knight off his horse was considered a "good thing" by his enemies.

Re:Horses? (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 3 years ago | (#36829210)

Yes, however this research indicates one reason why getting a knight off his horse was considered a "good thing" by his enemies.

The standard way of getting a knight off his horse wasn't to politely ask him to dismount, it was to knock him off.

At that point, his ability to jog wasn't an issue, it was more an issue of him flopping around on the ground like a turtle on his back until his squire could come help him stand up again.

It was a "good thing" to knock him off not because he'd be hard pressed to run after you, it was because he'd be hard pressed to run away from you. Or swing a sharp cutty thing at you, for that matter.

Re:Horses? (1)

sheetsda (230887) | about 3 years ago | (#36829382)

From an anecdote I heard somewhere recently (I think in 'The Knight' episode of Terry Jones' Medieval Lives [wikipedia.org] [highly recommend it, was on Netflix instant, these days who knows]) not only was he hard press to run away, he was hard pressed to even stand up again. The armor, however, was so good at its job you couldn't hurt him while he was on the ground until you brought out the boiling oil.

Re:Horses? (4, Informative)

canajin56 (660655) | about 3 years ago | (#36829580)

Totally bogus, even in heavy plate it's not hard to stand again unassisted. Maybe you're thinking of tournament armor. Tournament armor was many many times thicker than battlefield armor. Because you wouldn't be wearing it for extended periods, you wouldn't need to maneuver, and nobody wants to die in a game. Those are the ones where the squire had to help them up, because the armor weight as much as the knight! A knight on the battlefield could probably get back up faster than you could. Another piece of common knowledge about armor that's wrong is that it's mostly pointless. In fact, 10 plate armored knights against a force of 100 chain and leather clad soldiers would be an even match. Plate armor was incredibly effective. It was even somewhat effective against musket fire unless it was at very close range. Just because the hero can casually slice through plate armor doesn't mean a damn thing. Just because it's barely effective in RPGs doesn't mean a damn thing.

Next week (2)

Nanosphere (1867972) | about 3 years ago | (#36828746)

Scientists study the impact of wearing a wizard hat while yelling "Lightning Bolt! Lightning Bolt!"

Re:Next week (1)

eharvill (991859) | about 3 years ago | (#36829250)

Oh come on, at least post a link!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_ekugPKqFw [youtube.com]

Now let's study other ancient suits of armor (1)

Joshua Fan (1733100) | about 3 years ago | (#36828762)

Japanese samurai armor looks much more comfortable, with the joints being unhindered and the armor plating hanging loose, while still offering a comparable degree of protection. Then Roman and Greek armor look increasingly comfortable while protecting less, but that must have been vital given the climes of those locales.

Re:Now let's study other ancient suits of armor (2)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | about 3 years ago | (#36829014)

In Judo one of the higher katas (well, higher than those that I know) simulates(*) wearing japanese armour. And, from looking at the movements, it looks anything but comfortable.

(*)I do not know if somewhere it is actually done while wearing armour, I only saw that with the participants wearing the usual judogi.

SCA Nerd (4, Informative)

Toze (1668155) | about 3 years ago | (#36828766)

Disclaimer; the SCA does medievalISH combat with rules and equipment for safety; it's not authentic medieval fight styles, and there are other groups (like WMA) that focus on things like 15th century German fechtbuchs and who have more authority to speak on authentically historical modes and styles of combat.

That said, the SCA does swordfighting at full speed and often with full power (depending on the area), and there are some strong similarities with historical combat. The sticks used (for safety reasons) are roughly the same weight as the historical swords, and there's a strong social pressure to wear armour that is both save and as authentic as possible. Thus, there's a couple things I can comment on from personal experience. First, metal armour on limbs *noticeably* slows down shots. We accept plastic plates as long as they're covered ("best effort to look good" is the standard), so people will fight with plastic covered in canvas or leather, and there is a well-known tradeoff in the SCA between "looking good" in shiny metal armour and having the best possible speed.

I just finished building a fairly close replica of 14th century coat-of-plates armour. I had been using (poorly disguised) plastic before, and the difference when wearing 25 pounds of overlapping plates is quite noticeable. I look much better, of course, but I also work harder, sweat more, and need to take more breaks. The weight's all on my shoulders, so it's not wearing my legs out, but there's a noticeable weight when I'm moving. I recently got metal gauntlets, and they're noticeable as well; the hands move slower when there's a pound or two of metal on them. I hate to reference anime, but you know how Goku wears the heavy arm and leg weights in Dragonball Z? There's some truth to that; even the fat SCA fighters have bulkier shoulders and larger arms. (actually wearing weights around all day will just screw up your joints, by the way; it's the holding-heavy-things-out-from-your-body that does it)

There's a reason armour was attached where it was in the middle ages; suspending legs from a belt takes at least some of the weight off the legs when moving.

Re:SCA Nerd (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829172)

Fighting in heavy armour is not your day job, it's just a hobby. Comparing today's "experienced medieval reenactors" to the fighters from hundreds of years ago, is much like learning kung-fu by watching Jackie Chan movies. Make a school that practices this, just like a dojo that practices karate, and ten years from now analyse the results from those fighters.

Also you mention that wearing heavy armour screws up your joints, well, people those days thought 40 is an old, and very few lived longer than that, so they rarely found out about those side effects.

See how samurai learn to fight how much they train to use those feather light swords of their, and then compare it to this experiments "experienced medieval reenactors".

Re:SCA Nerd (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36829332)

"social pressure" "looking good" "I look much better" "I hate to reference anime, but [...] Goku [...] in Dragonball Z" "fat SCA fighters"

This is the most adorable thing I've read all day...

That's a good first step. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36828780)

Now, let's test the impact of backpacks versus suits of armor on surviving a barrage of arrows.

Re:That's a good first step. (1)

GerryMander (81933) | about 3 years ago | (#36828860)

You did catch the Agincourt reference at the beginning? The english longbow was VERY effective vs armored knights.

Re:That's a good first step. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36828998)

But that impact may have been more of a side effect of the arrows rather than directly because of them. There were relatively few casualties to armoured men as a result of arrows. The arrows meant that men at arms had to keep their heads down and visors closed, which made them advance slowly and tire out faster. This was amplified by the battlefield being covered in thick mud. Once they advanced to meet the enemy they were exhausted, and the much fresher and less encumbered archers were able to engage in hand to hand combat against them and win. The story against the cavalry charge was a bit different, but the effectiveness of arrows against armour was the same. The casualties were mainly a result of arrow hits against unarmoured parts of the horses.

Re:That's a good first step. (1)

tunapez (1161697) | about 3 years ago | (#36829158)

Brave, brave Concorde! You shall not have died in vain!

Powered Armour (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36828808)

And this is the initial research that will lead to the development of powered armour, which will be vital in our eventual war against China.

Re:Powered Armour (1)

Animal Farm Pig (1600047) | about 3 years ago | (#36829004)

[better_off_ted] What? Everyone knows that war is coming! [/better_off_ted]

Re:Powered Armour (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 3 years ago | (#36829544)

Except that China will manufacture it.

Mount and Blade (1)

Wiarumas (919682) | about 3 years ago | (#36828848)

...they just need more points in Athletics.

Firsthand (3, Informative)

Caerdwyn (829058) | about 3 years ago | (#36828862)

Speaking as an ex-"reenactor" (Society for Creative Anachronism, http://www.sca.org/ [sca.org] I can offer the following firsthand observations:

1. The quality of fitting to the individual is probably the single most important factor in how burdensome a given suit of armor is, from the point of view of the ability to move quickly. Leggings are by far the hardest to fit correctly; they also tend to shift around the most in response to movement, so a good fitting can become a bad fitting very quickly.
2. In melee combat, the legs are hit far more often than any target other than the head. Leg armor may be encumbering, but when it comes to hand to hand combat you can't do without it.
3. When faced with archers, an unshielded fighter takes it in the arms and torso more than anywhere else.
4. Breathing difficulties are usually caused by poor ventilation in a closed-face helm, or a side effect of heat. Which brings us to:
5. Overheating is what is going to exhaust you. You're wearing not just armor, but heavy padding as well. The number one factor an SCA medic sees at a large battle is overwhelmingly heat exhaustion/heatstroke/dehydration.

Re:Firsthand (5, Informative)

Toze (1668155) | about 3 years ago | (#36829012)

Regarding 2, Bengt Thordeman's "Armour of the Battle of Wisby" includes a survey of wounds from a 14th century mass grave, and very many of the deaths in historical combat seemed to be preceded by leg wounds. Specifically, one or both legs followed by an overhead strike to the top of the head with sword or hammer.
(sca) I found it particularly amusing, because there's an An Tir joke about "the kingmaker" being ankle-ankle-head. (/sca)

Re:Firsthand (1)

fishbowl (7759) | about 3 years ago | (#36829054)

>3. When faced with archers, an unshielded fighter takes it in the arms and torso more than anywhere else.

At what SCA events did you have live archery fighting?

Re:Firsthand (4, Informative)

Caerdwyn (829058) | about 3 years ago | (#36829196)

Larger wars include archery, slingers (glorified tennis balls), javelins. Archery rules specify 30-pound bows maximum, padded bird blunts, arrow shafts covered with fiber tape to prevent jagged points if they break (some kingdoms disallow wooden shafts altogether and require fiberglass, because fiberglass makes a mushy rather than pointed shape when it breaks), all helms required to have no single opening that you can fit a 1/4" dowel through, no neck-exposure allowed. West-Caid war (California vs. Arizona, etc.) was a great one for that. I think they do that at Pennsic (New England vs. the Rust Belt, battle cry is "Loser gets Pittsburg!"), and Pennsic draws many thousands of fighters annually. It's quite a spectacle.

All of the above info is over a decade stale. Things may have changed, then again, maybe not. I don't know if the SCA still includes archery in wars (it was never universal; wars were announced in advance whether there were any scenarios including archery), but archery was a great way to get inexpensively into SCA war-combat. An archer needed only light body armor and a helm that was the equal of the heavy fighters. Rules are (were?) that an archer was automatically considered dead if a heavy fighter comes within ten feet, which is a good thing, as SCA melee combat is full-power full-speed. You are hitting your opponent as just as hard as your strength allows (the blow has to be hard enough to have caused injury with a real steel weapon against period armor, so such a hit on a lightly armored combatant would certainly break bones, even with SCA rattan weapons); nobody wanted to chance that a heavy would misidentify a light fighter as another heavy through limited visibility and give a full-power hit instead of a token "love tap". However, getting within ten feet isn't easy. Many an archer has happily led a heavy fighter a merry chase under the blazing sun, taunting all the way... to deal with that exercise in frustration, some fighters carried "darts" (small javelins) to smack down cocky archers with.

Good times. Add where else can you hire an entire mercenary company for a keg of home-brew?

Re:Firsthand (2)

mcvos (645701) | about 3 years ago | (#36829692)

5. Overheating is what is going to exhaust you. You're wearing not just armor, but heavy padding as well. The number one factor an SCA medic sees at a large battle is overwhelmingly heat exhaustion/heatstroke/dehydration.

Note that this depends quite a bit on the climate. There's a good reason why armour got lighter the further south you got. Also keep in mind that much of the US lies at the same latitude as the Mediteranean.

In the end, though, armour wasn't meant to be comfortable. It was meant to keep you alive, or at least make you somewhat harder to kill.

Horses, anyone? (1)

DCheesi (150068) | about 3 years ago | (#36828882)

In theory, at least, the weight and unwieldy nature of the armor may have mattered less to the nobles who were most likely to wear it, simply because they rode into battle on horseback. As such, they didn't need to support themselves the whole time. The problem of the leg armor in particular largely disappears when on horseback (assuming of course that the horse itself can manage the weight).

If and when they fell off their horse, or said horse was put down, *then* they could be in trouble. But my understanding is that foot soldiers were usually more interested in capturing nobles and holding them for ransom, rather than killing them outright. It was probably far more important that they be able to weather the rain of arrows and the attacks of other horse-bound noblemen.

Modern Armored Combat (3, Informative)

JabberWokky (19442) | about 3 years ago | (#36828960)

What's interesting is that modern sports combat based on western martial arts -- meaning sword and shield, full metal armor, but using modern materials -- has shifted over to using things like 6061-T6 aluminum to keep things light. Also Underarmor sweat wicking clothing (seriously). For instance, the SCA, which is interested in individuals or groups meeting in competitive combat rather than a specific battle from a particular time or place. A good deal of effort is put into finding lightweight armor that still protects your bones.

Now comes the twist: It's actually thicker and more durable, because nobody likes to hammer out their armor each week after (or during) fighter practice. So it actually lasts much much longer under a barrage of blows, but is still roughly the same weight. Apparently it's a reasonable weight to fight in, and what you can now take out with modern materials, people are adding back for durability.

Check out http://www.zoombang.com/ [zoombang.com] for really out there modern armor designed for medieval non-edged combat.

obSemiOffTopic: Deep bruises are just part of the sport -- my wife is very careful to point out early in doctor visits that she's involved in full contact martial arts. Especially as she's 5 foot and petite and I'm 6'3" and huge; we already had one nurse freak out and send me out to have a talk with her about reporting domestic violence. She now carries photos on her phone of herself in armor, holding her helm and grinning happily, just to fend off people who get the wrong idea.

Re:Modern Armored Combat (2)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | about 3 years ago | (#36829374)

You had me at "modern armor designed for medieval non-edged combat" but Zoombang lost me with that god damn flash menu.

Oh, *physical* impacts... (1)

Beorytis (1014777) | about 3 years ago | (#36829072)

I thought this was going to be about the socio- and psychological impacts.

Representative? (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | about 3 years ago | (#36829086)

I somehow doubt that you can make a representative study of how knights in the Middle Age (you know, the ones whose almost only duty / job was to fight for his lord and who trained during his life for that) by using some modern people, who might be fit but will need a serious training to get used to it. Not to mention all of the know-how about using the armour lost during the centuries.

As a sidenote, the simplest explanation to the fact that the first armor to be eliminated was the armor of the legs may be just that there are no vital organs in the leg, so an injury there is less likely to be lethal.

Re:Representative? (1)

dave562 (969951) | about 3 years ago | (#36829214)

there are no vital organs in the leg, so an injury there is less likely to be lethal.

Organs no, but those arteries are a real bitch.

Re:Representative? (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | about 3 years ago | (#36829276)

there are no vital organs in the leg, so an injury there is less likely to be lethal.

Organs no, but those arteries are a real bitch.

That's why I just said less lethal. I prefer not to receive any, but if I have to chose I'll go for a cut in the leg or the arm before a cut in the head any day.

Re:Representative? (1)

DeeEff (2370332) | about 3 years ago | (#36829418)

I was about to say this myself. Nothing like losing all your blood on a breezy summer's day...

Re:Representative? (1)

mcvos (645701) | about 3 years ago | (#36829748)

The legs themselves are rather vital if you want to run away from danger. Disabling someone's leg is very effective in combat.

Re:Representative? (2)

corbettw (214229) | about 3 years ago | (#36830182)

there are no vital organs in the leg, so an injury there is less likely to be lethal.

The femoral artery is the single largest artery in your body after the aortic artery. Even just knicking it, let alone severing it, will cause you to bleed out in about 30 seconds.

And considering modern standards of diet and health care, I think you could find considerably better specimens for testing endurance while wearing armor than among knights from 500 years ago.

Scientists Study Impact of Wearing Medieval Armor (2)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 3 years ago | (#36829144)

Scientists Study Impact of Wearing Medieval Armor

And, this being slashdor, I expected to see a story about global warming and the effect that armor had on it.

Re:Scientists Study Impact of Wearing Medieval Arm (1)

maharvey (785540) | about 3 years ago | (#36829460)

Slashdor is right between Gondor and Mordor...

Re:Scientists Study Impact of Wearing Medieval Arm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36830628)

Slashdor the Barbarian?
Sworn enemy of Canon the Destroyer?

The Primary Impact of Wearing Medieval Armor (1)

willworkforbeer (924558) | about 3 years ago | (#36829320)

Incurable virginity.

Re:The Primary Impact of Wearing Medieval Armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36830558)

Have you ever been to one of the large SCA get-togethers? It makes a college dorm look like a nunnery by comparison.

Forgeting (1)

Nex6 (471172) | about 3 years ago | (#36829648)

you can not just take, random geeks. even ones that "quote" play at mock combat. and test them, and compare that to a medieval warrior Knight. Form almost, all of these warriors it was a full time job, meaning they where in shape for it. otherwise, they would have died in combat....

Heavy Metal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36830258)

These guys could have saved a lot of trouble and expense by just asking Bill & Ted:

Heavy Metal [youtube.com]

bespoke (1)

blueforce (192332) | about 3 years ago | (#36830530)

The medieval blokes wearing the bespoke armor fared much better than the poor bastards wearing that cheap outsourced shit from War-mour Mart.
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