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What Are Coat of Plates?

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Next to mail, one of the lightest and most flexible forms of armor consisted of many small plates sewed or riveted to a fabric backing. Scale armor was made in this way, and it may well have been the earliest coat of plate armor. Ancient bronze scales found in Egypt date from the 10th century B.C., and some Persian specimens may be older. Greek warriors often wore scale armor, and so did Roman soldiers, who used iron as well as bronze scales. #Viking warriors# and the Normans who accompanied William the Conqueror to England sometimes wore scale armor instead of mail, A very few specimens of scale armor are as recent as the 17th century, but they usually are found only on such small areas as the back of a gauntlet or the skirt of a cuirass, which was a kind of protective leather tunic.

Another popular form of the coat of plates was the brigandine, a cloth or leather jacket with many rectangular plates riveted to the inside. This was #popular armor# late in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, especially during the 15th and 16th centuries. Spanish soldiers led by De Soto brought brigandines to America, and one specimen was recently excavated in Florida. Others were sent to Jamestown by the English. The flak suit worn by airmen in World War II was inspired by the brigandine, and resembled it in construction. However, the plates in flak suits were made of aluminum, instead of steel, and were backed up with several layers of nylon to catch any shell fragments that might pierce the metal.

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