ARMOR IN ANCIENT WARFARE: LACHISH
The Assyrians wore battle armor made of small metal plates sewn into a protective garment reaching from shoulder to thigh. They had definite advantages over solid metal armor:
This type of armor laid the groundwork for a later development in armor, chain mail.
Scene from the film 'Troy', showing scale armor
Two centuries after Lachish, Greek soldiers were carrying only small shields about 3ft. (90cm) in diameter; but their body was covered by helmet, breastplate and leg greaves, and they fought in close formation, so that a large shield was unnecessary and cumbersome.
Judging by the wall reliefs at Nimrud, Sennacherib's troops at Lachish used shields made of leather stretched over wicker frames (see example below).
These varied in size and shape according to need. The highly mobile troops who scaled the walls of Lachish had small, light shields (see detail of wall relief, above); the archers shooting from below the walls, easy targets for the city's defenders, were shielded by mobile wicker walls.
A large wicker construction like this, needing one man just to hold and move it, is called a 'pavis'. It will shield two or more people.
This meant that every archer below the walls at Lachish worked in tandem with his shield bearer. The shields were taller than the soldiers and curved at the top so that they caught arrows falling onto the heads of the soldiers.
Ancient shield made of wicker-work and hide/leather
These wicker backed shields were so much a part of the Assyrians weaponry that surviving records show that special reed farms were set aside to provide resources in time of war - which for the Assyrians was more or less a permanent state.
The technology of armor was constantly evolving. By 3,000BC metal workers were making helmets of copper as a defense against the stone or metal mace. This must have been padded with an inner helmet of leather or quilted fabric.
By 2,500BC the Sumerians had bronze helmets, spears and axes. At the time Lachish was attacked by Sennacherib, iron was available to weapon-makers.
Helmets are purpose-built to protect the wearer against the specific weapons he faces.
At first, ancient helmets seem to have been pointed at the top, to deflect the downward force of the mace or club. But as time went on and the ax became popular as a weapon, the shape of the helmet was modified to counter the cutting edge of a downward-falling ax.
It required great skill to create a helmet, even though the shape was simple. It had to be a one-piece dome of forged metal covering the entire head and upper neck. There might be a hinged flap to protect the ears of the warrior, or a bar that was joined to the upper helmet, as with Greek examples.
Some areas of the helmet needed to be thicker - for example the crown of the head. To forge this from a chunk of glowing metal needed the talent of a master-smith.
Judging by wall reliefs, many soldiers fought either with bare feet or with a minimal leather sole that left their upper foot uncovered - though they also seem to have worn some kind of shin-guard.
By the time of the attack on Lachish, however, this seemed to be changing. Some soldiers are shown wearing heavy boots with thick leather soles and hobnails for traction.
These gave the Assyrian soldier an advantage when he fought on rough terrain or in tight formation. There seem to have been thin plates of iron sewn into the front of the boot over the shin - not unlike the armor he wore on his upper body.
Heavy infantry, spear man and slinger in the Assyrian army
Assyrian wall relief showing scale armor, composite bow,
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