Bronze Age Greek armor wasn’t just for show

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A man wearing replica armor strikes a shield using a spear or staff. ANDREAS FLOURIS AND MARIJA MARKOVIć

The so-called “Dendra” armor, found in 1960 in this village in southern Greece, and dated 3,500 years ago, is considered the most complete from the Bronze Age in Europe. But a question remained: was it a ceremonial breastplate or functional equipment? At the end of a careful study of experimental archaeology, Andreas Flouris (University of Thessaly) and his colleagues concluded that it did offer effective protection during long-term battles, such as those described in The Iliad of Homer.

To reach this conclusion, they had volunteer Greek soldiers, seasoned and trained by an instructor in the combat techniques faced by the Mycenaean infantrymen, put on a replica of the armor. The facsimile, built in 1984 by a team from Birmingham, weighs more than 23 kilos, and researchers have estimated the energy needs of a soldier for a typical day of combat, spread over eleven hours, at around 4,400 calories. The exercises simulated hand-to-hand combat, tank skirmishes, etc.

Conclusion ? “Despite its bulky appearance at first glance, this armor is not only flexible enough to accommodate almost any movement of a dismounted warrior, but also strong enough to protect the wearer from most blows.”conclude the researchers in their study published in Plos One on May 22.

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