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Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor: Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery Hardcover – March 1, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Aldrete, Bartell, and Aldrete present innovative, fascinating research that reshapes our understanding of ancient Greek warfare.

(John W. I. Lee, University of California, Santa Barbara)

Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor is essential for anyone interested in ancient warfare and/or experimental archaeology, from academic to layman, and is a defining and valuable contribution to our understanding of the ancient world.

(Christopher Matthew Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

Anyone interested in archeological textiles, historical textiles, historical reenactment, military history, costume construction, or flax and linen should consider this fascinating and unique book.

(Joanne Robbins Hicken The Complex Weaver)

Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor is a model example of the benefits that can come from creative engagement with historical re-enactors.

(Peter Thonemann Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Gregory S. Aldrete is a professor of humanistic studies and history at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. He is the author of Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome and Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome, both published by Johns Hopkins. Scott Bartell is an independent scholar who has published and presented on linen body armor and Alexander the Great. Alicia Aldrete is coauthor (with Gregory S. Aldrete) of The Long Shadow of Antiquity: What Have the Greeks and Romans Done for Us?

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421408198
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421408194
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Graves VINE VOICE on May 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In Reconstructing Ancient linen Armor a team from the University of Wisconsin went out of their way to explore reports of body armor made of cloth in the classical world and then to investigate how it might be made. While very well written and certainly of interest to students of the period, and archeology in the ancient world it is not light reading for the casual observer.

With most people imagining the great bronze breast plates of ancient Greek warriors the book starts with the authors investigating the origins of the armor and seeing was it rare or the make do of peasants as many believe or was it commonly used armor in the daily world. From there they go on to investigate how it can be made and finally tested.

The book is scholarly. It is not light reading and not for the passing student of the period. Part of this is I think coming from a sense of inadequacy of the writers who are daring to challenge prior views on linen armor set forth from such intellectual powerhouses as Oxford and Cambridge. They also seem to feel that when they enter into actually building and testing the armor from their theories that they are going to be accused of debasing archeology, but they needn't fear. They do good, solid research and logical exposition of their theory.

In the end the reader is given a very good outlay of an in depth look at a near lost element of Hellenic culture. It is NOT for the casual reader but for people with an interest in the period it will be brilliant.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book may fill in some gaps in our knowledge of antiquity. While archaeologists have recovered metal armor among ancient artifacts, it still doesn't explain how soldiers could have worn them in harsh climates, or how they (or their city-states) could have afforded it. This intriguing book finds an answer.

The authors were meticulous in their approach: they sought what they could find from history and artifacts, and what pictorial and written accounts mention linen armor. Something as perishable as linen (flax) armor would not have survived as archaeological artifacts, but they did find references that suggested their presence. For instance, they found pictorial and written accounts of women arming men with armor. Metal-working was a man's game at that time, but weaving was not, which corroborates their inquiry.

Having done that, they simulated how this armor could have been made, how it was woven, what textiles (notably flax) would be available at the time, what layering and design would match the accounts, what adhesives would serve to laminate the armor. They researched what labor and craft would be required for linen armor, as opposed to, say, crafting bronze or leather armor, and the comparative cheapness of linen. They go into considerable detail as to the economic and social considerations surrounding it.

The authors tested the armor, wearing it and testing it. This brought unexpected revelations, including the fact that the laminated armor was not only light and supple, but the adhesives made the armor more supple and comfortable in warm weather. They found that the fabric and laminates could stand up to wet weather and still not inhibit movement or range of motion.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When it comes to finding out about the past, there are some clues that are more durable than others. A monument in stone might be decipherable a thousand years later; a letter written last week may have already gone through the shredder. So in approaching the past and understanding how people lived, or might have lived, we can't confine ourselves to physical evidence. On the other hand, that there are stories about dragons doesn't mean there were actual dragons. So, at a certain point, you stumble into experimental archeology, finding out what is possibly true - plausible - if ultimately unprovable.

Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor is a marvel of scholarship, fusing a careful combing of ancient sources with the creation of numerous types of fibers that could have been produced with ancient technologies to see if the linen armor that gets mentioned as far back as Homer could really have existed as a useful alternative to metal armor. As it turns out, certain weaves soaked in glue are almost as strong as Kevlar and could well have withstood a duller arrow shot at a distance or a spear inexpertly thrown.

The front cover shows an illustration of Alexander the Great wearing what is conjectured to be linen armor. This illustration and recreating what it stands for - the idea of one of the greatest soldiers in history wearing linen armor - does take the authors a little bit further into Renaissance Fair territory than one might like. But you would be hard pressed to find someone intrigued enough to go into this depth of research without some motivation beyond pure knowledge. All in all, a fascinating book about what linen armor might have been and how experimental archeologists go about recreating a possible past, even when physical evidence no longer exists for it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Those of us interested in the ancient world have long been puzzled by references to linen armor in Greek sources. On the surface it sounds absurd, something along the lines of building a submarine out of cardboard. And yet...

This book is a great example of experimental archaeology, whereby questions about how things might have been done in the past are answered by people in the present experientially, by attempting to reconstruct items, processes, behaviors.

Using a multi-disciplinary approach and drawing on whatever literary, pictorial, or archaeological evidence could be identified, the authors bring us along for the ride as they puzzle over and eventually reverse engineer the "linothorax" or linen body armor in use among the ancient Greeks.

This book will never be a bestseller, in fact it may never reach a readership of more than I can count to on my fingers, but for anyone interested in classics, military history, miniature modeling, experimental archaeology, or even just in a neat example of solving an unanswered riddle of the past, this is a fine little book complete with black-and-white photos and illustrations.
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