How to weave chain mail? - investigation of "PM"

The year 1237 was the last for the border Old Russian town on the left bank of the Gnilopat River. We do not know his name and will never know now. Nowadays, this place is called the Raikovets settlement - in honor of the village of Raiki in the neighborhood. Neither the seven-meter ditch, nor the high earthen rampart, nor the squad behind the walls became an obstacle for the Mongol-Tatars. The city was destroyed, the path to Russia was open. Since the end of the 20s of the last century, excavations have been going on in the settlement. Archaeologists have found in the ashes of centuries two chain mail - shirts, consisting of iron rings. It is generally believed that ancient swords weighed like a concrete pile, and the chain mail was so heavy that a modern person would simply not have straightened up there. This is a common misconception. Chain mail has been carefully studied. It turned out that one was woven from 35, 000 rings and weighed 6.15 kg. The second, consisting of 50, 000 similar rings, was better cleaned of rust and therefore weighed even less - 5.5 kg. In this case, both armor were made for adult men, warriors. Each chain mail length of about 70 cm reached the middle of the thigh. The expansion of the shoulder was 100 and 130 cm, and the width in the belt was 60–66 cm. Chain mail is the largest long-lived armor. But this does not mean that the chain mail of the Roman legionnaire and combatant Alexander Nevsky looked the same. In the process of evolution, only the principle of intertwined rings remained unshakable.

Dragon Secrets

To weave countless rings together, the master first needs to make them. To do this, he winds the wire on an iron bar, and then longitudinally cuts the resulting spring with wire cutters, turning it into a mountain of rings.

Now there is something to weave chain mail, it remains to be prepared mentally: after all, the ends of each ring must be lapped and joined with a miniature rivet. Only riveted chain mail will not fall apart from the blows received.

One to four The classical method of weaving chain mail implies that every four whole (carved from a metal plate) rings are connected by one open ring, fastened with a rivet.

If you look on the Internet, it turns out that there are countless ways to weave chain mail: “Sarmatian weaving”, “dragon scales”, and many others. But neither the Sarmatians nor the dragons were familiar with them. For almost 2000 years, armored masters used the simplest way - “one to four”. That is, they took four whole rings and hooked them with one open. It remained to rivet the only rivet, connecting the open ends ... Well, and most importantly: repeat the process another 10, 000 times.

On the sites they write that different types of weaving allow you to make chain mail of different density. Right. But in real life, rings of different sizes were used for this, and all the same “one to four” weaving. There is a formula by which the minimum diameter of the ring is calculated: 1 wire diameter multiplied by 4 plus another 1 wire diameter. If only to multiply and not add, then the chain mail will turn out to be almost a monolithic plate. A real chain mail should be mobile, strong and preferably light, because it has a lot to run, jump and wave.

Franks When Rome fell and the barbarians became masters of Europe, the anticipated war for the territory began. Oil was added to the fire by the Huns, who were expelled from their homes in China, which is why they moved through Siberia, the Urals and the Volga region in search of new lands to the west. During the constant wars that took several centuries, the star of the Franks rose. Their empire occupied the lands of modern Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Austria. The ruler of the Francs, Charlemagne (the word "king" came from his name) sought to create the most powerful army of his time. And he succeeded. One of Karl’s decrees states that all his vassals, as well as the vassals of his counts, bishops and abbots, must have a helmet and chain mail. In 779, Charlemagne banned the export of chain mail and swords from the state. The punishment was very tangible - the confiscation of all the smuggler’s property. However, even the customs created by Karl the Great did not help stop the export of chain mail abroad. They were of excellent quality, so the products of workshops located in the Rhine Valley are found even in the Volga steppes. According to Claude Blair, one of the luminaries of the history of weapons, from 600 to 1250, iron armor was chain mail in 99 out of 100 cases.

God is with us, no one is upon us

At the time of Prince Vladimir and his son Yaroslav the Wise, chain mail had a short sleeve and reached the middle of the thigh. And this despite the fact that in Europe at this very time chain mail began a rapid growth in the sleeves and hem. In Russia, their increase dates back to the 13th century. Judging by the images on the Novgorod seals, the hem of the chain mail was so long that it reached the knees.

Then in Russia chain mail appeared, woven from flat rings with a diameter of 13−16 and a width of 2−4 mm. Their thickness was 0.6–0.8 mm. Such flat rings had a larger cross-sectional area compared to round ones, which means they were stronger and better protected. But to make them like that, the masters had to flatten them with a special stamp, so chain mail from flat rings cost more.

Hey rivets do not spare! At the beginning of the 15th century, fully riveted chain mails were spread in Europe, in which each ring was riveted and there were no cut rings. This fashion quite quickly reached Moscow Russia.

On paintings, Alexander Nevsky is often depicted in a helmet with an icon on his forehead. Such a helmet was indeed found. Together with the helmet lay chain mail, neatly folded and almost intact. She had flat rings, and each was equipped with two radial grooves. Given that the rings themselves were quite thin, the grooves became a kind of stiffening ribs, increasing their strength. Obviously, the grooves were stamped during flattening of the rings.

After another 200 years, chain mail survived a new revolution. Before, some rings were made separate, with a rivet. Others, on the contrary, are dissected - that is, carved from metal. In fact, they were whole iron washers. From the beginning of the 15th century they were abandoned in favor of chain mail from completely riveted rings. The boom in the manufacture of such chain mail began in Europe, and soon reached the lands of Moscow Russia. Then in Russia appeared newfangled armor from the East - Yushman and Bakhterets. In fact, both were chain mail with woven iron plates, but in the first case the plates were large, in the second - small.

Chain mail in the XVI century did not lose ground. There was a "canoe" - chain mail from large flat rings. The canoe of Tsar Boris Godunov is kept in the Armory in Moscow. It consists of large flat massive rings with a diameter of 24 mm, the width of the plane of the ring is 4.5 mm, the thickness of the ring is 2.5 mm. On some rings the inscription is read: "God is with us, no one is with us."

Ancient Rome The beginning of the 3rd century AD. The fourth legion of Flavia Severiana Alexandriana returns from the North German Lowland to its barracks. An enemy awaits them near Harz Hill. It is not known who won during this battle, but luck was smiling at the archaeologists, and they found several fragments of sintered chain mail. The inner diameter of the rings from which it was woven was 6 mm. In the Roman legions, chain mail was known as “Lorika Hamata”, which can be translated literally as “armor with hooks”. Why with hooks, and not, say, with rings? Yes, because Lorika Hamata had an interesting addition - chain shoulders. And the hooks fastened them to chain mail. At the turn of the millennium, Lorica Hamata was the main armor of the Roman legionnaires. At the beginning of the 1st century, it was replaced by armor from large iron plates - “lorica of the segmentate”. From that moment, Lorika Hamata became the destiny of the auxilarians - auxiliary troops from among the barbarians. This continued until the very last decades of the Eternal City and its Empire. At this time, Rome, shaken by the barbarians, experienced a decline in production, and the "grandfather's hamatushka" again became the main armor of the Roman legionnaires. It is important to understand that it was not the process of riveting iron plates that fell into decline, but metallurgy. Small iron rings were not as laborious as large iron plates, which means chain mail was cheaper.

The most remarkable thing in Godunov's chain mail is the absence of rivets in the rings: the ends of the rings are simply brought together. The copper edge of the gate, sleeves, and hem mentioned in the chamber's inventory was soon lost. Of course, this canoe was never combat armor.

Knights and Warriors

European chain mail in the X-XI centuries reached the length of the knees and received a sleeve to the wrist. They weighed about 10 kg. Sometimes they were worn over a sword belt with a sword, and then cuts were made in the hem through which the handle of the weapon peered out. Such tricks can be seen on the "Bayot carpet" - a long linen canvas of 0.5 x 68 m. The scenes of the conquest of England by the Normans William the Conqueror were embroidered on it, primarily the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Warriors of the First Crusade also fought in the same chain mail.

The 13th century, historians of arms called the age of chain mail. And rightly so - armor made of interwoven iron rings become the main defense of warriors in Russia and Europe. The everyday life of knights firmly includes the “ober”, or “hauberg, ” which arose a century earlier. This is chain mail to the knees, with long sleeves to which mittens are woven. A chain hood could also be pulled into chain mail.

Vikings We know only about one chain mail, which most certainly belonged to the Vikings. In March 1943, the Norwegian Lars Gjermundby, the owner of the farm of the same name, informed the Oslo University Museum of History that he had found a Viking grave on his land. Soon, archaeologists found in the first of the barrows a sword, battle axes, spear and arrowheads, four shields, as well as a helmet with a half mask covering her face, and chain mail. The burial was dated 970 year. The chain mail was very short, as in the days of Rome. Her biceps barely covered her sleeves, and her tailbone barely covered the hem. What was her gate, it is not clear, because part of the chain mail in this place has rotted for a thousand years. But one thing is the only chain mail in Scandinavia, and quite another - whether the Vikings were familiar with chain mail. To begin with, Viking is not a nation, but a profession. There are three official duties in it - piracy, trade and mercenarism. The Vikings robbed Europe and Africa, were hired to serve the Russian princes and Byzantine emperors. In addition, among the Vikings there were not only Scandinavians, but also Slavs, Anglo-Saxons. The chain mails were certainly known to them, which means that the Scandinavians also knew them. The saga of St. Olaf explicitly states: "On the ship he had a hundred people, and they had chain mail and foreign shields." Therefore, the only find of chain mail in Scandinavia looks like a curiosity.

How much did it all weigh? Your humble servant had a chance to try on an ober from rings measuring 1.6 by 10 mm. With a length of 85 cm and a chest girth of about 114 cm, the weight of the armor was about 12 kg. Usually, the ober was equipped with chain-shaped highways - stockings. With a ring size of 1.4 x 10 mm, both stockings weighed 5 kg. So the total weight of chain mail equipment was only 17 kg. For comparison, the total weight of the equipment of a modern Russian soldier under the Ratnik program is up to 19–20 kg in an expanded configuration without ammunition and weapons. So the stories about incredibly strong ancestors who can bend piles with their hands are pure exaggeration. At the end of the XIII - the beginning of the XIV century, armor chain mail began to decline. The fact is that the evolution of the sword gave a new type of blade - piercing. It was almost impossible to stand against him in chain mail. By this time, metallurgy took several steps forward, and plate armor began to spread among the warriors. At first it was armor made of plates riveted under a cloth base, so that only the rivet heads were visible from the outside - a clear prototype of a modern body armor. Then bibs from a single sheet of metal were used. Later, the dorsal parts were added to them, so that in the end we got a cuirass. Shoulders and iron protection of arms and legs were added to it - the famous full armor appeared, resembling a steel statue.

Templars In the Holy Land, chain mail proved to be an excellent armor in which the body was not only protected, but also breathed. In the conditions of the scorching sun it was extremely important. Usually in knightly Europe, chain mail was worn over an under-armor jacket. She absorbed shock and even reduced the risk of fractures. Sewing was made of several layers of quilted fabric, which was stuffed with wool, tow, rags, hair or cotton. Another method was quilting between themselves two dozen, or even more, layers of the canvas. But in the Holy Land, the sub-armor was more likely to interfere. In Israel there is a military-historical club "Kingdom of Jerusalem." Every year there is a march in full gear of the XII century. And here is the opinion of one of the fighters of this club, Dmitry Sklyarenko: “Chain mail can be worn, but without the quilted armor under it. Although I went with him too. But for a person unfamiliar with our climate, this ends with hyperthermia and hospitalization. ”

However, even a tank has vulnerabilities, what can we say about armor. The weak points of any plate armor are armpits. With all the desire to close their plates will not work. Therefore, first cuirass was put on chain mail. This protected the armpits, but greatly and unjustifiably increased weight. In the XV-XVII centuries, armor jackets with fragments of chain mail sewn in the armpit area spread. So the defense became as complete as possible.

Germs are stronger than swords

The main disadvantage of chain mail is the same as its main advantage - flexibility. Here is how the Battle of Brunanburg (937) is described in the saga of Egil Skallagrimsson: “Torolf was so furious that he grabbed a spear with both hands, rushed into battle and began to chop and stab on both sides. (...) then, with his spear, he pierced Hringa’s chest, right through the chain mail, through and through, so that the point went out between his shoulders; Torolf lifted him on this spear above his head and stuck the shaft into the ground. "

From this colorful passage it becomes clear that the chain mail does not hold a piercing blow. Indeed, she is completely powerless against a spear or arrow, which reveals the weaving of rings as easily as your home can opener - a can of stew. Then why did warriors give their lives chain mail for dozens of centuries in a row? Firstly, it is flexible and does not constrain movement. Secondly, it protects against sliding impacts. Thirdly, in the Middle Ages, the fracture could already be cured, but the cut wounds - no. The infection killed people more effectively than iron, so chain mail was appreciated. Fourth, making chain mail was easier than plate armor. It is now possible to buy a sheet of metal and grinder to cut from it a plate of any shape, while you need to tinker with chain mail. In former times, when metallurgy was not so developed, it was cheaper to draw a meter of wire from a workpiece than to forge an iron plate. Fifth, chain mail, unlike plate armor, can self-clean. If you take a rusty chain mail and start shaking it, the rust itself will sprinkle from the rings. The same thing happens to her during the active movement of his hands in battle. The hull is more difficult to clean - perhaps that is why the chivalrous cott-d-arm only covered it.

So, we traced the history of chain mail for more than one and a half thousand years and made sure that it was not in vain that it kept itself “from Adam to Potsdam”. Moreover, chain mail is also in demand today as a protection: light chain gloves use pathologists when opening corpses. They guarantee doctors protection against accidental cuts on the scalpel, which means that they prevent the penetration of infection into their body. So the function of chain mail remained unchanged. She still protects her owners from sharpened steel. Only now in the ranks are not soldiers, but doctors.

The article “50, 000 Thousand Iron Rings” was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 10, October 2015).


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