The late appearance of bronze armor in temperate Europe

Another pointer in the same direction is the considerable delay in the manufacture of defensive armor in temperate Europe. It is likely that already in the Bz A2 period the man who was armed with a sword or a spear wore a leather helmet and corselet and carried a leather shield stretched over a wooden frame, but these would not have given the man much protection against an opponent’s sword or spear or against an arrow shot from a composite bow. Already by 1600 bc chariot crews in the

Near East were protected by scale corselets, and in Greece plate armor was worn by chariot drivers at least by the end of the fifteenth century bc. In temperate Europe, in contrast, bronze armor and shields are unattested until late in the Bz D period. Marianne Modlinger has studied this closely and gives us a succinct summary:

Bronze Age European metal defensive armour, as opposed to weapons, is scarce. With a few exceptions such as the armour from Biecz, Dendra or Knos- sos, the first armour appears in Central and Eastern Europe in the beginning of the Urnfield culture (ca. 1300 bc).90

Modlinger goes on to say that “we know of approximately 120 helmets, 95 shields, 55 greaves and 30 cuirasses from the European Bronze Age,” but most of these date from the centuries just before and just after 1000 bc.

Marion Uckelmann, whose catalogue of European bronze shields was published in 2012, found that the earliest known bronze shields in Europe were made in the Bz D or the Ha A1 period, and no earlier than the thirteenth century bc. The earliest (nos. 1-6 in Uckelmann’s catalogue) are the Lommelev types, named after a type- site in Denmark but coming mostly from hoards deposited in the Carpathian basin.91 On the use of bronze shields as such, Uckelmann proposed that “their development and spread should probably be seen in relation to the use of swords,” and he is probably correct.92 Because in temperate Europe metal shields lagged some 300 years behind the appearance of swords, however, it is reasonable to wonder how frequent was the use of swords or of any other weapons in combat in the Bz A2-Bz C periods.

 
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