Lamellar Armour

Lamellar was a kind of body armour which was in use among different cultures across the world well before the European Middle Ages. Although it is sometimes categorised as a kind of scale armour, lamellar armour had a distinctive design and construction.

Byzantine Lamellar Armour

Byzantine Armour

Lamellar Armour could be made from a wide variety of different materials. The small platelets of given materials were sewn together in huge numbers, ranging from hundreds to thousands, giving the medieval warrior a veritable armour mostly limited to the torso.

Scale Armour Lamellar Armour

Lamellar Armour

Lamellar Armour History

There are instances of lamellar armour being used in pre-B.C. cultures such as those in Assyria and Egypt. However, it was through the use of the lamellar armour by tribes coming down from Eurasian steppes such as Avars, Mongols and Turks who popularised this armour in the Middle Ages.

During the early period of the Middle Ages, armour was frequently used by these tribes in modern-day regions of Ukraine and Eastern Russia. There is historical evidence of the armour being used in Western European nations as well. Examples include a 6th-century lamellar armour and a 7th century Lombard lamellar armour.

Lamellar armour was also particularly common among Byzantine soldiers and most soldiers in the Byzantine cavalry preferred it over chainmail armour. 10th century Viking warriors also used lamellar armour according to recent archaeological finds.

Lamellar armour *Vikings

Lamellar Armour *Vikings

Outside of medieval Europe, the lamellar armour was particularly favoured in the Samurai culture of Japan where it reached from Korea and then became a regular part of the Samurai armour.

Lamellar Armour Design

Lamellar armour was made from leather, bone, stone or in most cases metal. To make lamellar armour, the construction material was first cut into uniform-sized small platelets. When made from metal, pieces were usually lacquered to avoid corrosion and to give the armour a longer life. The pieces were then sewn together in dense formation.

Cataphract Medieval Soldier on horseback

Cataphract Medieval Soldiers * Lamellar armour

A major difference between lamellar armour and other types of medieval body armour was that the lamellar armour was not attached to a cloth or any other kind of base and could be directly worked over the wearer’s dress.

Lamellar Armour Advantages and Disadvantages

One of the major advantages of lamellar armour over the scale armour was that the lamellar armour was not attached to a firm base. So it didn’t mitigate the wearer’s movement as much as plate armour would for European medieval knights.

Medieval Mamluk Soldiers Armor

Mamluk Soldiers *Lamellar Armour

Another useful aspect of lamellar armour was that its platelets, larger in size than the scales of scale armour, helped deflect an enemies striking weapon.

Cataphract Cavalry Soldier

This served as an additional aspect of armour protection apart from the fact that the lamellar armour was effective against direct piercings and heavy blows as well. However, the construction of lamellar armour was a time-consuming and diligent job.

French Chainmail close up detail

Detail of French Medieval Chainmail 4-1 linkage Chain Mail in close up detail

So while it remained in use among the tribes in the Eurasian steppes, it was quickly abandoned in favour of chainmail and plate armour by the middle of the medieval ages in Europe.