Iron Documents. Interdisciplinary studies on the technology of late medieval european plate armour production between 1350 and 1500

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Goll, Matthias (2014)
  • Subject: 700 | 700 The arts

Abstract The purpose of this study is to find out details on the production of late medieval European plate-armour for the field-use. Therefore, the author first collected thousands of extant objects in a database. With this stock of data he then was able to cluster and to structure the armour parts by various typological and technological aspects. To ease the access to the topic, the author defined an understandable and standardized terminology and typology for the different variations of armour parts. The author tried to prime the reader on the topic of armour production by summarizing the history of plate armour under technological aspects. This was followed by a large scale observation, definition and comparison of various armour-features and their making. To complete the picture, the main crafts that supplied add-on parts for the armourer’s products were shortly described. The author then entered the problematic topic of the authenticity question. After a short abstract on the history of armour preservation, metallurgical and art-based approaches to the problem of authenticity were introduced and new aspects on armour making as well as suggestions for future approaches were presented. The examination of a huge number of extant plate armour pieces proofed to be a practical way to find new common structures in the late medieval armour production in central Europe. The development of a standardized data acquisition and its systematic organization enables large scale comparisons that bring new evidence for common features of extant armour pieces. Many drawings, made especially for this study on the basis of the collected data, combine the results of the detail observation in a concrete way. Numerous common or “standardized” features were revealed. Similar to schools of masonry, of painting or of goldsmithing also for the armourer’s art the existence of certain hand or workshop circles can clearly be presumed. For the first time, ridges, rivets and washers, applications, surface decorations, turned edges, marks, measurements, weights and different fastening techniques were classified and used to suggest reconstructions of the historical technology and its development. The explanation on how iron plate material might have been made in the Middle Ages by means of a water powered hammer is discussed for the first time. On the basis of written and depicting sources, but also by ongoing traditions, methods for the mass production of armour by the end of the considered period were described. This study also shows that a lot of questions remain not finally solved. A final decision on an item to be genuine or reproduced can for the most cases not be made. Further research has to be carried out to enhance our knowledge on this delicate issue. The findings of this study do certainly deliver a stable basis for any future approach by any discipline to the topic of late medieval plate armour.
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