Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Inspiration from a Christmas Present

This year was not a big year for Christmas presents at our house, but I did receive a wonderful present from my husband. Like most presents he and I exchange, this one is a book.  Unlike most of the books I've received from him, this one blends elements of costume and military history.  Here's the citation:
Aldrete, Gregory S., Bartell, Scott & Aldrete, Alicia.  Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor:  Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery.  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.
Though it's a small book, Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor contains a surprising amount of information, which I'll probably blog about after I finish reading it.  Right now, I'm more interested in talking about the experimental approach taken by the authors and their helpers took to their material, which is nearly as interesting as their discoveries.

The authors sought to maximize what information exists about the linothorax--a type of ancient body armor made from linen.  They reviewed the scholarly literature (surprisingly sparse), references in ancient writings, images in Greek art (surprisingly plentiful; the authors found nearly 1,000), and experiments with actual prototypes based upon their research.  

As I read, it occurred to me that one task Professor Aldrete and his colleagues performed might be useful to me as a researcher of Viking age costume; compiling a data base of human depictions in period art.  Unlike the art of the ancient Greeks, Viking art is not representational; it is highly stylized, sometimes to the point where it becomes debatable whether a particular figure was intended to be male or female.  Still, an actual list of pieces depicting human figures would be more useful to me than the Pinterest boards I've assembled, particularly if I group the items by date and find location.  Hopefully, I can begin the project this weekend.


  1. This looks fantastic, thanks so much for bringing it to my attention! I'd seen a bit about these guys' linothorax research on the net, but I didn't realise they had a book available. I've just ordered a copy, and now I know what to make for War and Peace in April.

    1. Enjoy!

      Wow, I'm not sure I'd want to undertake the actual making of a linothorax, though from what I've read of the Aldrete book so far it provides enough information so that a motivated person could do so.