September 15, 2010

Alexander the Great May have had an Ancient Approximation of Kevlar

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This mosaic of Alexander the Great shows the king wearing linothorax -- an armor made from laminated linen.
Alexander the Great and his soldiers protected themselves with linothorax, a type of body armor made by laminating together layers of linen.

Modern tests using the materials available at the time suggest that the laminated linen would have been effective in protecting against arrows and swords and other ancient weapons.





In order to determine how wearable this armor was, and how effective it would have been in protecting its wearer from arrows and other battlefield hazards, Aldrete and Bartell reconstructed several complete sets of linen armor using only material that were only available in the ancient world.

"The hardest part of the project was finding truly authentic linen. It had to be made from flax plants that were grown, harvested and processed, spun and woven by hand," Aldrete said.

The other key ingredient was glue, which was placed over various layers of linen. The researchers chose to work with two simpler glues that would have been available everywhere: a glue made from the skins of rabbits and another from flax seeds.

Tests included shooting the resulting patches with arrows and hitting them with a variety of weapons including swords, axes and spears.

"Our controlled experiments basically dispelled the myth that armor made out of cloth must have been inferior to other available types. Indeed, the laminated layers function like an ancient version of modern Kevlar armor, using the flexibility of the fabric to disperse the force of the incoming arrow," Aldrete said


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