Medieval Armor: Was It Worth the Weight?
Medieval armor certainly looks heavy. And now researchers have demonstrated how the protection might have unwittingly put its wearers at a heavy disadvantage on the battlefield.
An armored combatant in the 1400s had between about 60 to 110 pounds of steel on his head and body. The scientists wanted to know how that weight affected performance. They recruited battle experts from the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, in the U.K., who got into replicas of four types of European armor.
The weighted warriors then walked and ran on a treadmill while the research team measured their oxygen intake. Wearing the armor turned out to be a much greater burden than carrying the same weight in a backpack. Because the distribution of weight in the armor requires the wearer to use more energy to swing his arms or move his legs. The scientists published the research in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. [Citation to come.]
Armor wearers also wound up taking short, shallow breaths rather than the deep breaths associated with regular exertion. The researchers say that the tight, metal shell may have made the soldiers feel safer. But being weighted down probably made it a long day for a knight.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]