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Armor, facts about armor

Armor is special clothing that protects the wearer against an enemy’s weapons. For example, bony armor protects the armadillo from its enemies.

Armor, facts about armor

The earliest armor was made of animal skins and leather. It gave the wearer some protection against arrows, spears and clubs. Then men made metal shields, helmets and breastplates. The rest of the body was still protected by leather or by a kind of fine wire-mesh called chain mail. During the Middle Ages, when knights rode into battle, armor became more elaborate. It covered the arms, legs, hands and feet. There was even armor for horses, and in India men rode on armored elephants. Arrows and swords could not pierce the metal armor, and so some knights fought with great iron clubs and maces. Armorers covered armor with decorations. Painting, engraving, and even gold and gems glistened on the armor, although the most ornate suits were worn only for show.

Armor, facts about armor

As soon as soldiers became armed with muskets and pistols, armor was abandoned because bullet-proof armor could not be made light enough to wear. For hundreds of years, only the helmet continued in use as armor. Then during XX and beginning of the XXI centuries, new materials were developed. Tough metals and plastics were used to make armor. Airmen on bombers wore flak-suits to protect them against flying splinters of metal. Soldiers wore bullet-proof waistcoats made of overlapping plastic, Kevlar, or metal plates mounted on cloth like the tiles on a roof. Today some state leaders or policemen wear body armor to protect them against assassins' bullets. In modern warfare, armor is the name given also to an army's tanks and mobile guns.

In the Middle Ages, a full suit of battle armor weighed up to 70 pounds. It consisted of various pieces, some of which had curious names. A helmet completely covered the head, with a hinged visor at the front. The visor was normally open and lowered only in battle to protect the wearer's eyes. A collar protected the neck and joined the helmet to the shoulder piece. A breastplate and backplate covered the body, with a skirt and tasset down onto the legs. Upper and lower leg-armor was called cuishe and greave. A mounted knight wore pointed steel shoes called sollerets and metal gloves called gauntlets. Foot soldiers also carried metal shields.

Some of the most ornate armor was made in Japan and other eastern countries. Japanese warriors called samurai wore armor for ceremonial occasions until a hundred years ago.

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